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Life at the Extremes: The Science of…
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Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival (edition 2002)

by Ashcroft

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1884105,346 (3.84)4
The challenge of scaling the highest mountain, exploring the deepest ocean, crossing the hottest desert, or swimming in near-freezing water is irresistible to many people. Life at the Extremes is an engrossing exploration of what happens to our bodies in these seemingly uninhabitable environments. Frances Ashcroft weaves stories of extraordinary feats of endurance with historical material and the latest scientific findings as she investigates the limits of human survival and the remarkable adaptations that enable us to withstand extreme conditions. What causes mountain sickness? How is it possible to reach the top of Everest without supplementary oxygen, when passengers in an airplane that depressurized at the same altitude would lose consciousness in seconds? Why do divers get the bends but sperm whales do not? How long you can survive immersion in freezing water? Why don't penguins get frostbite? Will men always be faster runners than women? How far into deep space can a body travel? As she considers these questions, Ashcroft introduces a cast of extraordinary scientific personalities--inventors and explorers who have charted the limits of human survival. She describes many intriguing experiments and shows how scientific knowledge has enabled us to venture toward and beyond ever greater limits. Life at the Extremes also considers what happens when athletes push their bodies to the edge, and tells of the remarkable adaptations that enable some organisms to live in boiling water, in highly acidic lakes, or deep in the middle of rocks. Anyone who flies in an airplane, sails the high seas, goes skiing or walking in the mountains, or simply weathers subzero winters or sweltering summers will be captivated by this book. Full of scientific information, beautifully written, and packed with many fascinating digressions, Life at the Extremes lures us to the very edge of human survival.… (more)
Member:whiterabbit101
Title:Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival
Authors:Ashcroft
Info:University of California Press (2002), Paperback, 347 pages
Collections:Sport and Exercise Sciences
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Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival by Frances Ashcroft

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Showing 4 of 4
In Life at the Extremes one chapter has a section called “Eyeballs In and Eyeballs Out.” I love that such stuff exists, although I’d be guilty of false advertising if I failed to reveal that this section title can’t be taken literally.

Author Frances Ashcroft is a professor of physiology at Oxford so naturally her interest in extreme conditions takes a scientific tack. We learn how life achieves extremes or benefits from them, and how those conditions can put life at risk physiologically and otherwise. This knowledge helps save folks inclined to expose themselves willingly to the risks of hazardous environments and also helps save people who unwillingly find themselves in similar situations. It’s an informative survey, with descriptions of phenomena in organisms ranging from whales to archaea.

The author also illustrates ways these discoveries shake up how we work. An outstanding example is Thermus aquaticus, a hyperthermophile that was found in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park and from which the enzyme Taq polymerase was isolated. This enzyme has quite a résumé. It helped make possible analysis of trace amounts of perpetrator DNA from crime scenes, thus providing a new way to help convict criminals in court or establish the innocence of those accused or wrongly convicted.

The book is not for the most part narrative-driven and some readers will decide it is just too many facts and descriptions piled on top of one another. But if you’re at all geeky and attracted to extremity, check it out. ( )
1 vote dypaloh | Sep 23, 2019 |
not a real page turner, but still very interesting- haven't read it cover to cover, but an excellent book to sample or to refer to during other reading
  FKarr | Oct 28, 2014 |
Adaptation (Physiology)/Extreme environments
  Budzul | May 31, 2008 |
Science & Technology
-scientific survey on survival in extreme conditions
  jmdcbooks | Oct 2, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
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The challenge of scaling the highest mountain, exploring the deepest ocean, crossing the hottest desert, or swimming in near-freezing water is irresistible to many people. Life at the Extremes is an engrossing exploration of what happens to our bodies in these seemingly uninhabitable environments. Frances Ashcroft weaves stories of extraordinary feats of endurance with historical material and the latest scientific findings as she investigates the limits of human survival and the remarkable adaptations that enable us to withstand extreme conditions. What causes mountain sickness? How is it possible to reach the top of Everest without supplementary oxygen, when passengers in an airplane that depressurized at the same altitude would lose consciousness in seconds? Why do divers get the bends but sperm whales do not? How long you can survive immersion in freezing water? Why don't penguins get frostbite? Will men always be faster runners than women? How far into deep space can a body travel? As she considers these questions, Ashcroft introduces a cast of extraordinary scientific personalities--inventors and explorers who have charted the limits of human survival. She describes many intriguing experiments and shows how scientific knowledge has enabled us to venture toward and beyond ever greater limits. Life at the Extremes also considers what happens when athletes push their bodies to the edge, and tells of the remarkable adaptations that enable some organisms to live in boiling water, in highly acidic lakes, or deep in the middle of rocks. Anyone who flies in an airplane, sails the high seas, goes skiing or walking in the mountains, or simply weathers subzero winters or sweltering summers will be captivated by this book. Full of scientific information, beautifully written, and packed with many fascinating digressions, Life at the Extremes lures us to the very edge of human survival.

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