Frances Ashcroft Life at the Extremes

ISBN 13: 9780002559461

Life at the Extremes

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9780002559461: Life at the Extremes

Man can only tolerate a limited range of environmental conditions, whereas other lifeforms thrive in the most intense conditions - in extreme heat or many, many leagues under the sea in utter darkness or deep in the middle of rocks. Why is this so? How do people survive extremes of heat, cold, depth and height? For the geneticist, inheritance is all. But for the physiologist, extremism is all. This book explores the limits to human survival and the physiological adaptations which enable us to exist under extreme conditions.

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Review:

"It is an extraordinary coincidence," writes English physiologist Frances Ashcroft, "that the highest peak on Earth is also about the highest point at which humans can survive unaided." A coincidence, to be sure, and, like many other milestones of the limits of human endurance, one known to us through the joint efforts of scientists, mountain climbers, explorers, and athletes.

Ashcroft's book is a thoroughly engaging survey of those limits and their origins in the nature of things, of what happens to human beings in the most difficult environmental conditions. She writes, for instance, of why it is that astronauts have trouble standing after returning to Earth (because, in part, their leg muscles quickly atrophy outside of terrestrial gravity); of how the famed Japanese pearl divers condition themselves to attain such extraordinary underwater depths; of how and why the consumption of carbohydrates and caffeine can improve athletic performance; of why British children so easily suffer heat exhaustion on trips to such semitropical venues as, say, Disneyworld, whereas young Saudis can tolerate much higher temperatures (but would likely not thrive in an English winter).

Backed by extensive field research--the author has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, sweated it out in Japanese hot tubs, and run after her share of buses--as well as by a wealth of laboratory studies, Ashcroft's book is of great appeal to anyone who wishes to test the world's limits--or their own. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Frances Ashcroft is a professor of Physiology at Oxford and a Fellow of Trinity College and the Royal Society. She divides her time between research on insulin (the hormone that controls the blood sugar level), teaching and writing books. She has experienced several of the extremes discussed in this book, but has yet to try spaceflight. This is her first work for the general reader.

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Frances Ashcroft
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2000)
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Frances Ashcroft
Published by HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD (2000)
ISBN 10: 0002559463 ISBN 13: 9780002559461
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