The Secret Family: Twenty-Four Hours Inside the Mysterious World of Our Minds and Bodies

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9780684810195: The Secret Family: Twenty-Four Hours Inside the Mysterious World of Our Minds and Bodies
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State-of-the-art photography complements the descriptions of physiological changes that occur during everyday events such as a diet, an argument, and a kiss, in an exploration of the effects of the outside world on our insides

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David Bodanis, author of The Secret House and The Secret Garden, applies his wit and curiosity to another invisible realm: the insides of our bodies. Bodanis wraps his thought-provoking investigation of the natural world in the story of a family's typical day. We follow the baby's explorations of the house, go out with the family to the mall, and experience the daughter's first kiss. Of course, your mind still might be reeling from breakfast and the orange juice--"a liquid which contains embalming fluid, varnish solvent, vinegar, and nail polish remover ... and a certain amount of real orange juice, too."

All that microscopic reality--the benign bacteria feasting on our faces, the widening of the pupils as Baby's gaze meets Mom's or Dad's ("the tiny muscles controlling the pupils in the dad's eyes suddenly tug wider. Males who don't have children rarely show this universal sign of interest.")--triggers a host of facts, both fascinating and appalling; that aforementioned parental gaze segues into an explanation of the ingredients of baby food ("boiled and skimmed pigs' feet extract is often used, though in a pinch the scooped inner pith of discarded fruit can be added, too. Chalk is often added next"). And that's the least of it...

Bodanis's scrutiny is fortified with more than two dozen color photographs from the Science Photo Library that show the world we live in but, thankfully, never see. It's amusing, disturbing, and cheerful in the face of "Ugh!" and "Ah!"--the perfect book to trigger lively conversations. One thing's for certain: you'll never again complain that your ordinary day is just too ordinary.

From Kirkus Reviews:

What this volume reveals about the everyday world we live in may shatter forever the equanimity with which you regard the bed you lie on, the air you breathe, or even your loved ones. Bodanis, a Londoner who writes for the Economist and the Guardian, continues the microscopic, sometimes subatomic, examination of interior and exterior worlds he initiated in The Secret House (1986) and The Body Book (1984). By selecting a family of five, Bodanis gives himself a varied world to explore, covering everything from the most minute habitual processes going on in their bodies to the ingredients of the common products they most frequently use. He shows us such varied matters as teenage hormones in action, the manner in which stimuli shape the development of an infant's brain, and the physiology of a couch potato. There's another family, too, the unseen one of microbes, mites, and macrophages that live on the skin, float in the air, and settle on bedding and carpets. Bodanis describes them lovingly. As the family gathers for breakfast, he gleefully reveals that baby food contains chalk dust, as well as ground-up animal bowels and nostrils, and that orange-juice concentrate has embalming fluid in it. Later, a trip to the mall lets him show the family swapping microbes with others, inhaling and swallowing various chemicals, and being subconsciously influenced by Muzak and store displays. Included are extreme closeups of a sneeze, a mosquito bite, and a kiss. The picture that emerges is not a pretty one, but it is frequently fascinating. While trivia abounds--the direction of fingerprint whorls, the thickness of bubble-bath bubbles--and at times threatens to overwhelm, Bodanis's enthusiasm carries the day. Not for the squeamish, but possibly the perfect gift for a science-minded teenager. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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