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4.6 out of 5 stars29
4.6 out of 5 stars
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2001
I love this book.
It is a fascinating insight into how the human body copes with extremes of heat and cold, heights and depths, etc. Frances AShcroft explains how our biology copes with these extremes.
And it is not just the biology. The book is full of little stories. There are stories that make me squirm, and say "Stop! Don't tell me any more!" And then I just have to read the next one. And there are other stories that cause me to wonder, like the scientists who carry out experiments on themselves, experiments that lead to all sorts of suffering.
The great thing is this: while I am reading all these stories about life at the extremes, I am also absorbing a lot of basic information about how our bodies work normally, almost without realising I am learning. I was talking to someone about this book, and I started to rabbit away about what happens in an aircraft if it suffers explosive decompression - I was surprised at what I was able to tell my pals.
This book is full of wee stories, gruesome, outrageous, fascinating, inspiring.
It is a brilliant source of tales to tell in the pub.
It is very informative about human physiology, and also history.
To Paul and Shula who gave me this book for my birthday - thanks indeed. Its great.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2000
As I read this book I realised how much fascinating stuff I didn't know about our environment.And the great beauty of Frances Ashcroft's book is that she makes it all accessible to the ordinary reader,with exciting stories and lucid explanations that the non-scientist can understand.
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on 10 August 2000
This is so fascinating everybody will want to take Frances Ashcroft's physiology course at Oxford! OK, maybe you didn't get into Oxford, but don't worry, even if you are merely the average "gentle reader" you'll learn a terrific amount about the human machine from "Life at the Extremes". And it will probably stick because the extremes provide built-in vividness which Ashcroft exploits beautifully with a lucid and personable writing style. Hearts and lungs and limbs and highs and lows - you'll gain new respect for the enormous flexibility of our body systems. And you'll learn directly where the body's limits come from. Like everybody, I know water boils at lower temperatures as heights, but hadn't thought about what that means in the lungs. It's not trivial. Atop Everest, water vapor from body fluids takes up 19% of the lung space compared to 6% at sea-level. Less space for oxygen! Along the way, learn about a bona fide human aura (see the Schlieren photograph of a naked human) - guaranteed non-flakey. Given that most of us live where humans can't survive year-round without creating special survival environments, "the science of survival" isn't just for the elite. Thankfully, Frances Ashcroft makes this science accessible and immensely enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2000
Fascinating examples of stressful situations in which humans may find themselves, with the physiological explanation presented in a highly accessible fashion. Extremely well-written, very much for both non-scientists and scientists, but particularly useful for the sportsman or woman who would like to know why their body reacts as it does to a range of conditions such as high or low pressure, excess or paucity of oxygen, extreme heat or cold, and so on. Great fun!
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on 29 June 2012
What happens to your body when it is subjected to temperatures or pressures far, or even only just, outside the narrow margins of those in everyday life? Nasty stuff! If you deep sea dive with an abscess in your tooth, it could implode, ouch - or choose to go ballooning, and it could explode instead, lovely! If those oxygen masks do drop from the ceiling above, how many seconds have you got left to put the mask on? What happens when you spend too long bathing in a hotspring? When you've miraculously survived a long and unexpected dip in the sea, please don't drop dead when you get out because of the pressure change on your legs, lie down! Fascinating, well written, explains aspects of circulation, hormones, breathing, what happens at extremes and why, and full of good anecdotes and history of exploration and science. Highly recommended.
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on 11 March 2010
Approached this book with some trepidation after reading some of the other reviews even though had been thinking of reading this for some time. Was expecting it to be 'weighty' and dull.

To my surprise found the authors style of writing very engaging, each chapter having a wonderfully written vivid account of her personal experience of a particular extreme experience.

The book provides a rich, informed account of some complex physiological responses to differing environmental extremes, woven through with history, natural history and every page full of surprising and very enlightening information about the marvelous adaptibility and limitations of the human body.

I would highly recommend this book

A real life saver!!!!?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2012
Really interesting read even for those not a great science fan.

Some parts require thinking but the book takes you straight through each topic explaining in a very logical manner.
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on 15 March 2013
This is an easy book to read and would be of interest to any outdoor-type keen to learn more about how their body copes with extremes of heat, cold, altitude or depth (underwater) and how scientists unravelled the basic mechanisms. I found the chapters on diving and on space adaption particularly interesting (I had never considered the fact that bugs are weightless too, so astronauts more easily pass on infections). It is full of interesting snippets but also enough facts to make it excellent bedtime reading for any biomedical science student (especially those struggling to understand the physiological control of respiration).
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on 6 April 2013
Basing this review on what my little scientist sister told me - she said it was amazing, interesting and a great read. After reading it she couldn't stop talking about it with me, she was really excited by the stories and science in the book. That's always a good sign of a good book! Bought it for her as a graduation present with the idea that it could be a symbol/motivational tool for her. The author is an amazing female role model for young girls and women who are training/studying/working in the sciences and I know my sister could one day be in that role for others.
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on 31 October 2015
Excellent book - so many fascinating stories and very well written. The book is written very logically and categorised by topic "heat", "cold" etc. Some parts were a little full-on for the science to understand, but there is always a good explanation and the book doesn't alienate the non-scientist readers.

Some amazing facts and would definitely recommend.
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