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Run, swim, throw, Cheat, Review
on 20 May 2012
It's a curious phenomena, but adding the word "popular" to any academic subject seems to carry with it a perjorative tag (eg "popular science", "popular history"). There seems to be a feeling in some quarters that having a book labelled as 'popular' is a way of saying that it is contributing to the general dumbing down of the masses.
However in many ways nothing could be further from the truth, as popular [(insert your chosen topic here)] books are notoriously difficult to get right and having read a panoply over the years you realise there is a real art to getting them spot on.
It is with pleasure, therefore, that I can report that this book is one of those few to get it right...and so very right!
Not only is this a masterclass in how to write clear spare scientific prose but it also manages to simplify fairly complex topics without sacrificing accuracy on the Altar of the jealous 'god' Booksales. This of course isn't easy to do and so it's not done perfectly ....but few things are perfect are they?
The books point of departure is the now notorious event of the 100m mens final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics where the majority of those taking part can be seen to have been tainted with the stigma of having used (potentially or obviously) performance enhancing drugs at one point in time or another.
The books then describes the why's and the how's of this subject by delving into the physiology, pharmacology and genetics of exercise. It is quite up to date and I would recommend it to all science students doing A-levels all the way up to PhD's and beyond (and to anyone else interested in the topic.) Along the way the author covers not only the usual subjects of 'why caffeine works' but more recent developments such as 'what beetroot has in common with viagra' (I paraphrase) and PEP-CK mutations in 'marathon-mice' (I paraphrase again.)
The book ends on the ethics of the topic (and catching drug cheats) and what is nice is that the author does not then do an ethical vanishing act or try to scale Mount Moral's highground:- instead the argument seems balanced and sane.
For those who want to go further there are plenty of references and all in all this is a pretty comprehensive but not cumbersome (or expensive) little book.