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Body Heat: Temperature and Life on Earth Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0674013698 ISBN-10: 0674013697

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674013697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674013698
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,219,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Some species like it hot and some like it cold, and biopsychologist Blumberg explains why in this somewhat jargon-laden exploration of how temperature defines the existence of everything on earth, from the Antarctica ice mass to deep ocean bacteria, from babies in the womb to plants that can melt snow. Despite clever chapter headings "Then Bake at 98.6F for 400,000 Minutes"; "Cold New World"; "Fever All Through the Night"; "Livin' off the Fat" the author's prose can sometimes be heavy going and even patronizing, particularly in early chapters when he attempts to explain the various laws of thermodynamics. But a reader's perseverance will pay off. By braiding together a spectrum of disciplines including anthropology, ecology, physics, geography, medicine and psychology Blumberg investigates how extremes of heat and cold dictate life's limits; by book's end, he has constructed an engrossing, fact-filled account of why all life is merely a matter of degrees. Among those facts: why hot peppers make us sweat, how fire walking works, the evolutionary roots of goose bumps and genital hair, and the function of fevers. He also notes connections between temperature and such human conditions as sleeplessness, jet lag, sex determination, anorexia and sudden infant death syndrome, information that makes the book more than just a collection of intriguing anecdotes. One hot topic not covered is global warming, though Blumberg alludes throughout his otherwise illuminating text to how fragile everything on earth is.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This book is a real treat. Mark Blumberg takes something we normally hardly think about, and makes it into a fascinating topic, with colorful examples from fields as disparate as etymology and entomology. You probably will be repeating many of the stories he tells to those around you, as you discover why a fever may be good for you, or how babies generate their own heat, or how eating disorders interact with body temperature problems. It's entertaining, interesting, and great fun. (Michael Leon, University of California, Irvine)

This is an engaging enchilada of a book, wrapping up cold feet, a warm heart, hot sex, and chili peppers, for easy digestion by the general science consumer. Delicious! (Bernd Heinrich, University of Vermont, and author of The Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Thermoregulation)

There's a little twinkle in Mark Blumberg's eye as he explains the role of temperature in life on Earth, that essential gleam that makes books about science successful and appealing...His writing is clear, a fine balance of explanation, example and ideas. (Susan Salter Reynolds Los Angeles Times Book Review 2002-04-14)

The need to maintain body temperature within a narrow range is the biggest single influence on physiology and behaviour, as Mark Blumberg explains in this little gem of a book, Body Heat...Blumberg describes the exquisite mechanisms developed by different species to generate, conserve or lose body heat. (John Bonner New Scientist 2002-05-11)

This is one of those books that leaves you for a few heady days in possession of a new key to all mysteries. Written entertainingly for a popular audience, the book argues that the evolved behaviour and physical characteristics of most creatures, from the tiniest nematode worm to the largest whale, is governed by the need to maintain a comfortable body temperature. (Emma Crichton-Miller The Telegraph 2002-04-21)

Blumberg...presents a thoroughly interesting book on body temperature and its many influences, loaded with a marvelously broad range of topics related to the biology of body temperature. From structural adaptations, such as ear size, circulatory patterns, and body shape that have evolved to help maintain body temperature, to psychological effects of temperature, the physiology of fevers, and even sexual-thermal metaphors used in everyday conversation. A host of fascinating aspects of how species respond to temperature changes are also discussed...Body Heat is great reading, certain to produce an enlightened appreciation for how body temperature control is critical for all organisms. (M. A. Palladino Choice 2002-11-01)

Mark S. Blumberg, in Body Heat, also takes the role of temperature in human affairs onto a global stage, but his metaphors, languages and conclusions are neither biblical nor prophetic. Instead he wants to remind us just how narrow our margins of tolerance are against that ultimate enemy: cold...Blumberg loves his subject, is convinced of its importance, and he wants to put across the intrinsic interest of temperature physiology to a larger audience. He retains a light touch--and because he is an active researcher in his own right, is able to bring new information and new insights to his pages. (Jonathan Kingdon Times Literary Supplement 2003-01-31)

This is a marvelous little book. In a volume no larger than a pocket field guide, Mark Blumberg explains how mammals and some other organisms maintain high, nearly constant body temperatures, and then explores many implications of such body heat...Along the way he expounds on a wide variety of fascinating topics, including behavioral thermoregulation and the design of Roman baths, temperature-dependent sex determination in turtles, 'warm-blooded' insects and flowers, how and why bird brains and mammalian testicles stay cool, the adaptive role of fever, the relation of energy balance to dieting and obesity, and even why chili peppers taste hot...Blumberg's writing is a work of art. He explains scientific facts and complicated concepts in clear, simple language. He conveys his own sense of wonder, excitement, and curiosity...If you are interested in mammals, biology, natural history, or psychology, you will enjoy reading this little book. (James H. Brown Journal of Mammalogy 2004-10-01)

In Body Heat, biophysicist Mark Blumberg's exploration of temperature in the world considers the many ways temperature rules the lives of animals, from how penguins survive Antarctic winters to why people survive drowning accidents in winter, but not in summer. Packed with important scientific insights and a lively style which lends to leisure browsing, Body Heat is a remarkable survey. (Bookwatch 2005-02-01)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Humans, fish, polar bears, and lizards do all the stuff animals do; it is no surprise to hear about their eating, reproducing, breathing, and so on. But there is an activity common to all animals that does not always involve behavior that can be seen, and so despite its universality, it is invisible or taken for granted. It is the need to maintain a comfortable body temperature, and it is one of the great strivings of animals. In _Body Heat: Temperature and Life on Earth_ (Harvard), Mark S. Blumberg demonstrates just how important regulating temperature is, showing that it is directly connected to anatomy, behavior, human history, language, and much more. A reader may come away from this book feeling that the drive to stay warm or stay cool explains many of the mysteries of animal and human behavior.
Temperature regulation is intimately connected, for instance, with animal size. Small animals lose heat disproportionately faster than large ones, and so are more likely to have fur, active lives and metabolic rates, and shorter lives. Birds and mammals make their own heat, but in a way, reptiles do, too, as if they have the chance to wander to different temperature zones, they will keep themselves within narrow boundaries of temperature. Even lice and nematodes will do so. Temperature has plenty to do with sex. (Blumberg repeatedly demonstrates in this sphere and others that our language reflects a basic interest in matters Fahrenheit. English is not the only language to refer to such things as "the heat of passion" or "I've got the hots for you.") There is literal heating of different body parts during sexual stimulation. Not only during sex, but at all other times, different parts of the body take on different temperatures.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
In Body Heat : Temperature And Life On Earth, biophysicist Mark Blumberg's exploration of temperature in the world considers the many ways temperature rules the lives of animals, from how penguins survive Antarctic winters to why people survive drowning accidents in winter, but not in summer. Packed with important scientific insights and a lively style which lends to leisure browsing, Body Heat is a remarkable survey and a highly recommended selection for Environmental Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Get ready to embark on a truly exciting and entertaining round-the-world voyage of discovery. And it won't take 80 days, either. In just 215 pages and in beautiful prose, Mark Blumberg explains the vitally important connection between temperature and life on Earth.
Body Heat not only answers questions that I've always wondered about but also answers questions that I've never even thought to ask. For example, before I read this book, I didn't know how Antarctic fish survive (answer: antifreeze in their blood) or how male penguins manage to incubate eggs while enduring temperatures of -76 degrees F (answer: I won't spoil it for you). On the opposite end of the thermometer-at 185 degrees F-is the bacterium that thrives within hydrothermal vents more than one mile below the surface of the ocean. As the author so rightly puts it, "These are the true athletes of the extreme." And then there are the enlightening discussions about those aspects of our lives that are much closer to home - thermostats, peppers, sleep, fevers, dogs, obesity, anorexia, language, behavior, and babies, just to name a few. It's amazing how much information can be shared when the language is clear and purposeful.
As told in this treasure of a book - with humor ("Pluto is cold; Chicago in January is merely inconvenient"), a passion for his subject, and a marvelous ability to draw on diverse subjects as well as personal experiences to tell this story - the tale of temperature and life on Earth is fascinating indeed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Saul Kravitz on July 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book. The publisher's weekly reviewer's criticism is misdirected. I guarantee that you will enjoy this book, and annoy the hell out of your friends/family quoting them little tidbits. I particularly enjoyed the author's discussion of the design of experiments, in his lab and in the lab's of other scientists, for various purposes. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William O. Schwennicke on September 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The author writes in a clear manner and fits a lot of interesting information into a fairly small book (about 50,000 words in 215 5X7 inch pages). He gets slightly technical -- about the right amount for a tyro like me.
I found his defense of evolution in chapter 3 to be particularly thought provoking. The author makes the point that there is no single cause, no essence, and no blue print for some complex processes -- "There are only the parts and their interactions". The mathematically inclined may wish to see a half-million word expansion of this theme in S. Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science".
I noticed a couple of errors:

- Latitude and longitude get swapped from page 65 to page 67.
- Page 30 states that dogs breathe at 30-40 breaths/minute or pant at 300-400 breaths/minute, and they do not breathe at any in between rate. I timed my dog panting at about 180 breaths per minute.
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