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Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing [Paperback]

by Russell G. Foster, Leon Kreitzman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 10, 2005 0300109695 978-0300109696

Why can’t teenagers get out of bed in the morning? How do bees tell the time? Why do some plants open and close their flowers at the same time each day? Why do so many people suffer the misery of jet lag? In this fascinating book, Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman explain the significance of the biological clock, showing how it has played an essential role in evolution and why it continues to play a vitally important role in all living organisms.

The authors tell us that biological clocks are embedded in our genes and reset at sunrise and sunset each day to link astronomical time with an organism’s internal time. They discuss how scientists are working out the clockwork mechanisms and what governs them, and they describe how organisms measure different intervals of time, how they are adapted to various cycles, and how light coordinates the time within to the external world. They review problems that can be caused by malfunctioning biological clocks—including jet lag, seasonal affective disorder, and depression. And they warn that although new drugs are being promoted to allow us to stay awake for longer periods, a 24/7 lifestyle can have a harmful impact on our health, both as individuals and as a society.

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Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing + The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body's Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Are you a morning "lark" or a "night owl"? Do you put your feet up after lunch, or can you get by on a few hours' sleep? Foster, a professor of molecular neuroscience in London, and Kreitzman (The 24 Hour Society) survey the biological clocks that dictate circadian rhythms, the daily cycles that affect creatures from cockroaches to humans. A little bundle of nerve cells in the front of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei is responsible for many circadian functions in mammals. Other controls may be embedded in our genes. The authors explain that all living creatures run on several different biological clocks simultaneously: some make it possible for us to recognize the passage of short intervals of time, whereas others (in the retina) respond to light and regulate our bodily functions over 24 hours and even longer cycles. Your very perception of time depends on your body temperature, which varies by almost one degree Celsius during the course of a day. In their final chapters, the authors explain that the very efficacy of medication for many diseases, notably cancer, depends on when it is administered. Biology buffs will marvel at the fascinating material, and medical professionals should put the book at the top of their must-read lists.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“This intriguing and highly detailed account of circadian rhythms takes us through the research that has been done on many species to show how they learned to optimise time to greatest effect.”—Jo Revill, The Observer

“Despite 40 years of research and several lines of evidence, awareness of chronotherapy is still low in the medical and pharmaceutical world. Perhaps this book will start changing that.”—Scotland on Sunday
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300109695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300109696
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Protein Tick and the RNA Tock January 10, 2005
What do the disasters of the _Titanic_, the _Exxon Valdez_, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the Union Carbide plant explosion in Bhopal all have in common? They involved human error, and they all happened when the humans ought, by biological fiat, to have been sleeping. We are ruled by our clocks now, but even in the unnatural world we have made for ourselves, we cannot get away from the natural clocks that our cells expect us to follow. Like almost all living things in the planet, from plants to bacteria to birds, we have "a biological clock that was first set ticking more than three billion years ago." In _Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing_ (Yale University Press), Russell G. Foster, a professor of molecular neuroscience, and Leon Kreitzman, a writer and broadcaster, have examined the investigations of a relatively new science, chronobiology, to show just how much sway natural time has over us and other organisms. It isn't just a tale of sleepy people in control making bad judgments, although cognition and prudence do have their daily cycles. We tend to have babies (natural birthing) in the early mornings, and heart attacks in the later morning, and lovemaking around 10 p.m. Physical coordination, liver metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, kidney function, and much more all are paying attention to the biological clock, and when we jump time zones or do shift work, we do so at our peril.

Many of these cycles are specifically examined here, along with the historical hunt for the biological roots of the rhythmicity.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Body Clocks vs. Mechanical Clocks September 22, 2004
For the first few million years of life, time was measured by sunrise and sunset. Now we have switched to clocks. But the biological clocks that are within all of us don't know how to read clocks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner occur at standard times. Tooth pain is lowest after lunch; proof reading and sprint swimming are best performed in the evening; labour pains more often begin at night and most natural births occur in the early hours; sudden cardiac death is more likely in the morning (from Chapter 1).

The study of biological clocks has gone on for a long time, but as a science is a fairly recent development. Research in just the last few years has dramatically altered the way scientists view them. This book is a snapshot of the way the science appears right now. The pair who wrote the book are a leading researcher in the field and a professional science writer. This is a good combination that gives good enjoyable writing combined with accurate reporting.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but not very profound April 15, 2009
This book about biological clocks can be read on two levels. Much of it is a popular account of time and its physiological effects; it is informative and entertaining for non-scientist readers, and easily intelligible, at least until it enters into technical details. It contains much interesting information about circadian and other rhythms, and their effects in different organisms, starting from the evidence gathered to prove that internal clocks really exist. We can learn, for example, that camels can stand far greater variations than humans in their body temperature, which may rise as high as 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) in the afternoon or as low as 34 degrees (93 Fahrenheit) during the night, and that this is an adaptation to prevent dehydration. Dictyostelium discoideum, however, which has surely taught us more than camels have about biological rhythms, is not mentioned. In the context of temporal effects in human medicine we learn that the use of chemotherapy to treat cancer can vary widely in effectiveness according to the time of day at which the treatment is administered, one of numerous examples where the moment of treatment is important. The book concludes with some practical advice on the use of melatonin to combat jet-lag.

Biochemists, however, are also interested in reading about the mechanisms that underlie circadian rhythms: if there is an internal clock, its time-keeping capability must be derived from the kinetic properties of its components. The study of these, as revealed by the pioneering work of Britton Chance and Benno Hess from the 1960s onwards, and more recently that of Albert Goldbeter and others, is surely fundamental to any analysis of physiological time-keeping.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read June 18, 2005
A comprehensive and fascinating book about the last few decades of chronobiological research. Are you an "early bird" or a "night owl"? Do you want to know how to deal with jet lag and winter blues? Are you interested in biological rhythms from a scientific or professional point of view? The you have to read this book immediately. It contains nearly everything you always wanted to know about rhythms but were afraid to ask. It's a must-read for medical professionals, psychologists, teachers, trainers and consultants of all kind.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT all things to all people - but not much IS
Let me begin with a comprehensive ditto to the words of reviewer R. Hardy "Rob Hardy." I could cut and paste his words here and go away satisfied that I had done my job. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book on biological clocks
This is a great book on the biological rhythms of life. I really enjoyed the content of the book and understand how we humans are so connected with the earth.
Published 8 months ago by Michael Douglas Neely
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well presented.
I've long believed there's a lot to be learned by observing and appreciating the natural rhythms of the body. Read more
Published 8 months ago by JTMaustin
3.0 out of 5 stars Too dry and inapplicable to daily life
I had bought this book because the author had written a number of interesting editorials in the New York Times (or at least the version I read, the International Herald Tribune),... Read more
Published on March 10, 2010 by Boon L. Kwan
3.0 out of 5 stars Scientific, Covers In-Depth Information
The reading is somewhat dry, yet very informative. Author sites many studies and reviews to back his knowledge. Read more
Published on May 27, 2009 by Sheryl Blystone
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read
A comprehensive and fascinating book about the last few decades of chronobiological research. Are you a "early bird" or a "night owl"? Read more
Published on June 18, 2005 by Dr. Frank Meyer
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