Customer Reviews


39 Reviews
5 star:
 (25)
4 star:
 (10)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Energy of life
The author is a renowned physiologist at Oxford University who is recognized in the scientific circles for her seminal work on Insulin, since 1984.
As a surgeon and a scientist I was intrigued by the title and purchased the book as an afterthought without even leafing through it. I judged the book by its cover! And I am so glad that I did.
The chapters are well...
Published on September 29, 2012 by Sinohey

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, but...
The book is quite interesting, if a little lightweight; I bought it as a light reading, indeed, but I had hoped in a more central role of ion channels. The book, however, is interesting and rich in historical and medical information - a bit anedoctical here, a bit superficial there.
I give it only three stars mainly because Norton editors did not work too well, this...
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Energy of life, September 29, 2012
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
The author is a renowned physiologist at Oxford University who is recognized in the scientific circles for her seminal work on Insulin, since 1984.
As a surgeon and a scientist I was intrigued by the title and purchased the book as an afterthought without even leafing through it. I judged the book by its cover! And I am so glad that I did.
The chapters are well organized in an orderly historical sequence that guides the reader from the early days of the discovery of electricity, it's crude applications and simple experiments until finally reaching the modern era of the electron microscope and sophisticated imagery. The contributions of Benjamin Franklin, Luigi Galvani, J.J. Thompson, Hodgkin & Huxley et al are explained in clear terms, eschewing scientific jargon. The physiology of cells, where the "sodium pump" plays a vital role, the production of electrical pulse and its effect on organ function is lucidly explained. The lay interested reader and the scientist will find the work fascinating.
The book is 339 pages and is well worth the investment in dollars and time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and fascinating, December 6, 2012
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
I thought this was a terrific book. The subject perhaps sounds a little dry, but Frances Ashcroft writes exceptionally well and shows, with genuine enthusiasm and great expertise, how the electrical systems of the body determine so much of its ability to function and their effect on our everyday (and not so everyday) lives. She is at the forefront of research in this area (specifically ion channels) and her depth of knowledge and understanding are apparent throughout the book.

Ashcroft explains the molecular mechanisms by which electrical signals are transmitted in the body, their effects and their vital importance with great clarity and very interestingly. She often draws on examples of familiar (and not so familiar) illnesses and the effects of well-known poisons to illuminate what she is saying, and the book is well illustrated with very clear line-drawings which I found invaluable. I found the whole thing fascinating and although this certainly isn't a book which you can read like a novel, I often found myself engrossed and wanting to read just a bit more.

If you have any interest in science this book will interest you. It isn't always a light read and requires some pretty serious concentration in places, but the effort is well worth it. Some background knowledge of chemistry or biochemistry certainly helps but is by no means essential, and anyone who has tried Brian Cox's books, for example, would find this on a comparable intellectual level but with far less mathematics and fewer utterly counter-intuitive ideas. This is one of the best science books for the general reader which I have read for some time and I recommend it very warmly.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please make an audio version, September 29, 2012
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
I hope the publisher and author decide to make an audio version of this book. This material is going to be the future of medicine and the biochemistry and electrical physiology converge, diseases like parkinson's alzheimer's and other brain diseases can only be cured through a deep understanding of the electrical processes in the brain. the heart has alpha and beta, we do not yet know the key molecules that make electricity in the brain.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What I've always wondered about, October 27, 2012
By 
June Niece (Vashon, WA United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a great book. It explains, in terms the layman can follow, how electricity works in the body, how it is different from the electricity that keeps the lights on, what exactly is a pore in the cell membrane and the staggering number of ions that can pass through a single pore, how the pore actively regulates the passage of phosphorus ions (large) and sodium ions (small) in and out of the cell across the cell membrane. Years ago I wondered how ATP worked, how did it actually make a muscle cell contract, and then I found an explanation: a fast acting ratcheting mechanism. This book answers "how does it work, really?" questions. I have not finished reading it yet, but every chapter is fascinating. It's a perfect book for Kindle.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Collection, Lacks "Spark", October 13, 2012
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
In "Spark of Life," Frances Ashcroft puts together an interesting collection of science, anecdotes, and examples related to ion channels and electricity in biology and medicine. While some of the content, such as the history of electricity and the role of ion channels in the muscular and nervous systems is unlikely to be entirely new to readers already familiar with the history of science and basic biology or physiology, there were many fascinating examples and details. It was very satisfying to understand how some rare medical conditions can be explained in terms of ion channel function. I also particularly enjoyed the way the author tied together incidents from the world of popular culture (like episodes from James Bond and Agatha Christie novels), history (like Henry VIII), and weird news (like fainting goats) into the science.

However, even though I appreciated the book for the reasons above, I felt that the book lacked a certain "spark".... By this, I mean that despite the engaging content, it failed to pick up momentum. I know that in writing about science for a general audience, authors face the challenge of explaining why the science is interesting and relevant. However, I think this book went a little overboard. Each chapter started off with an introductory quotation from a poem or work of literature, which was not always referred to in the subsequent text. That in itself may have been OK, but the author did not stop there, following up with another "hook" to get the reader interested in the topic. For example, the chapter on perception starts off with a quote by William Blake. Then the author asks you to imagine you are sitting with her in her garden and to think of all the sensations that you may experience. Right after that, to launch the topic of vision, the author tells you that "Our eyes are our windows on the world" and continues on to paint another scene of herself looking out at a beautiful landscape. Reading through some of these drawn-out and not particularly original introductions, I wished the book would just get into the content already. In the example above, I don't think that much exposition was needed for most people to agree that perception and vision are very important. Other areas could also have been more concise.

In addition, every chapter is split up into many subsections, each with a clever-sounding title like " Power to the People," "The Beat Goes On," and "Making Waves." Clearly, the author was trying hard to keep the text from becoming dry with these kinds of titles, but at some point I felt like the clichés were drowning out the writing. This was especially so because the writing in the body was generally in a more reserved style. Further, some of these subsection titles were not very descriptive, making it difficult to find specific sections without remembering the details and looking them up in the index. For example, "Power to the People" was the title for two paragraphs describing Volta's creation of electric piles and his writing about it to the Royal Society of London. "Power to the People" may have been an allusion to the international communication between scientists about batteries, but this wasn't entirely obvious to me. The chapter subsections were often very short, and at times the frequent subdivisions seemed to interrupt the narrative, contributing to the lack of momentum. Transitions between some of the subsections could also have been smoother.

The biggest issue for me was that it was hard to follow the logical flow on occasion and some of the writing was not very clean. For example, the author says that "the voltage difference between one point and another is equivalent to the difference in water pressure that causes water to flow from one region to another." I reminded myself that this is a popular book, but I couldn't help but cringe when I read this. Voltage might be analogous to pressure in an analogy between current flow and fluid flow, but it is certainly not "equivalent." I realized that if my only background on electricity came from the description in this book, I would have been pretty confused. In other sections with which I was not as familiar, the less than careful writing hindered my understanding a few times. The author has a tendency to introduce new concepts within long sentences and to use "that" to refer to earlier parts of sentences in a way I found confusing. For example, one sentence says, "Calcium enters the cell via calcium channels in the pre-synaptic nerve membrane that open in response to the voltage change produced by the arrival of the nerve impulse." Multiple shorter sentences may have made the sequences in some of the more complicated processes easier to understand. As another example, a sentence about Edison reads, "A US hero, following Edison's funeral President Hoover requested that North Americans dim their lights for one minute as a tribute to his memory." While in this case it's fairly obvious that "hero" refers to Edison, the sentences dealing with some of the science weren't always as obvious. Diagrams outlining the ion-channel processes described would have been useful.

Additionally, the examples of people afflicted by ion channel-related disorders, who were named but never introduced, caused me to pause a bit. The author would say something like "One morning Nancy all of a sudden fell down in her kitchen" (this is a fake example sentence which I think is pretty typical, not an actual excerpt from the book). It's true that more specific examples with people can add human interest, but I didn't see the point of calling the example people by name when nothing else was said about them. Had the author provided some introduction of their lives and interests before describing their conditions, this might have been effective. Instead, the author simply plunges into examples of disorders assigned to specific names without saying anything more about the people these names belong to. At first, this made we wonder whether I missed an introduction to some of these people earlier in the book.

So if you're looking for a book that expands your breadth of knowledge of electricity and ion-channels in biology while weaving in entertaining anecdotes, history, and popular culture, by all means read this book. Even with the lack of momentum, many parts were undeniably interesting and the excellent integration of examples from non-science areas was well done. However, if you're looking to build up a deep understanding of electricity and biological ion channels, something else may be needed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Channelopathies unmasked, May 11, 2013
By 
Ben knee ta (Georgetown, IN USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
I have a very rare channelopathy, so I picked up this book at my local library to better understand my condition. I was enthralled with her ability to simplify the complexity of the function of ion channels. In the last fifteen years the field has exploded with information. It has been difficult to keep up with all of the new research. This book laid it out in simple terms that a non-scientist can understand. I did not appreciate my disorder being compared to a syndrome suffered by quarter-horses or myotonic goats. Like most researchers, she seems to lack the understanding of a human living with a channelopathy. After reading it part of the way through, I bought the book, and suggested it to many others. It is a very good book for those trying to understand migraines, periodic paralysis, some forms of epilepsy, myotonia, cystic fibrosis, and other channelopathies. I will keep it on my shelf for reference. I hope she follows up with more indepth books on the subject.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book on electricity in the human body., March 30, 2014
By 
David DiPaolo (Bayville, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
This book is a must for anyone interested in electricity in the human body. Ashcroft sometimes gets a little too scientific with her writing but overall she presents the material in a easy to understand format. Her dry English writing and humor also help. I myself suffer from heart problems and Parkinson's and found the information on both helpful. The history of electricity she lays out is complete and interesting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book!, July 1, 2014
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
The author excels in communicating science in a meaningful and interesting way in this book. She intertwines history, research, and scientific information in a way that an average reader can grasp the connections. This is a book that I would recommend for any teenager or college student who is grappling with career decisions and wants to know what's happening in the world where electricity and biology meet. The information helps bring the reader to a more current understanding of what is happening in various fields pertaining to the human body. I particularly enjoyed her explanation of ion channels in the human body. I read this book cover to cover and wished for more. The human body is such an amazing and organized system and this book will give you a much greater appreciation for what is yours. Superb!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Buy the book. Good book., April 22, 2014
By 
michael (Lowell, MA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
Buy the book. Good book.

The chapters decrease in usefulness as you go through the book. The first three chapters are by far the best. Ms Ashcroft clearly has hard-won knowledge, and some understanding, of the world of cellular channels. Cellular channels, the electrical aspects of cellular process and communication, are very difficult subjects. If I might be so bold, no one yet has understood and communicated the knowledge in a way that is useful to the average educated person. But Frances certainly presents the material very well and communicates enough enthusiasm in those first few chapters to keep you reading. Chapters 4 & 5 are still good reads. After that the book is more of a survey of interesting stories and generalized knowledge.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Exxcellent book, September 10, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body (Hardcover)
Ms. Ashcroft explains very clearly and very interestingly the workings of the cell, mainly the cell membrane and its protein ion gates. She illustrates with many examples that will hold your attention and you will find yourself saying "wow! I didn't know that!" as you read.
The book is easily read, understood and a complicated part of human physiology is explained very well.
I would even consider it suitable for a textbook or addition to any class discussing human physiology.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body
The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body by Frances M. Ashcroft (Hardcover - September 24, 2012)
$28.95 $20.23
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.