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Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places Paperback – July 19, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Cold weather systems the earth needs to thrive is the subject of Streever's well-documented book, using all of the author's expertise from his field trips to the world's most frigid environments. Streever, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel, writes of the frostiest experience: We fail to see cold for what it is: the absence of heat, the slowing of molecular motion, a sensation, a perception, a driving force. Rather than giving the reader a dry, academic lecture on snow, glaciers, wind-chill factors and icebergs, he delivers a poetic, anecdotal narrative complete with polar expeditions, Ice Age mysteries, igloos, permafrost and hailstorms. Two of the most fascinating segments are the arduous task of scientific reconstruction of past climates and the magical navigation of migratory birds to warmer lands. This is a wonderful collection of one man's first-rate observations and commentary about the history and importance of cold to the earth and its occupants. (July)
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.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Cold, filled with obscure facts and fascinating anecdotes, is both entertaining and enlightening, and Streever's crisp, articulate writing style and easy-to-understand scientific explanations yield a compulsively readable book. However, Streever's loosely organized chapters and stream-of-consciousness, bloglike narrative keep him from dwelling for long on any single topic, and the Dallas Morning News took issue with his single-minded focus on the northern hemisphere. Some critics also objected to his views on climate change, but these complaints stemmed from differences of opinion. Streever's breezy, captivating romp through the frozen North reminds readers "that cold shapes continents, wins and loses wars, fuels madmen, inspires Nobel Prize–winning work, challenges us, curses us and blesses us" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I really loved this book! I like to read fiction, histories, and non-fiction. I like a healthy mixture of those genres, and with "Cold" I got a great dose of reality and also some hilarity. Streever not only tells us about the world's coldest places; he also delves into geology, biology, history, and anthropology, showing us how each of these sciences relates to cold temperatures. His writing style is informative, fluid, sometimes lyrical and sometimes tongue-in-cheek.
For example, when discussing the damselfish and the effects of temperatures on enzymes he says, "........ It is not so much an issue of cold taking a single enzyme out of commission as one of cold disturbing the synchronous behavior of an orchestra of enzymes, leaving one playing too slowly, another too fast, and another barely playing at all, and in the end reducing the symphony of metabolism to the cacophony of malaise and death."
When discussing Joseph Fourier, a learned Frenchman during the early 1800s, who knew a great deal about the chemistry and behavior of cold, he said, "Fourier harbored a strong aversion to cold. He believed that wrapping up in blankets would improve his health. In 1830, wrapped in blankets, he tripped down a flight of steps. The fall killed him." There were many other "deadpan" observations such as this.
When discussing different ways in which people learned how to keep warm, he discussed angora rabbits, sheep's wool, and cotton. But he not only tells us how and when people started using these fibers, he also adds wonderful tidbits about when the people in India first started using the spinning wheel, how wool is actually turned into a thread of yarn, and WHY certain fabrics are better insulators than others.
Between the covers of this book we learn about permafrost, wooly mammoths, polar expeditions, inventors, the Ice Man found in the Alps in 1991, the terrible US blizzard in the 1800's, often called the School Children's Blizzard because of the many young children killed by it, how certain creatures withstand the cold and how others succumb, plus much, much more. The scope of this book is amazing! I could not even begin to list the varied and interesting topics he covered on a world-wide basis. While reading it, I often wondered how this author's mind worked. Including so many different subjects on so many different continents! Surely, he must keep notes or reminders to himself every time he hears of or learns something interesting, then researches it and adds it to his book notes.
I am not a scientist. I am a retired history and Spanish teacher, so I really have no technical training in sciences, but I found this book very appealing and interesting. It was not written in a way that only scientists would understand. It was written in a way to appeal to the masses, although it was backed by solid science.
My only irritation, and it was minor, was bringing Al Gore and man-made global warming into the story, albeit briefly. I keep reading conflicting reports about the polar ice caps. They are shrinking or they are expanding. It all depends on which report or satellite photograph you see, I suppose. As far as man causing global warming, or the fact that the earth constantly goes through climate change, is, I imagine, going to be contested for years to come. The author is entitled to his opinion and if he worships at the altar of Al Gore and I don't, I can get over it. As I said, Al Gore was only very briefly mentioned, and the book was so good that I was able to easily get over my grumpiness about it.
Such an interesting and well-written book! I will be reading his next one, "Heat: Adventures in the World's Fiery Places" very soon!