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Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing Paperback – October 10, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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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.

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"The writing is clean, clever, and ... evocative.... What I loved most about this book is how clearly it highlights the body's incontrovertible allegiance to the daily and seasonal rhythms around it."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300109695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300109696
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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. In fact, I would heartily agree with almost everything said by every reviewer before me -- with the caveat that everyone's expectations going in shaped whether they or not they were pleased with what they found once they got there.

My rating is five stars because the book DID contain the information I wanted to find within its pages - and more.

This is clearly not a book for the average self-help reader, nor will someone who is looking for something from a more metaphysical or Eastern medicine perspective be very happy with it. (I appreciate many of those too, btw - but that's not what THIS book is.)

If you are looking for a great read in terms of style-verve, you probably won't be thrilled. Even though it is a bit of a "first-person narrative biography" of an exciting period in the sleep-research field, it is stylistically slanted more toward those who are used to reading scientific tomes -- after which, almost anything would be a beach-read.

If you read and liked Kandel's _In Search of Memory_, you won't find this book as "easy" or engaging a read, or as filled with personal details, but that doesn't mean it is not worth reading, or dry as dust, right?

This is an "information-dense" book from a neuroscientist's perspective, with many passages that you will probably want to underline or re-read to make sure that the content "sticks"(unless you have the sleep field's vocabulary already under your belt). To me, it is well worth the effort to dig a bit for the treasures it contains. Like life, the territory becomes more familiar the longer you stick with it.
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