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Body Heat
by Mark Samuel BLUMBERG
Harvard University Press, 2002
eISBN: 978-0-674-02376-5 | Paper: 978-0-674-01369-8 | Cloth: 978-0-674-00762-8
Library of Congress Classification QP135.B584 2002
Dewey Decimal Classification 571.76


Whether you're a polar bear giving birth to cubs in an Arctic winter, a camel going days without water in the desert heat, or merely a suburbanite without air conditioning in a heat wave, your comfort and even survival depend on how well you adapt to extreme temperatures.

In this entertaining and illuminating book, biopsychologist Mark Blumberg explores the many ways that temperature rules the lives of all animals (including us). He moves from the physical principles that govern the flow of heat in and out of our bodies to the many complex evolutionary devices animals use to exploit those principles for their own benefit.

In the process Blumberg tells wonderful stories of evolutionary and scientific ingenuity--how penguins withstand Antarctic winters by huddling together by the thousands, how vulnerable embryos of many species are to extremes of temperature during their development, why people survive hour-long drowning accidents in winter but not in summer, how certain plants generate heat (the skunk cabbage enough to melt snow around it). We also hear of systems gone awry--how desert species given too much water can drink themselves into bloated immobility, why anorexics often complain of feeling cold, and why you can't sleep if the room is too hot or too cold. After reading this book, you'll never look at a thermostat in quite the same way again.

Table of Contents:


1. Temperature: A User's Guide
2. Behave Yourself
3. Then Bake at 98.6°F for 400,000 Minutes
4. Everything in Its Place
5. Cold New World
6. Fever All through the Night
7. The Heat of Passion
8. Livin' off the Fat
9. The Light Goes Out


Reviews of this book:
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

Reviews of this book:
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

Reviews of this book:
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

Reviews of this book:
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

Reviews of this book:
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

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

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