Brown, Guy The Energy of Life

ISBN 13: 9780006530473

The Energy of Life

3.6 avg rating
( 42 ratings by GoodReads )
9780006530473: The Energy of Life

‘A book that lives up to its title – Guy Brown handles an exciting topic with the energy and expertise it deserves. A first-rate read!’ Roy Porter

Everybody knows what it is like to be short of energy, or even full of energy, but what is this stuff that drives our bodies and our minds? Where does it come from, and where does it all go? How does it move our muscles and stir our imaginations? Above all, how can I get some more? This brilliant book follows the development of our ideas of biological energy, from their origins in the very concept of life itself to the latest research on body clocks and brain energy.

The Energy of Life answers questions like ‘How is it possible for me to lift my arm just by willing it?’; ‘Why can living things move and dead things not?’; ‘Is there a relationship between mental energy and physical energy?’; ‘Is plenty of orange juice the best prevention of cancer and heart disease?’; ‘Is one girl a fat slob and the next a slim livewire by the accident of metabolism, by having too much or too little thyroid hormone?’; ‘Why are there epidemics of obesity in the developed world and of starvation in the developing world?’; ‘Why don’t diets work?’; ‘Are we born shy or bold?’; ‘What are boredom and fatigue for?’; ‘Why is it that some people are more creative, productive or energetic than others?’ Brown explains our sexual energy too: what causes us to be aroused, and how sexual arousal is sustained; what drives our motivations and passions and why does biting your partner beforehand lead to better sex?

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This is a wonderful book. Guy Brown takes us on a white-knuckle ride through the cellular machinery and sub-cellular processes of life. He explains why the acquisition, processing and manipulation of energy is the fundamental problem faced by all creatures, and explores the intricate mechanisms by which this feat of life is achieved (including the actions of bacteria-like bugs who invaded the cells of our ancestors over a billion years ago, and with whom we continue to have a somewhat uneasy alliance). Having guided us to the research front, Brown then speculates on parochial but important matters such as why diets don't work, who is liable to get fat, why we grow old, and how we might acquire more of that crucial stuff which we all crave--energy.

As with all the best works of popular science, non-specialist readers will have to lace up their thinking-boots tightly before embarking on The Energy of Life. The science is often rarefied and the pace of the book almost breathless. The author's enthusiasm leads to some ragged prose in places, and there are also some errors--warm-bloodedness in the ancestors of mammals evolved much earlier than he claims, for example --but when an author stretches himself across several disciplines and to the limits of scientific knowledge on our behalf, blips of this kind are all but inevitable. Breadth is a rare thing in science these days, and Brown can only be admired for his audacity.

Guy Brown has levered the back off life so that we can all peer inside and marvel at the mechanism. --Chris Lavers

From the Publisher:

"Read this book and be energised." THES

"A book that lives up to its title - Guy Brown handles an exciting topic with the energy and expertise it deserves. A first-rate read."

"A comprehensive romp through the scientific world of energy and its overlap with the world of life. In a contemporary science scene marred by outsize egos and journalistic accounts, this book is a breath of fresh air: we get not only a slew of fresh-cut facts thoughtfully and provocatively arranged but a historical and philosophical background... Highly accessible, The Energy of Life is picturesque, direct and imaginative." Dorian Sagan and Lynn Margolis, THES

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