Life At The Extremes

Life at the Extremes: The Science of Survival by Frances Ashcroft is one of my favorite books.  It was recommended to me by an adventurous friend who heard about it from hell-man Mark Healey.

It’s a cross between a scientific journal and non-fiction history adventure book.  Ashcroft wrote it with good flow and it’s stocked full of interesting information.

Ashcroft takes us through the science behind the human struggle in extreme places, why people want to explore those areas, and offers detailed examples of adaptations made to plants, animals, and humans who live in extreme climates.

I found the book to be incredibly interesting, informative, and entertaining. I highly recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure.

“It is an extraordinary coincidence,” writes English physiologist Frances Ashcroft, “that the highest peak on Earth is also about the highest point at which humans can survive unaided.”

The challenge of scaling the highest mountain, exploring the deepest ocean, crossing the hottest desert, or swimming in near-freezing water is irresistible to many people. Life at the Extremes is an engrossing exploration of what happens to our bodies in these seemingly uninhabitable environments. Frances Ashcroft weaves stories of extraordinary feats of endurance with historical material and the latest scientific findings as she investigates the limits of human survival and the remarkable adaptations that enable us to withstand extreme conditions.

What causes mountain sickness? How is it possible to reach the top of Everest without supplementary oxygen, when passengers in an airplane that depressurized at the same altitude would lose consciousness in seconds? Why do divers get the bends but sperm whales do not? How long you can survive immersion in freezing water? Why don’t penguins get frostbite? Will men always be faster runners than women? How far into deep space can a body travel?

As she considers these questions, Ashcroft introduces a cast of extraordinary scientific personalities–inventors and explorers who have charted the limits of human survival. She describes many intriguing experiments and shows how scientific knowledge has enabled us to venture toward and beyond ever greater limits. Life at the Extremes also considers what happens when athletes push their bodies to the edge, and tells of the remarkable adaptations that enable some organisms to live in boiling water, in highly acidic lakes, or deep in the middle of rocks.

Anyone who flies in an airplane, sails the high seas, goes skiing or walking in the mountains, or simply weathers subzero winters or sweltering summers will be captivated by this book. Full of scientific information, beautifully written, and packed with many fascinating digressions, Life at the Extremes lures us to the very edge of human survival.

Find the book on complete with reader reviews for around $20.

Life at the Extremes has also received great reviews from credible scientific sources such as The New England Journal of Medicine.

It’s a great book that kept me entertained and thinking, check it out.

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