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The Body - A guide of occupants

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 Agar Jelly 14 Jan 2020

Great read! Informative, entertaining, compelling.

So absorbing in fact, I have no idea what to read next, having got used to having a really great book around to dip into.

Edit: Thread title should read: A guide for occupants. Sorry!

Post edited at 13:02
 neilh 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

Agreed.I have been dippiing in and out of it,its good because you can read a chapter on its own and drop ones that do not appeal.

Bryson is an excellent writer, very inquisitive and balanced.

Post edited at 13:08
 Agar Jelly 14 Jan 2020
In reply to neilh:

I hoovered up the entire tome, although I nearly skipped the Into the Nether Regions chapter (on account of being a bit squeamish) but even that was mind-blowing.

Glad you enjoyed the book too, what are you reading now?

 neilh 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

Elton John's biography ( his early years are intriguing  working in the publishing industry before he hit fame) and then onto something a bit heavier in tone......

In reply to Agar Jelly:

I take it you’ve already read his earlier ‘A History Of Nearly Everything’? On of my faves - just wish I could remember all the facts in there. 

 Oceanrower 14 Jan 2020
In reply to airborne:

That is the only one of his books that I couldn't get into.

 deacondeacon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Oceanrower:

> That is the only one of his books that I couldn't get into.

Same here. I've devoured his travel writing, and have read them all multiple times. Love The Body, but struggled through a history of everything. It just didn't seem to carry the humour of the other books. 

 cb294 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

Shame, I thought the thread was about a book on skin and gut bacteria, fungi, mites, tapeworms, lice, nematodes and other wildlife living in and on our bodies, which would have piqued my interest! We are whole biotopes, after all, not mere individuals!

CB

 deacondeacon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to cb294:

Read the book, it sounds right up your street tbh. 

 Max factor 14 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

> Same here. I've devoured his travel writing, and have read them all multiple times. Love The Body, but struggled through a history of everything. It just didn't seem to carry the humour of the other books. 

I thought ABHONE was pretty pacy stuff for popular science writing. So well researched, and the way he brought things like the enormity of space or geological time to life was brilliant. My mind was blown. OK, maybe that makes me a geek!

In reply to Agar Jelly:

Just finished Thunderbolt Kid, something else next and then onto The Body I think. Ta!

 cb294 14 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

Yes, had a look at Amazon, will buy it elsewhere!

CB

 Strachan 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

I am part way through it at the moment. It is interesting and enjoyable, but also full of things that I think are either inaccurate/mis-represented, or just slightly contrived/ meaningless. For example when he keeps stressing that odour molecules actually don't smell of anything, and that light doesn't have a colour, it is just our brain that gives it those properties. That seems a bit of a moot point to me, in the sense that clearly menthol, for example, smells -of menthol- to us, and that is what we have defined the word smell to mean. SO to argue that it doesn't actually smell of anything feels a bit, to me, like if a tree falls over and nobody is around to hear it....

There was a much more irritating example than that very early in the book but off the top of my head I can't remember it right now. Hopefully it'll come back to me. I should say, though, that I have read just about every other book BB has written and found them almost uniformly excellent.

 Agar Jelly 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Strachan:

A molecule, a collection of atoms, whatever, are obviously odourless without a nose. We've evolved to detect them (how? I don't know), it's hardwired into us. The same with discerning the particles that impact our retina and skin. Why are these moot points? A falling tree will emit sound waves with or without an observer, a menthol molecule without a nose to appreciate it is just a collection of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms floating about pointlessly through the ether.

I was more put out by the gruesome stories of medical experimentation in the book but I suppose the macabre sells and it balances out some of the dry facts in there.

In reply to Agar Jelly:

I have it as an audiobook to keep me company on flights and general trying to be a lizard in the Canaries the week after next. I'm sure my apparently random 'Urgh!', 'Phwoar!' and similar ejaculations will cause great amusement to others.

T.

Post edited at 23:46
 Strachan 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

Because, we have defined smell as the thing we experience when certain receptors in our nose interact with certain molecules. Similarly, BB describes light as having no colour, and IIRC, sound waves as having no sound. These cases are exactly the same. If the logic of the book is extended to sound, as you suggest, then the tree doesn't produce a sound in the absence of an ear, it produces a pressure wave. Likewise light doesn't have a colour, it is just light of a given wavelength. But the fact is, wavelength, chemical structure, frequency, are simply phenomena that we perceive as colour, odour, and pitch, respectively. So to suggest those properties don't exist is just a slightly odd and irrelevant point. The point is much better made by simply stopping after expressing, as the author does, that the way our brain makes sense of those physical properties/phenomena is amazing, without going onto this bizarre argument that molecules don't smell, or that light doesn't have a colour. They intrinsically do have those properties, because we have defined those properties as resulting from physical phenomena.

 Strachan 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

The other thing I thought was a bit silly was on page 49, where BB says that it is amazing that such mundane materials as fat and protein make something as amazing as the brain. Obviously he’s right that the brain is amazing, but to suggest that proteins, the most astonishingly complex and effective of biomolecules, can be reduced to being described as mundane materials, comparable to fat, is at best I’ll-informed, and at worst disingenuous.

Post edited at 19:43
 Agar Jelly 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Strachan:

Sounds like you already have good knowledge on the subject, maybe more of a traditional medical book would be better suited for you? As a layman, I found the read extraordinary. It's not surprising that the book has flaws, I suppose - most accessible science books probably do?

 Strachan 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

I'm not a medic...

 Strachan 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Agar Jelly:

And I don't think to be engaging, it is necessary to be inaccurate. The body is amazing enough without having to be misleading. Regardless, I didn't dispute that it is a great read, and for the most part it is. As is pretty much everything else Bryson has written. I'm just explaining the small things that, for me, reduce it from, say, a 10/10 to an 8/10.

Post edited at 22:36
 Agar Jelly 17 Jan 2020
In reply to Strachan:

BB wouldn't intentionally mislead, maybe he just didn't get his head around the subject matter 100% in the areas you have highlighted.

I think he did a great job on the whole.

He's up there with Attenborough in my eyes.


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