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Vogel's new book is meaty

Steven Vogel was suffering sore muscles -- ironic for a biologist who had just published a widely praised book on the science and history of muscles, from flies to humans. Ensconced in his comfortable office, the sinewy, fit scientist-author of Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle (Norton, 2002) revealed that he had been persuaded to walk down the Eiffel Tower. Ever the scientist, Vogel precisely explained the basis of his discomfort.

"You're exerting more force when you decelerate them when you accelerate, but the aerobic cost is so low you don't notice that you're doing much," said the James B. Duke Professor of Biology. "You don't notice it until afterwards," he winced.

Indeed, the phenomenon of sore muscles is only one scientific morsel Vogel offers in a smorgasbord of topics covered in his book, including that facts that

  • clams pump a ton of water to get an ounce of food

  • forty percent of the human body is muscle

  • the Greeks and Romans built marvelously Light-weight chariots but because they hadn't figured how to harness horses properly, needed four animals to pull them, and

  • the malevolent mosquito is a muscular marvel, able to beat its wings 300 to 400 times per second, generating its telltale buzz.

Vogel's book has so delighted its reviewers and readers that Science magazine was moved to comment in its review "Few among us can explain the often slightly mysterious physical phenomena so central to the biological world with such clarity and exuberance, and fewer yet leave us chuckling as we go."

Indeed, Vogel sprinkles a spice of humor amidst his explanations of muscle structure and function, and of muscle-powered machines. He analyzes the weapons, with which we've "muscled our way up the food chain." And in ruminating on cannibalism, he calculates that we'd have to consume too many of our brethren for cannibalism to be a sustainable nutritional source. Vogel said
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Contact: Dennis Meredith
dennis.meredith@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
11-Jul-2002


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