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Prime Mover


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Steven Vogel is James B. Duke Professor of Biology at Duke University. He is the author of Cats' Paws and Catapults.


Muscles are intricately involved in almost every aspect of an animal's life. As Vogel (Cats' Paws and Catapults), professor of biology at Duke University, explains, "muscle has been our sole engine for most of our time on earth.... The same stuff propels water flea and whale." Vogel does a superb job of discussing all facets of muscle biology, clarifying how they work, develop and atrophy. In witty, accessible prose, he describes the different forms and functions of human muscles, as well as the muscular operations that allow an insect to fly, a frog to croak and a clam to keep its shell closed. He also provides insight into the history of biology, analyzing the classic experiments that taught us what we know about muscle. But the book is more than an introduction to muscle biology; Vogel's unique, interdisciplinary approach includes a look at how muscle physiology has influenced the development of human culture by leading us to develop tools and weapons and exploit beasts of burden, all in an effort to better harness the power of our own muscles. There's also a chapter on carnivorousness, including an intriguing discussion of the economics of cannibalism. Vogel demonstrates, for example, why no society could ever survive if largely dependent on fellow humans as a primary source of protein ("It will shrink a population far faster than total celibacy"). A great deal of fascinating material will engage most readers, regardless of their technical background. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"An entertaining and compelling overview of what we know about muscle." -- Science News "Manages to educate, enlighten, and entertain...fascinating reading." -- Sharon Swartz - Science "A book that should be enjoyed and understood by intelligent non-scientists as much as by scientists...entertaining and illuminating." -- R. McNeill Alexander - Nature "Muscle is a wonderful lens through which to study evolution and human history." -- David Brown - Washington Post Book World "Biomechanics comes alive in a discussion blending science, health, history, and mechanical insights." -- Bookwatch "A thorough and engaging account of how muscles work and how their physiology has influenced the development of human culture." -- Exploratorium Magazine "Positively gripping." -- Booklist

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