Most of us think about our circulatory system only when something goes wrong, but the amazing story of how it goes right--"magnificently right," as author Steven Vogel puts it--is equally worthy of our attention. It is physically remarkable, bringing food to (and removing waste from) a hundred trillion cells, coursing through 60,000 miles of arteries and veins (equivalent to over twice around the earth at the equator). And it is also intriguing. For instance, blood leaving the heart flows rapidly through the arteries, then slows down dramatically in the capillaries (to a speed of one mile every fifty days), but in the veins, on its way back to the heart, it speed up again. How?
In Vital Circuits, Steven Vogel answers hundreds of such questions, in a fascinating, often witty, and highly original guide to the heart, vessels and blood. Vogel takes us through the realm of biology and into the neighboring fields of physics, fluid mechanics, and chemistry. We relive the discoveries of such scientists as William Harvey and Otto Loewi, and we consider the circulatory systems of such fellow earth-dwellers as octopuses, hummingbirds, sea gulls, alligators, snails, snakes, and giraffes. Vogel is a master at using everyday points of reference to illustrate potentially daunting concepts. Heating systems, kitchen basters, cocktail parties, balloons--all are pressed into service. And we learn not only such practical information as why it's a bad idea to hold your breath when you strain and why you might want to wear support hose on a long airplane flight, but also the answers to such seemingly unrelated issues as why duck breasts (but not chicken breasts) have dark meat and why dust accumulates on the blades of a fan.
But the real fascination of Vital Circuits lies neither in its practical advice nor in its trivia. Rather, it is in the detailed picture we construct, piece by piece, of our extraordinary circulatory system. What's more, the author communicates not just information, but the excitement of discovering information. In doing so, he reveals himself to be an eloquent advocate for the cause of science as the most interesting of the humanities. Anyone curious about the workings of the body, whether afflicted with heart trouble or addicted to science watching, will find this book a goldmine of information and delight.
"An extremely well-written scientific 'novel'....Brings back the days when scientific texts were written not only to put forth hard scientific information but also to entertain and delight."--Choice
"One adage--Show them, don't tell them--applies to topics ranging from writing to romance. Nevertheless, few scientific books show; most scientific books tell, recite strange names and wallow in complexity. But over the years I have grown to expect that Steven Vogel will always show me science. And his latest book, Vital Circuits, did not disappoint me....At home, I have a special shelf filled with my favorite science books--books
that remind me that childlike curiosity may be the best scientific skill....Steven Vogel's Vital Circuits now sits on that special shelf."--Mike May, American Scientist
"An elegant traversal of the whole shebang, a romp through biology, physics, fluid mechanics, and chemistry....There is little Vogel doesn't tell us about hearts."--Chicago Tribune
"[Vogel] writes clearly and informatively and with just the right touch of humor....The humor...conforms with Vogel's witty contention that 'our plumbing should be no leaden subject.' Vital Circuits will fascinate science buffs and may inspire would-be scientists." --Booklist
"There is much here that will appeal to the home handyman and the physics student as well as to those naturally curious about the way things work."--Kirkus Reviews
"Readers wanting a diagram of the circulatory system with a few facts to flesh it out can consult almost any physiology or human biology textbook. If, however, they want to enjoy what they read while learning in depth about the heart and blood vessels, they should read Vital Circuits....[Vogels] explanations are clear and easily understood."--Library Journal
"The author skillfully explains the workings of the heart and blood vessels....The book is a fascinating review of the physiology and anatomy of a complex system that is much involved with the delivery of nutrients and disposal of wastes and an interesting model of translating science for public understanding."--Journal of the American Dietetic Association
"Scientists who are suitably gifted should try to make their field accessible to a general audience. On the evidence of this book, Vogel has certainly succeeded in this task....Using simple models derived from household plumbing, and examples culled from a wide variety of species, he leads us through the functions and regulation of the heart and circulation, and deals at length with the thorny problems of fluid mechanics and blood viscosity--topics which are
so often ducked by teachers of physiology---with extraordinary clarity and lightness of touch....It is difficult to find fault with this eccentric and lively account of the circulation....The true mark
of a really good popular science book is that it is as interesting to the expert as it is to the general audience to whom it is addressed. I strongly recommend this book to anybody who teaches the physiology of the circulatory system, and to cardiologists and all those who live in fear of them."--David Weatherall, Nature
"How nice...to come across a book that both sings the praises of this industrious pump...and does it with a great sense of fun...It makes a great story, especially in the hands of skilled narratory Steven Vogel....With Vital Circuits you are never quite sure what's waiting around the next corner. It could be Samuel Pepys's observations on microscopes, the problems of deciding how much time roast meat should spend in the oven, the use of cow's tendons
in Roman artillery, or even the reaction of small children to fur....Vital Circuits is much more than a textbook. It is a sustained invitation not just to pumps and pipes, but to the world of science itself.
It is certainly the only physiology book I know that includes instructions for cooking its principal subject matter."--Stephen Young, New Scientist
"An extremely well-written scientific "novel"....This book brings back the days when scientific texts were written not only to put forth hard scientific information but also to entertain and delight."--Choice
"That the topic is at once both intimate and fateful does rivet us, and Vogel's originality and wit give his engaging book both the freshness and the steady beat of suspense the more methodical, jargon-beset textbooks lack. Tough-minded attention to business is leavened by pointed and candid reflections on the methods and purposes of science well performed." --Scientific American