The Biology of Human Survival: Life and Death in Extreme Environments

By Claude A. Piantadosi | Go to book overview

1
The Human Environment

As with any other species, human survival boils down to individual survival. This is true whether people die of disease, natural disaster, or manmade holocaust. Fundamentally, survival can be defined in terms of the interactions between an individual and its natural surroundings. The surroundings determine the extent to which a person is exposed to critical changes in environment, such as temperature, water, food, or oxygen. The physical world imposes strict limits on human biology, and learning where these limits are and how to deal with them is what biologists call limit physiology. The principles of limit physiology can be applied to understanding human life in all extreme environments. These principles will be developed in this chapter and applied throughout the book to gain a deeper appreciation of how humans survive in extreme conditions.


The Nature of Human Physical Boundaries

One of the most important characteristics of every living organism is its ability to maintain an active equilibrium, however brief or delicate, with its natural environment. All living beings, as integral parts of nature, can be characterized by the dynamic exchange they maintain with their physical surroundings. Being alive requires being attuned to natural change, and many organisms are exquisitely

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The Biology of Human Survival: Life and Death in Extreme Environments
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1: The Human Environment 1
  • 2: Survival and Adaptation 10
  • 3: Cross-Acclimation 21
  • 4: Food for Thought 29
  • 5: Water and Salt 41
  • 6: Water That Makes Men Mad 54
  • 7: Tolerance to Heat 63
  • 8: Endless Oceans of Sand 78
  • 9: Hypothermia 89
  • 10: Life and Death on the Crystal Desert 99
  • 11: Survival in Cold Water 119
  • 12: Air as Good as We Deserve 129
  • 13: Bends and Rapture of the Deep 140
  • 14: Sunken Submarines 152
  • 15: Climbing Higher 164
  • 16: Into the Wild Blue Yonder 181
  • 17: G Whiz 193
  • 18: The Gravity of Microgravity 203
  • 19: Weapons of Mass Destruction 212
  • 20: Human Prospects for Colonizing Space 227
  • Bibliography and Supplemental Reading 247
  • Index 255
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