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Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: Grunt


Grunt is Mary Roach’s book about military science. Or rather, the scientists that are involved in the military. She deliberately avoids the subject of PTSD, since it’s already been covered in lots of other places, but instead focuses on the auxiliary details that you may not have thought about.

For instance, the book opens with a discussion of military uniforms, the different specialty needs of the different units, and how the military decides on them. Some decisions were not mad scientifically, including a camouflage pattern that was decided on as a matter of taste by a general, with the predictable results.

Then there’s an indepth analysis of the invention of stink bombs and the failure (and partial successes) of the effort to find a smell that’s universally abhorent.

There are some sections that I didn’t think were particularly relevant, including one on shark attacks (though she does debunk the myth that menstruating women shouldn’t swim in the open ocean for fear of attracting sharks), and similar investigations on bears.

But overall, the book was informative, well written, and full of fun footnotes, each of which are well worth reading. (The stuff on submarines were all new to me, though the section on sleep science wasn’t)

Recommended as a light airplane read, though for more interesting than most novels  you can find.

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