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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Review: The Joy of Sweat

 The Joy of Sweat is an appropriate book to read during the summer, with high temperatures, and especially on a camping trip where you forgot to bring the shower on a hot day. In it, you will learn some interesting facts like the fact that it only takes 15 minutes for what you eat and drink to become detectable in your perspiration: 

It turned out that it took less than 15 minutes for the tracer to transit through his stomach, be absorbed by the intestine, get filtered through the liver and kidney, enter his bloodstream, lap through his circulatory system to reach the veins in his skin, diffuse through his dermis toward the sweat glands, and then escape out of the millions of pores on his skin. (kindle loc)

It's astonishing how leaky we are as far as being water bags are concerned. The book then takes a look at how other animals cool themselves. Vultures, for instance, defecate on their legs and then increase their blood flow to take advantage of evaporative cooling, so no matter how icky you think your sweat is, be grateful you're not a vulture.

After that initial bout of facts, the book then takes a fairly big detour into  various ancillary topics such as fingerprints, body odor, and whether or not you can smell somebody's fear:

Some law enforcement visionaries have also proposed installing chemical detectors at airports that respond to fear odor. These could alert authorities about an anxious would-be terrorist. In reality, such a device is more likely to buzz continually, given the large number of people at airports who innocently fear flying. (kindle loc 963)

There's a section on how different people are when it comes to sweat, including some uncommon conditions, such as when certain people sweat so much that pencils slide right off their hands, and they have to change 3-4 T-shirts a day. What's interesting to me is that when drops of sweat appear on your body, that means that you're being inefficient --- sweat that doesn't immediately evaporate does nothing to cool you down, but judging by how frequently I sweat even with a little bit of activity, it seems strange that the body hasn't evolved ways of detecting the surrounding humidity and saving water rather than just extravagantly releasing it in excess. I guess humans evolved in an environment where water was plentiful, and the penalty of spending too much water pales in comparison to the penalty of not sweating enough.

There's a description of people who were born without sweat glands and the implications thereof:

 Pajkic was born without sweat glands. This means his skin is very dry and extremely resistant to electricity. His sweat-free skin acts like a huge piece of rubber, a characteristic that supplies him with an apparent superpower: He seemingly can’t be electrocuted. Pajkic discovered this skill as a teenager, when he touched an electric fence and did not get electrocuted. In 1981, Pajkic withstood a shock of thousands of volts of electricity. More recently, he has upped his game to 1 million volts. In 2001, he boiled a cup of water in 1 minute and 37 seconds by passing electricity across his body—a feat that landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records. (kindle loc 3154)

Wow, so superheroes exist! Though "insulator man" doesn't quite have the ring of "Electro."

For entertainment, this book is tops. For practical advice for the athlete or the profuse sweater, less so. But I recommend it anyway.


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