THE SECRET FAMILY by David Bodanis


Twenty-four Hours Inside the Mysterious World of Our Minds and Bodies
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 What this volume reveals about the everyday world we live in may shatter forever the equanimity with which you regard the bed you lie on, the air you breathe, or even your loved ones. Bodanis, a Londoner who writes for the Economist and the Guardian, continues the microscopic, sometimes subatomic, examination of interior and exterior worlds he initiated in The Secret House (1986) and The Body Book (1984). By selecting a family of five, Bodanis gives himself a varied world to explore, covering everything from the most minute habitual processes going on in their bodies to the ingredients of the common products they most frequently use. He shows us such varied matters as teenage hormones in action, the manner in which stimuli shape the development of an infant's brain, and the physiology of a couch potato. There's another family, too, the unseen one of microbes, mites, and macrophages that live on the skin, float in the air, and settle on bedding and carpets. Bodanis describes them lovingly. As the family gathers for breakfast, he gleefully reveals that baby food contains chalk dust, as well as ground-up animal bowels and nostrils, and that orange-juice concentrate has embalming fluid in it. Later, a trip to the mall lets him show the family swapping microbes with others, inhaling and swallowing various chemicals, and being subconsciously influenced by Muzak and store displays. Included are extreme closeups of a sneeze, a mosquito bite, and a kiss. The picture that emerges is not a pretty one, but it is frequently fascinating. While trivia abounds--the direction of fingerprint whorls, the thickness of bubble-bath bubbles--and at times threatens to overwhelm, Bodanis's enthusiasm carries the day. Not for the squeamish, but possibly the perfect gift for a science-minded teenager. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-81019-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997


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