The Living Clock: The Orchestrator of Biological Rhythms / Edition 1

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From one-celled paramecium to giant blue whales, we all have internal clocks that regulate the rhythms we live by. In The Living Clock, John Palmer, one of the world's leading authorities on these rhythms, takes us on a tour of this broad and multifaceted subject, examining everything from glowing fruit flies to the best cures for jet lag.
Palmer has a wonderful sense of humor and an eye for the startling fact. We learn that fiddler crabs—in a lab where there are no time nor tide cues—remain active when low tide would occur and motionless during high tide, the same pattern they follow in their natural habitat. (In fact, you can remove a crab's leg and the leg will keep a tidal rhythm as long as it's kept alive.) Moreover, humans are subject to more than one hundred biological rhythms. Mental acuity peaks in the afternoon, for instance, and our blood pressure peaks at seven in the morning (when most heart attacks occur). The time of day you take medication can affect how well it works. And Palmer shows that when our clocks are thrown off kilter, trouble follows, especially for rotating shift workers—the Bhopal spill, the Chernobyl reactor explosion, and the Three Mile Island accident all happened when new crews began early-hour shifts.
No one has discovered exactly how our internal clocks work—Palmer says a Nobel Prize awaits that lucky scientist—but they are no less fascinating for their inexplicable nature. Frequently amusing and always eye-opening, The Living Clock is a treat for everyone curious about the nature of life as well as anyone planning a long jet flight.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Palmer has written a whimsical, 'gosh can you believe that' account for the interested lay reader, which is also a book that will further fascinate serious chronobiologists with the wonders of their subject. It is a reminder of the marvels of nature and of the critical role that endogenous biological timing plays in the life cycles of almost every organism." — C.P. Kyriacou, Science

"Its rare to be able to recommend a book on science for holiday reading, but this one, The Living Clock, is a griper from the first page and never lets go.... The topic is fascinating: the internal clocks that we all possess in common with almost every form of life on Earth.... Take it with you to the beach."—Roy Herbert, New Scientist

"Anyone fortunate enough to read Professor Palmer's new book will not only appreciate the crucial role of rhythms in all of life's forms, but will be greatly entertained, and even astonished, by the wonderful tales woven into the plot."—John Carlson Aldrich, Department of Zoology, Trinity College, Dublin

"Everyone knows somebody who claims not to need an alarm clock. These people will tell you that they have woken up every day at 6:00 a.m. for twenty years and don't even bother to set the alarm anymore. How do they do that? In The Living Clock, Professor John Palmer tells us the story of the discovery of the internal clocks which exist in almost every living thing, from bacteria to humans. This book is both a work of scientific popularization and a scientific autobiography since Professor Palmer has personally contributed a great deal to our understanding of the living clock. Professor Palmer's personal annecdotes are, in fact, the highlight of the book. Told with humor but also with a seasoned scientist's keen eye for detail, these stories take us on a journey of discovery."—Marc R. Roussel, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Lethbridge

"An erudite and entertaining journey through the world of biological clocks, ranging from such human details as when best to take aspirin to the ubiquitous per gene. Gleaning illustrations from the entire spectrum, botanical and zoological, Palmer demonstrates the universal importance of temporal rhythms in organismal and cellular biology. The clock concept plays an equally crucial role in modern medical practice and in understanding such arcane phenomena as the annual breeding cycle of the palolo worm. The Living Clock belongs in that small exclusive library of books ideally suited for creating an exciting introductory course in biology for non-biologists, and even for non-scientists. It was fun to read."—Peter Marler, Section of Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior, University of California, Davis

Roy Herbert
It's rare to be able to recommend a book on science for holiday reading, but this one, The Living Clock is a griper from the first page and never lets go. After you've read the entertaining story that begins with author John Palmer knee-deep in the mud of the River Avon and how that led to the clientele of a nearby pub owing him numerous pints of beer, you'll be glad there's much more to come.

The topic is fascinating: the internal clocks that we all possess in common with almost every form of life on Earth. We know we have such a timekeeper. It reminds us by inflicting jet lag, and can wake us up every morning at the same time. Its effects can be demonstrated in a range of living things from animals to single-celled organisms. Palmer shows how these rhythms persist even when the subjects are removed from their normal habitat. He points out, too, that disturbing these rhythms can be dangerous enough to produce catastrophes, such as the Chernobyl disaster, takes a sideswipe at the nonsense of so-called "biorhythms," and tolerates no jargon throughout. For instance, "Indivdual carousel actographs," he remarks, "are really used margarine tubs." Take it with you to the beach.
New Scientist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195143409
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John D. Palmer is Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and spends most summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. One of the world's leading authorities on living clocks, he has worked in the field for forty years.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction to Rhythms and Clocks 1
Ch. 2 Human Rhythms: Basic Processes 11
Ch. 3 Rhythmic Pharmacology 37
Ch. 4 Jet Lag can be a Drag 45
Ch. 5 Daily Rhythm in Single-Cell Organisms 69
Ch. 6 Rhythms in Shore Dwellers 77
Ch. 7 Some Animal Rhythms 93
Ch. 8 A Few Plant Clocks 111
Ch. 9 Denouement: The Living Clock 123
Notes 145
Suggested Readings 149
Figure Credits 157
Index 159
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