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Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

by Mary Roach


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A New York Times / National Bestseller

"America's funniest science writer" (Washington Post) Mary Roach explores the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected, and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war.

Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you’ll never see our nation’s defenders in the same way again.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393354379
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/06/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 51,265
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mary Roach is the author of seven best-selling works of nonfiction, including Stiff, Bonk, and Gulp. Her writing has appeared in Outside, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications.


San Francisco, California

Place of Birth:

New Hampshire


B.A., Wesleyan University, 1981

Table of Contents

By way of Introduction 11

1 Second Skin 19

What to Wear to War

2 Boom Box 51

Automotive Safety for People Who Drive on Bombs

3 Fighting by Ear 77

The Conundrum of Military Noise

4 Below the Belt 101

The Cruelest Shot of All

5 It Could Get Weird 125

A Salute to Genital Transplants

6 Carnage Under Fire 151

How Do Combat Medics Cope?

7 Sweating Bullets 181

The War on Heat

8 Leaky Seals 211

Diarrhea as a Threat to National Security

9 The Maggot Paradox 245

Flies on the Battlefield, for Better and Worse

10 What Doesn't Kill You Will Make You Reek 277

A Brief History of Stink Bombs

11 Old Chum 303

How to Make and Test Shark Repellent

12 That Sinking Feeling 335

When Things Go Wrong Under the Sea

13 Up and Under 365

A Submarine Tries to Sleep

14 Feedback from the Fallen 399

How the Dead Help the Living Stay That Way

Acknowledgements 413

Bibliography 419

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