Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

By: on July 19, 2016
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Mary Roach, who the Washington Post calls "America's funniest science writer" has written a series of curious books. Literally. Maybe you remember Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex? Or Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers? It's all fascinating, yet slightly counterculture, offbeat stuff we might feel uncomfortable discussing at the dinner table. I mean with anyone other than Masters & Johnson or Hannibal Lecter. In her latest release, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, the author tackles the more open topic of organized combat, but twists it into her distinctive Roach-y style.

Grunt looks at war through the eyes of the scientists trying to protect soldiers (well, let's be honest, protect them just enough to keep fighting) from the panic, exhaustion, heat, and noise of battle. Some of her studies and stories include:

  • Fighting on the lines with the US Marine Corps Paintball Team to study hearing loss and survivability in combat.
  • Visiting the fashion design studio of US Army Natick Labs to dissect why a zipper is a problem for a sniper.
  • Heads to a repurposed movie studio to interview amputee actors helping prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds.
  • Travels to Djibouti in East Africa to show us how diarrhea can be a threat to national security.

There are also journalistic digs into why DARPA is interested in ducks. How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? (I bet it's shellfish allergies and EpiPens!) In Grunt, Roach uses science, humor, and human interest to answer all the questions other books on the military have forgotten to ask.

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