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Book: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

Back in college, Robert Sapolsky came to our campus to give a talk about his work studying stress physiology. Looking back, we had a lot of fantastic seminar speakers at Tufts. The grad students I did research with were always amazed that I actually went to seminars, but why wouldn't I?

Anyway, it has taken me a long time to get around to actually reading Sapolsky's book, and I am pleased to note that it has withstood the test of time*. I am sure there are details that have been refined since its publication, but I suspect the fundamentals do actually work as described.

I've especially appreciated it compared to the book we've been reading and discussing for our Animal Physiology honors section, Zoobiquity. Zoobiquity is purportedly aimed at a general audience, but it seems to give subjects a much more superficial treatment, and skips around a whole bunch more. In contrast, WZDGU covers a more restricted subject area, but covers it eloquently and in a way that also leaves it readable for a lay audience. I especially appreciate the dissections of disagreements within the scientific literature, where Sapolsky takes the trouble to clearly outline what conclusions he's reached after reading through some of the more complicated aspects of the literature, and more than that, why he's reached those conclusions. A lot of this is linked to how difficult it is to study certain things in humans, and so the limits to the inferences that can be drawn from existing study methods.

And I think this is an arena that isn't going to suffer as greatly from the reproducibility crisis that's currently impacting the field of psychology writ large. Perhaps my faith in our understanding of certain biochemical process is misplaced, though.

It took me a while to work my way through the book, as is typical for me reading nonfiction. Now I'm on to SERIOUS Training for Endurance Athletes, which describes the philosophy and training approach that the Serious Double uses. It seems to work well for them, so I'm hoping I'll find the same to be true for myself. So far I'm appreciating it.


*That said, he has also highlighted places where he figured our ideas were about to change, and has been correct about that. Molecular tools developed over the past decade have opened up a lot of new areas of exploration.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1209943.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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