Fuzz review: Witty and amusing science writing at its best


PU & # 039;  ER, CHINA - 07/8: A herd of wild Asian elephants strolls through a village in Ning & # 039;  er Hani and Yi Autonomous County on August 7, 2021 in Pu & # 039;  er, Yunnan province, China.  (Photo by Wang Zhengpeng/VCG via Getty Images)

A herd of wild Asian elephants strolling through a village in China

VCG via Getty Images


Fuzz: When Nature Breaks Mary Roach’s Law

WW Norton

MARY ROACH has a knack for picking topics for her books without necessarily crossing your mind and convincing you that you have to know everything about them by now. She has taken on the logistics of tying cadavers to cars for use as human crash test dummies (Stiff), studying what orgasm is like in the brain requires people to busy in an MRI scanner (Bonk), thinking about how the literal interpretation of competitive eating affects your digestive tract (Gulp) and thinking about how astronauts pee in space (Packed for Mars, a rare deviation from the title from her single).

In her new book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, her subject is a familiar issue that is now conflict between humans and wildlife. But she didn’t decide to shift gears and approach her subject from a place of earnest lamentation, in this case about the dangers of encroaching upon our wild habitats. Instead, with her signature dry wit, she brings an intense fascination for rarely discussed details and sometimes absurd deviations in uncharted corners. of the study has not been evaluated.

The opening chapter finds her at a wildlife forensics conference, where she learns about what happens after a human is attacked by a wild animal. The focus of the Human-Wildlife Attack Response Training conference was primarily on bears in the Pacific Northwest. We know that the perpetrators are very often identified and killed, but sometimes those in the woods create a surprise: a “dead gnaw” is not a smoking gun. An opportunistic omnivore sometimes stumbles upon a human who has died of other causes.

Each chapter explores a new kind of conflict, from elephants traversing crops (and people) to albatross being sucked into jet engines, leopards attacking people to deer colliding with airplanes (yes, you are). read correctly).

Along the way, you get a lot of useful tips. What’s the best vehicle if you’re going to survive hitting a moose? Saab or Volvo. The most cost-effective way to prevent birds from eating your harvest on a small farm? Humans are constantly chasing them.

As for whether you should stand still or fight back during an encounter with a hostile bear, it largely depends on what kind of bear the bear is, “black fighting back, brown lying down” as they go. The trouble is, as Roach points out, the fur of some brown bears can be black, and some black bears look quite brown.

“It is impossible not to sneer, laugh, and sometimes burst out laughing when you read the many satires”

“A more reliable way to tell the two apart is by the length and curvature of their claws,” she said, before admitting that, “by the time you can make that call, the knowledge will only have limited practical use. “

You can’t help but snicker, laugh, and sometimes burst out laughing as you read her many witty content and funny yet engaging captions.

One particular favorite for me is related to the surprisingly persistent myth that birds will explode if they eat rice thrown at a wedding: “Anyway, some churches forbid this practice, not that. because it’s dangerous for birds but because it’s dangerous for guests, who can slip on hard, round beads and fall and fly to a personal injury attorney.”

She provides an ample supply of elements to resell to your friends. Did you know that it’s our “dim sensibility” that helps us and other animals predict the speed at which something is approaching us, so we can get out of the way? go? (Or not, see the earlier mention of deer and airplanes.)

But the real trick Roach pulls out is to make you laugh while at the same time making sure the serious points come in. Among the many things that stuck with me was that before the 1980s, wildlife and wilderness were preserved in America to provide for good hunting and fishing. Only recently has “conservation” been about protecting these areas and creatures for their own sake.

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