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‘Stiff,’ ‘Spook,’ ‘Bonk,’ ‘Gulp’ Author Mary Roach Gives University Lecture on March 29
She will share the stage with Sandra Hewett, professor of biology and the Beverly Petterson Bishop Professor of Neuroscience, for an informal dialogue. Roach’s appearance is presented in cooperation with the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the College of Engineering & Computer Science. American Sign Language interpretation and Communication Access Real Time will be available.
Roach is well known for her humor-tinged and engaging New York Times bestsellers “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” (2013), “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” (2010), “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” (2008), “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife” (2005) and “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (2003), all published by W.W. Norton & Co., as well as “My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places” (2013), the complete collection of her “My Planet” articles published in Reader’s Digest.
Her latest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” (W.W. Norton & Co.), comes out on June 7. In “Grunt,” Roach explores “the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war.” She introduces readers to the common challenges faced by soldiers—including panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and the scientists devising ways to help them cope.
Among her adventures along the way, Roach:
- dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat;
- visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper;
- visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds; and
- at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, illustrates how diarrhea can be a threat to national security.
She also 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.
In addition to her acclaimed books, Roach has written for National Geographic, Wired, New Scientist, The New York Times Book Review, the Journal of Clinical Anatomy and Outside, among other publications.
She is a member of the Mars Institute’s Advisory Board and the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary.
The spring University Lectures concludes on April 12 with “Serial” podcast co-creator Sarah Koenig.