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One Book One Marin: Packing For Mars, Chapters 10 and beyond

Packingformarscover  Houston, we have a problem…It appears that yours truly has slightly miscalculated the flight speed at which we should be reading. As a result, we’re behind schedule! I apologize for the error–next week’s blog entry will attempt to briefly summarize the book, and psych everyone up for attending the final event, where Mary Roach will be in dialogue with Michael Krasny of KQED. The event is scheduled for April 18th at 7pm–at Angelico Hall on the Dominican University Campus in San Rafael.

That being said, this last chapter was, well, not for the faint of stomach. Body odor, dandruff, skin flakes, sweat, weeks without bathing…and what have we learned from these painful experiments on such delicate matters?

1. You have 2 different types of sweat glands:

apocrine sweat glands (in the armpits and groin) which produce pungeant BO and are connected to your autonomic nervous system, so whenever you start feeling nervous, fearful, or angry, these sweat glands begin to ratchet up their production)

eccrine sweat glands which produce clear, body-cooling moisture made up primarily of water.

2. BO can hit a plateau (thank goodness!?)– sweat has “antimicrobrial properties. Though they don’t by any means render the skin sterile, there are limitations to that can grow there.” (p.197)

3.  The rumor about Renaissance men and women rarely bathing and being fairly stinky has some truth to it–doctors thought that bathing would remove the protective layer of oil from the skin, leading to a higher susceptibility for diseases.  Unlike the experiments that NASA, Russia, and Japanese space scientists have conducted, those living during the renaissance could change their undergarments.

4. Some very unsavory but highly enlightening science experiments have involved studying the various secretions and smells that a body will produce and give off if left unwashed (and sometimes unchanged) for days… But think what the effects would have been had these experiments not been undertaken  before astronautical missions.

5. There are no space showers. “Astronauts wipe themselves with moistened towels and rinse-less shampoo.” (203)

6. There is such a thing as over-washing, particularly one’s hands. Over-washing dries skin out, which leads to increased flaking, damage, and irritation. Increased flaking leads to a higher dispersal of bacteria. Damaged skin also provides a haven for bacteria. Apparently, you can’t win.

You versus germs: germs win.

That’s enough to stomach for the moment. T minus 6 days and counting until the final event. Happy reading.

-Ali

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