Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snapshot Book Reviews: War

WarWar by Sebastian Junger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was very obviously (and intentionally) written by a journalist: it included every factual detail anyone would want to know, and even self-accounts are written with a feeling of objective "remove." He looks at topics such as heorism, courage, and love with the interest and objectivity of a scientist--something which I find admirable, especially as he was able to also give compelling accounts of the actual men amid all that exposition. I also learned a lot from the medical and scientific factoids Junger laid throughout the book. Here are a couple of my favorites:

The basic neurological mechanism that induces mammals to do things is called the dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that mimics the effect of cocaine in the brain, and it gets released when a person wins a game or solves a problem or succeeds at a difficult task. The dopamine reward system exists in both sexes but is stronger in men, and as a result, men are more likely to become obsessively involved in such things as hunting, gambling, computer games, and war.... Women can master those skills without having the pleasure centers in their brains--primarily the mesocorticolimbic center--light up as if they'd just done a line of coke.

Reaction times have been studied extensively in controlled settings and have shown that men have faster reaction times than women and athletes have faster reaction times than nonathletes.... The distance at which you might literally be able to "dodge a bullet" is around 800 yards. You'd need a quarter second to register the tracer coming toward you--at this point the bullet has traveled 200 yards--a quarter second to instruct your muscles to react--the bullet has now traveled 400 yards--and half a second to actually move out of the way.

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