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Extreme fear - Jeff Wise

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Extreme fear - the science of your mind in danger
Jeff Wise
Paperback / softback
Palgrave Macmillan
UK Publication Date

Fear is a mysterious force. It sabotages our ability to think clearly and can drive us to blind panic, yet it can also give us superhuman speed, strength, and powers of perception. Having baffled mankind for ages, fear is now yielding its secrets to scientific inquiry. The simple model of "fight or flight" - that people respond to danger either by fleeing in terror or staying to fight through it - has been replaced by a more complex understanding of the fear response.

Veteran science journalist Jeff Wise delves into the latest research to produce an astonishing portrait of the brain's hidden fear pathways. Wise, who writes the "I'll Try Anything" column for Popular Mechanics, favors a hands-on approach, volunteering to jump out of an airplane while wearing sensors and to endure a four-hour simulated missile attack on a Navy destroyer. He returns with a tale that combines lucid explanations of brain dynamics with gripping, true-life stories of mortal danger: we watch a woman defend herself against a mountain lion attack in a remote canyon; we witness a couple desperately fighting to beat back an encircling wildfire; we see a pilot struggle to maintain control of his plane as its wing begins to detach. By understanding how and why these people responded the way they did, Wise argues, we can better arm ourselves against our own everyday fears.

Full of amazing characters and cutting-edge science, Extreme Fear is an original and absorbing narrative that will force you to reconsider the limits of human potential.

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Jeff Wise is a science writer, and a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics and Travel and Leisure. He's written for the New York Times magazine, Esquire, Popular Science, Outside's GO, National Geographic Adventure, and more. He lives in New York.

'Wise is a good writer and his anecdotes are arresting.His message is hopeful: fear can be tamed.'-New Scientist
'Extreme Fear is a correlate of extreme risk - either that, or you just don't understand the situation.Wise provides a fascinating account of how, with luck, it can be conquered by experience and self-discipline.' - BBC Focus Magazine
"Jeff Wise cuts artfully between an assortment of his own and other people's terrifying experiences and the science that informs them. He shows how a degree of fear can increase brain efficiency and optimise performance; illustrating how this can go too far with a cheery story about an amateur pilot steering his plane into the side of a building on New York's East River. One moral of Wise's story is that we need fear. Those who train themselves to be literally fearless - kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers - make themselves capable of unspeakable crimes. Another (a reassurance to this reviewer) is that you may be better off lucky than brave." - UK Telegraph''Extreme Fear' is extremely good, extremely important, and extremely well-written. It's a perfect example of what the human brain is best at: slowing time and motion to a crawl so we can find the 'structure of chaos,' as author Jeff Wise so aptly puts it. Wise zeroes in on that most mysterious of human emotions - panic - and makes us a witness to our own brains, beautifully deconstructing what happens when logic shuts down and instinct takes over. Through Wise, we get to experience what it's like to be a 25-year-old woman facing a cougar; a stunned student in the midst of the Virginia Tech massacre; a physician who has to remove his own appendix at the South Pole; and a police officer who's suddenly plunged into insanity after an argument with a stripper in the Club Kalua. But the best part of Wise's wonderful book is his demonstration that fear, like any other powerful force, can be turned to your advantage - IF you understand it.'-Christopher McDougall, author of the New York Times bestselling Born to Run: The Rise of Ultra-running and the Super-athlete Tribe
"This book is like an adrenaline rush - thrilling, and stimulating activity in many parts of your brain - and you will most likely find yourself occasionally pausing to set it down and take a deep breath. If you want to know exactly why this is probably a good thing to do, you can do no better than to heed Jeff Wise, who, when it comes to deconstructing the mechanisms of fear, is scary smart."-Robert Sullivan, author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants'Intelligent and textured. Jeff Wise smartly uncoils the science behind fear, and profoundly plumbs the obsession, the possession, and the struggle against the brevity of life." - Richard Bangs, author of Quest for the Kasbah, and producer/ host of the PBS series, Adventures with Purpose."Jeff Wise has a knack both for gripping accounts of real adventure and an impressive understanding of cutting-edge science." - Robert Young Pelton, author ofThe World's Most Dangerous Places'In Extreme Fear, Wise dissects this most basic emotion with an engaging mix of the latest science and stories of perseverance and survival under the most challenging conditions. Written in an accessible prose, this book is both enlightening and fascinating, no matter what your background or expertise, and is a must-read for anyone interested in human behavior.' - Jason P. Kring Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Human Factors and Systems, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and President of the Society for Human Performance in Extreme Environments

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