Fragrance and science combine in ‘The Joy of Sweat’

In “The Joy of Sweat”, an entertaining and illuminating guide to the necessity and virtues of sweat, science journalist Sarah Everts explains that many people pay good money to sweat while also paying good money to hide it. Sauna, spin classes and hot yoga, yes; But also deodorants, dress shields, and antiperspirants that intentionally create what Everts (obviously and unintentionally) call “sweat-pore plugs.”

“This important life process, which we all have that helps make us human, is considered shameful and unprofessional,” Everts writes. “How did that happen?”

Sweating helps keep us alive. The human body produces a lot of heat even when it is doing nothing. Start walking and exercising yourself, especially when the weather is hot, and your body will produce even more. Our eccrine glands, described by Everts as “small, elongated tubes embedded in the skin” with “wide coiled piping” at the base, release the fluid that evaporates from our warm skin. Without this mechanism, our bodies fall prey to heatstroke, organ failure, bleeding blood, and bacteria that break down intestinal walls.

Then comes the second type of sweating, which comes from the large apocrine glands located in places like the armpits and groin. These glands secrete “wax, fatty molecules” that specifically attract bacteria, whose feasting produces a chemical waste. This garbage smells bad. Sensory analysts have identified constituent scents in human armpit odor, including “stale butter” and “wet dog”.

But the human cooling system can be much worse, Everts says — less effective and even odour. Nonhuman animals either don’t sweat, or they don’t sweat as efficiently as we do. (will be necessary to “sweat like a pig” No Sweating enough so that we have to roll around in the mud to prevent overheating.) Some scientists believe that our cooling system allowed humans to spend hours in the sun for hours of food while keeping predators in the shade. had to live in Everts tries to jolt us in appreciation by pointing to alternative ways of cooling down. We may urinate on ourselves (like seals) or vomit on ourselves (like bees) or defecate on our feet (like storks). Instead, we sweat—a passive act that has the added benefit of not making our own heat.

Credits…George Ames

Evers is a crisp and lively writer; He has a master’s degree in chemistry, as well as the ability to put esoteric scientific processes into accessible terms. She connects her scientific interrelationship with scenes in which she is doing some unlikely things around the world – getting her armpits sniffed by an analyst in New Jersey, attending a “smell-dating” event in Moscow, seeing a man as a woman. Watching engulfed in vapors of dry ice during the “Sauna Theatre” performance in the Netherlands.

She dispels some persistent sweating myths, including one that equates sweating to detoxification. The book begins with the story of a South African nurse whose sweat turned red because she loved NikNaks Spicy Tomato Corn Chips so much that she was eating six bags of red snacks a day. But the anecdote turned out to be a bit of a red herring (sorry); Everts are just heating up (sorry again). The red marks came out with the nurse’s sweat because “the human body is naturally leaky,” Everts writes, “not because sweating is the way your body intentionally flushes out toxins.”

A lot of our hangups about sweat turn to the issue of smell. This is especially true in the United States, where analyst who smothered Everts’ armpits observes that – unlike the expert’s native France – scent consumers do not seek to complement their body odor but rather to “destroy” it. want to ensure. However, our approach to smell is not exactly one-note. Everts also examines the cultural obsession with pheromones, and the idea that odor messages are somehow irrevocably authentic. We can try to mask them, but we can’t calibrate them—hence the scent-dating phenomenon, or the peddling of pheromone colognes that are believed to make males irresistible to females, although their efficacy is questionable. “The problem is that these products are more likely to attract a one-horned sow rather than a one-horned human female,” Everts writes.

For obvious reasons, this is a summer book, and Everts keeps it light, even if there are some unavoidably serious implications of its subject matter. She only mentions COVID-19, a passage about the various ways human greetings have allowed for a moment closeness “in which we can, at least theoretically, smell another person.” Another passage about anosmia – the inability to smell – does not refer to the pandemic, even though loss of smell has been one of the symptoms of the coronavirus.

The biggest crisis looming on the subject, which Everts has clearly acknowledged on many points, is global warming. “Our ability to sweat may be the foundation for the resilience we’ll need to get through the impending climate apocalypse,” she writes, “though the added humidity that comes with changing weather patterns may mute our sophisticated cooling systems.” is. When it is too humid, sweat cannot evaporate.

Not to mention that global warming may be melting some chronic plagues from permafrost, including some mysterious sweat diseases, such as sweat in medieval England, which killed people within five to six hours, or Picardy sweat, Who may have killed Mozart.

Obviously, Everts keeps the reader from staring too long into the abyss of existence. She is as fascinated by the ambiguities of her subject as she is by the certainty she can pin down. One thing I couldn’t stop thinking about was how each person’s personal odor interacts with the other person’s individual odor receptors. “Even if you think you know your scent,” she writes, “you don’t know how others are experiencing it”—a panic or a comfort, depending on whether you How to see (or smell) it.

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