“Extreme Medicine” by Kevin Fong, M.D.

There is no evolutionary precedent for the limits of survival we are now probing. By the time we’re supporting multiple organ systems on an intensive-care unit in the wake of major trauma, we’ve left evolution far behind. Out of those extremes, we depend not on our physiology but upon state-of-the-art systems of life support and the speed with which they can be brought to bear. The idea that, in the event of major accident, a team might literally drop out of the sky, scoop you up from the road, and propel you within minutes to a hospital is a construct of modern medicine that has existed only in recent decades. The edge of life, in that respect, has never been more heavily invested in.

 

This book is about the limits of our bodies in extreme conditions. Tangled with the history of medicine is the history of overcoming war, deadly contagions and exploration. Technology has allowed us, mostly in the past 150 years, to explore the frozen wastelands of the poles, the deep sea, and space. Our physiology is such that we can only last short periods of time in these conditions without succumbing to the elements.

Each chapter covers an area of health and details the circumstances in which innovation took place. From Sir Walter Scott’s frigid death in Antarctica in 1912 to reviving a clinically dead skier in the Alps nearly a century later; to plastic surgery repairing critically burnt fighter pilots disfigured faces in the World Wars; to the prospect of open heart surgery (another innovation with its root in the World Wars); to deep sea diving safely without being crushed by the pressure; this is the story of humanity’s fight to extend life in the most extreme circumstances.

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“Square Peg: My Story and What It Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, & Out-of-the-Box Thinkers” by Todd Rose

1.) Variability is the rule: As humans, our ways of perceiving thr world and reacting to what we perceive are much more diverse and dynamic than we might ever have imagined.

2.) Emotions are serious stuff: Contrary to what we’ve long believed, modern neuroscience has shown that there is no such thing as purely rational thought or behavior. Parents and teachers need to learn to tune in to children’s emotional states to help them make the most of their education.

3.) Context is key: People often behave in dramatically different ways, depending on the circumstances . Among other things, this suggests that we unfairly prejudice children by labeling them with a disorder, when they’d be perfectly fine in a different environment.

4.) Feedback loops determine long-term success or failure: Remember those flapping butterfly wings, and keep in mind that small changes in your child’s life today can make an enormous difference tomorrow.

Listed above are Todd Rose’s rules for understanding the variables in all of our educations. Learning is, for each of us, a complex system with many factors at play. His thesis is that until this is acknowledged in the classroom ‘No Child Left Behind’ is a hollow sediment instead of a genuine call to action.

Square Peg is an autobiography of an education, a thoughtful memoir of the challenges involved in going from a high school dropout with a kid on the way to a Harvard-educated and employed education reformer.

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