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Science Tackles the Afterlife
Roach, Mary (Book - 2005)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
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What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's thatthe million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.
Authors: Roach, Mary
Title: Spook
science tackles the afterlife
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton and Co., c2005
Edition: 1st ed
Characteristics: 311 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm
Statement of Responsibility: Mary Roach
Contents: You again : a visit to the reincarnation nation
The little man inside the sperm, or possibly the big toe : hunting the soul with microscopes and scalpels
How to weigh a soul : what happens when a man (or a mouse, or a leech) dies on a scale
The Vienna sausage affair : and other dubious highlights of the ongoing effort to see the soul
Hard to swallow : the giddy, revolting heyday of ectoplasm
The large claims of the medium : reaching out to the dead in a University of Arizona lab
Soul in a dunce cap : the author enrolls in medium school
Can you hear me now? : telecommunicating with the dead
Inside the haunt box : can electromagnetic fields make you hallucinate?
Listening to Casper : a psychoacoustics expert sets up camp in England's haunted spots
Chaffin v. the dead guy in the overcoat : in which the law finds for a ghost, and the author calls in an expert witness
Six feet over : a computer stands by on an operating room ceiling, awaiting near-death experiencers
ISBN: 0393059626
Branch Call Number: 129 R628s 2005
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. [299]-311)
Subject Headings: Religion and science Future life
Topical Term: Religion and science
Future life
LCCN: 2005014450
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From Library Staff

Author and avowed atheist, Mary Roach investigates the concept of the afterlife according to various belief systems. Excellent for its use of language. See other titles by Mary Roach.

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Jul 19, 2014
  • Steve_Read rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Believe in the existence of a soul or not, it's worth reading just for it's thought provoking possibilities.

Aug 01, 2012
  • tocch101 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I personally enjoyed Stiff more than this book, but Stiff was a little more tactile to research. I find the writing style complex, yet comfortable. I look forward to reading more in the future.

Was not as impressed as the first 2 comments, but they seem better read and written then me. Book well researched. The short asides and footnotes provide a well needed chuckle. I lost gas toward the end. Unsatisfying wrap-up. Quick read though.

Apr 12, 2012
  • Janice21383 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Do ghosts really exist? No.* That out of the way, Ms. Roach's entertaining book is an examination of why, despite everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING -- people believe and try to find proof. What evidence there is indicates a dispiriting deterioration of character and mental powers after death. Shakespeare's post-mortem poetry, for example, has hit the skids. A ghost never has anything interesting, witty, or even useful to say (thanks for telling us about the housing bubble, spirit world!) And the afterlife? Don't ask. "We are all very joyful" is about as exciting as it gets. Do ghosts have to take an oath of confidentiality, like MI 6?

*Not that the author explicitly says so -- she's very gentle with people's opinions. But look at that Contents list, above.

Dec 19, 2011
  • jmikesmith rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Author Mary Roach admits up front that she is skeptical of all claims of life after death and has been since she was a teenager. Her aim in this book is to apply scientific rigour to the question of the afterlife and see what she can learn. Roach's approach to science books is to use a lot of humour and tangential asides to lighten the topic and to entertain. This worked very well in her more recent "Packing for Mars". Here, in Spook, she was either reluctant to let loose with the mocking commentary that was so effective in Packing for Mars because of the subject matter or her talent was not as developed as it would become. Either way, the humour is more subdued and a bit forced here. That being said, this is still an enjoyable book and covers a range of topics including reincarnation, measuring the weight of the soul, ectoplasm and mediums, ghosts, and near-death experiences. Whatever your views on the afterlife, this book will probably not change your mind, but it may at least make you think a bit about it.

Apr 25, 2011
  • crispiscrisp rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Funny. Little scientific tidbits for those who love odd facts.


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