Synopses & Reviews
A story of a world in crisis and the importance of plants, the history of the earth, and the feuds and fantasies of warring scientists--this is not your fourth-grade science class's take on photosynthesis.
From acclaimed science journalist Oliver Morton comes this fascinating, lively, profound look at photosynthesis, nature's greatest miracle. Wherever there is greenery, photosynthesis isworking to make oxygen, release energy, and create living matter from the raw material of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. Without photosynthesis, there would be an empty world, an empty sky, and a sun that does nothing more than warm the rocks and reflect off the sea. With photosynthesis, we have a living world with three billion years of sunlight-fed history to relish.
Eating the Sun is a bottom-up account of our planet, a celebration of how the smallest things, enzymes and pigments, influence the largest things----the oceans, the rainforests, and the fossil fuel economy. From the physics, chemistry, and cellular biology that make photosynthesis possible, to the quirky and competitive scientists who first discovered the beautifully honed mechanisms of photosynthesis, to the modern energy crisis we face today, Oliver Morton offers a complete biography of the earth through the lens of this mundane and most important of processes.
More than this, Eating the Sun is a call to arms. Only by understanding photosynthesis and the flows of energy it causes can we hope to understand the depth and subtlety of the current crisis in the planet's climate. What's more, nature's greatest energy technology may yet inspire the breakthroughs we need to flourish without such climatic chaos in thecentury to come.
Entertaining, thought-provoking, and deeply illuminating, Eating the Sun reveals that photosynthesis is not only the key to humanity's history; it is also vital to confronting and understanding contemporary realities like climate change and the global food shortage. This book will give you a new and perhaps troubling way of seeing the world, but it also explains how we can change our situation--for the better or the worse.
“A rare delight....Oliver Morton writes so engagingly that [Eating the Sun] reads as a well-crafted biography of the earth on behalf of the plant kingdom.” Prospect Magazine
“I enjoyed this book as much for the crazed asides as for the upsetting insights.” Sunday Times (London)
“A fascinating and important book” Ian McEwan, author of Atonement, Saturday, and On Chesil Beach
and#8220;Armstrong has opened a door to the sprawling majesty of plant biology and evolution in a way that informs without drudgery, infuses knowledge with example without pedantry, and lightens the heart with a fine sense of humor. This book should be read by anyone who can sense that the world around us is predominantly green.and#8221;
and#8220;Practicing or apprenticing botanists, plant biologists, agronomists, and horticulturists need a detailed understanding of the evolution of plants for a correct perspective on the organisms they study and use, but the current general textbooks provide an inadequate watered-down history. In How the Earth Turned Green, through the knowledge, skill, and friendly writing of Armstrong and the wisdom of the University of Chicago Press, we finally have a book to fill this gap. Its eleven chaptersand#8212;the final two about the flowering plantsand#8212;tell the whole story, backed up by a detailed and illustrated appendix on fossil and living ancestors going back to the green algae and cyanobacteria. An essential book for plant students and professionals.and#8221;
andldquo;Armstrong . . . aims his book squarely at plant-blind readers, who see plants as just a green background to life. . . . [He] deftly entertains his readers with a balanced discussion of plant life on Earth, from cyanobacteria and stromatolites to flowering plants. . . . How the Earth Turned Green will make many a reader aware of the importance of plants to the history of this planet.andrdquo;
andldquo;An intriguing compilation of developmental stages set in reverse order. This approach is vastly appealing, giving us subtle clues of how the Earth blossomed into such an incredible world that most of us simply take for granted. . . . With dozens of diagrams, illustrations and graphic constructs and charts, Armstrong gives us a glimpse of how it all evolved and how it all works together.andrdquo;
andldquo;Armstrong has written an amazing and wonderful book. It is so well written that it reads more like an engaging novelandmdash;one that readers cannot put downandmdash;than like a science book. Yet the style is not reduced or simplified science; instead, the author explains all this factual material with prose that is precise, accurate, and concise.and#160;The topics range from cosmology to the flowering plants (angiosperms), but this vertical track is accomplished without deviating from the essential task of describing the evolutionary history of photosynthesizing organisms and their relations to planet Earth. Along the way, readers are treated to a synthesis of fundamental stages in the evolution of life itself. This includes an excellent discussion about the origin of life, an even better explanation of the origins of autotrophy in prokaryotes, and a very good description of the endosymbiotic theory. The text is followed by a 141-page appendix that describes all the major photosynthetic groups (including bacteria). This is an exceedingly useful resource for students, which, to this reviewerandrsquo;s knowledge, does not exist anywhere else in such a compact form. Essential.andrdquo;
andldquo;An impressive work that is clearly a labor of love. . . . Armstrong provides a big-picture overview of life on Earth through green-colored glasses, yielding a work that is accessible, scientifically rigorous, and philosophically piquant. Whether used as recreational reading or as a framework for an advanced undergrad or early graduate study course, How the Earth Turned Green is well worth reading for anyone attracted to the andlsquo;green backgroundandrsquo; through which we move.andrdquo;
andldquo;A salient summary of the important concepts that should guide even a college professor teaching introductory biology. . . . How the Earth Turned Green should be required reading for all pre-service biology teachers and on the bookshelf of all K-16 science instructors. . . . Armstrong presents us with a unique approach to the plant kingdom. His refreshing wit and straightforward commentary lead the reader through an evolutionary explanation of why a predominant color of earth is green. His goal is to foster deeper understanding of key concepts, and he raises, and answers, many obvious questions that are almost never asked. As a doctor of botany, I enthusiastically prescribe this book to treat the widespread symptoms of andlsquo;Plant Blindness.andrsquo;andrdquo;
andldquo;Spoiler alert! This book could seriously change your view of what a textbook can be(!). . . . Whilst How the Earth Turned Green is quite technical in places, that should be viewed neither as a negative nor a surprise. . . . But its very informal style (which was most unexpected inandmdash;although refreshingly different forandmdash;a scholarly text) makes for a highly readable, educational account.andrdquo;
The everyday miracle of photosynthesis is the topic of this accessible book by an award-winning science journalist, who received high praise for his last book, "Mapping Mars."
Wherever there is greenery, photosynthesis is working to make oxygen, release energy, and create living matter from the raw material of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. Without photosynthesis, there would be an empty world, an empty sky, and a sun that does nothing more than warm the rocks and reflect off the sea.
Eating the Sun is the story of a world in crisis; an appreciation of the importance of plants; a history of the earth and the feuds and fantasies of warring scientists; a celebration of how the smallest things, enzymes and pigments, influence the largest things, the oceans, the rainforests, and the fossil fuel economy. Oliver Morton offers a fascinating, lively, profound look at nature's greatest miracle and sounds a much-needed call to arms—illuminating a potential crisis of climatic chaos and explaining how we can change our situation, for better or for worse.
From acclaimed science journalist Oliver Morton comes Eating the Sun, a fascinating, lively, profound look at photosynthesis, nature's greatest miracle. From the physics, chemistry, and cellular biology that make photosynthesis possible, to the quirky and competitive scientists who first discovered the beautifully honed mechanisms of photosynthesis, to the modern energy crisis we face today, Eating the Sun offers a complete biography of the earth through the lens of this common but crucial process.
Long before more infamous creatures such as T. Rex walked the earth, green organisms were the dominant life forms. Evidence suggests that chlorophyll, responsible for coloring these organisms, has been in existence for some 85% of the Earthandrsquo;s long history. Ancient predecessors of todayandrsquo;s plants and the communities they formed are quite different from much of life today, but at the same time some incredible similarities have been retained.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; How the Earth Turned Green traces the history of this taxon--those that are colored by chlorophyll and what many would call plants--from their ancient beginnings to the diversity of green organisms that inhabit the earth today. Using an evolutionary framework, the manuscript addresses questions such as should all green organisms be considered plants? Why do these organisms look the way they do? How are they related to one another and other living organisms? How do they reproduce? How have they changed and diversified over time? And how has the presence of green organisms changed the Earth and its environment?
On this blue planet, long before pterodactyls took to the skies and tyrannosaurs prowled the continents, tiny green organisms populated the ancient oceans. Fossil and phylogenetic evidence suggests that chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for coloring these organisms, has been in existence for some 85% of Earthand#8217;s long historyand#151;that is, for roughly 3.5 billion years. In How the Earth Turned Green,
Joseph E. Armstrong traces the history of these verdant organisms, which many would call plants, from their ancient beginnings to the diversity of green life that inhabits the Earth today.
Using an evolutionary framework, How the Earth Turned Green addresses questions such as: Should all green organisms be considered plants? Why do these organisms look the way they do? How are they related to one another and to other chlorophyll-free organisms? How do they reproduce? How have they changed and diversified over time? And how has the presence of green organisms changed the Earthand#8217;s ecosystems? More engaging than a traditional textbook and displaying an astonishing breadth, How the Earth Turned Green will both delight and enlighten embryonic botanists and any student interested in the evolutionary history of plants.
About the Author
Award-winning science journalist Oliver Morton is the author of Mapping Mars, a contributing editor at Wired, and a contributor for The New Yorker, Science, and The American Scholar. He lives with his wife in Greenwich, England.
Table of Contents
Preface: A Botanist at Large
1: A Green World
2: Small Green Beginnings
3: Cellular Collaborations
4: A Big Blue Marble
5: Down by the Sea (-weeds)
6: The Great Invasion
7: The Pioneer Spirit
8: Back to the Devonian
9: Seeds to Success
10: A Cretaceous Takeover
11: All Flesh Is Grass
Brown Algae and Tribophyceans
Clubmosses and Fossil Stem Groups
Conifers and Ginkgoes
Coniferophytes: Cordaitales and Voltziales
Rhyniophytes and Trimerophytes