Synopses & Reviews
Since the dawn of life on Earth, the world has been gradually transformed by living things into a comfortable home for plants, animals and ourselves. But many harsh and seemingly inhospitable places remain, and it is the inhabitants of such places, mainly invisible microbes, that reveal the remarkable potential and resilience of life itself. How do microbes survive, even flourish, in superheated water or supercooled brine; at enormous pressures; without air; amid poisons? And what part do, and did, they all play in making the Earth hospitable? In this fascinating account, for lay readers, John Postgate, one of Britain's leading microbiologists, tells of the diverse adjustments microbes have made to apparently impossible habitats. Modern understanding provides new clues to the origin and evolution of terrestrial life, offers glimpses of how life might have established itself elsewhere in the universe, and raises profound questions about death, sensation and individuality - as well as illustrating the often muddled pathways of scientific progress.
"After an introduction, the remaining 17 sections cover individual topics (temperature, pressure, nutrients, etc.) and that topic's effect on microbial life. Clearly written, the text notes connections between chapters....Recommended for all general science collections." Michael D. Cramer, Library Journal"Postgate's accounts of the weird and wonderful ways of microbes are stories both of sophisticated science and of the extremes in the biologic world....provides an enjoyable introduction to the broader field of microbiology. It also reviews current thinking about a wide variety of basic biologic and biochemical problems, from evolution to nitrogen fixation to the design of industrial enzymes." William C. Summers, The New England Journal of Medicine"...solid popular science writing in a neglected field of microbiology." Robert Desowitz, Nature"...a fine little book on an introduction to microbiology aimed at the lay person, but I would venture all scientists will find a new way to think about some very oled scientific dogma...based on amusing anecdotes as well as scientific principles...a good read." Joanne Shelley, Volcano Quarterly"...Writing clearly and understandably, Postgate has developed an arresting account of the almost incredible diversity of niches in which microorganisms are to be found, not only surviving but apparently prospering..." Russell Stevens, The Key Reporter"...Charming chapter illustrations and a lively writing style enhance the intrinsic fascination of this book which extends our notion of what is meant by 'life.'" Lucy Horwitz, Science Bests, Boston Book Review"...Informative and entertaining. Highly recommended." P.C. Radich, Science &Technology"...contains some superb expositions of basic scientific concepts....Postgate knows his subject, and knows how to make it intelligible....[The book] can be read at longer sittings, as he shows how bacteria bend all the rules of biology and extend our understanding of the limits of life." Mark Ridley, Times Literary Supplement"Postgate's microbiotic menagerie is enormously entertaining, but it is more than just a freak show. By studying how simple life-forms survive under conditions that would desiccate, parboil or poison most others, one can gain valuable insight into how cells function and how more complex organisms react to adverse conditions. One can even consider how life could evolve elsewhere in the universe." Laurence Aa. Marschall, The Sciences"I would recommend this book to anyone who takes pleasure in reading about the beauty and wonder of the natural world. The author has a pleasant and lucid style and an obviously complete mastery of his subject matter....microbiologists would do well to read it, and to recommend it to their non-microbiological friends." R.M. Baxter, CSM Newsletter
An exploration of the world of microbes, and what it reveals about the origin and evolution of life.
The invisible world of microbes--capable of surviving in the most harsh and inhospitable conditions on earth--reveals the remarkable potential and resilience of life itself. John Postgate's fascinating exploration of these outer reaches of life shows how understanding microbes can provide new clues to the origin and evolution of terrestrial life, and offers glimpses of how life might have established itself elsewhere in the Universe. In the process, it raises profound questions about death, sensation and individuality, and insights into the nature of scientific progress. The feats of modern biotechnology are just one manifestation of the astonishing resources of microbes illuminated in John Postgate's lucid and intriguing account.
An introduction to the exotic world of microbes and their incredible diversity.
John Postgate's fascinating exploration of the invisible world of microbes provides new clues to the origin and evolution of terrestrial life, and reveals the remarkable resilience and potential of life itself.
The world of microbes extends to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth. What features enable them to survive such extremes and what role have microbes played in transforming the primitive Earth and in the evolution of life itself? In this fascinating account John Postgate, one of this country's leading microbiologists, conveys to non-scientist readers something of the way in which our understanding of that largely invisible world of living things answers these and many other profound questions.
Table of Contents
1. Microbes and terrestrial life; 2. Some like it hot; 3. Cool, man, cool; 4. The big squeeze; 5. A salty tale; 6. Corrosive and slippery places; 7. Life without oxygen; 8. Living on minerals; 9. Exotic menus; 10. Of wraiths and ghosts; 11. The inertness of nitrogen; 12. Getting about; 13. Microsenses; 14. A private space; 15. Company; 16. Immortality and the Big Sleep; 17. Self-adjustment; 18. Life's outer reaches.