Life Under the Sun

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Yale University Press, 2001 - SCIENCE - 276 pages
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Which fungus is as sensitive to light as the human eye? What are the myths and facts about the ozone hole, tanning, skin cancer, and sunscreens? What is the effect of light on butterfly copulation? This entertaining collection of essays explores how various organisms -- including archaebacteria, slime molds, fungi, plants, insects, and humans -- sense and respond to sunlight.

The essays in Peter A. Ensminger's book cover vision, photosynthesis, and phototropism, as well as such unusual topics as the reason why light causes beer to develop a "skunky" odor. He introducec us to the kinds of eyes that have evolved in different animals, including those in a species of shrimp that is ostensibly eyeless; gives us a better appreciation of color vision; explains how plowing fields at night may be used to control weeds; and tells about variegate porphyria, a metabolic disease that makes people very sensitive to sunlight and may have afflicted King George III of England.

These engaging essays present a complicated yet fascinating subject in an accessible way. The book will be treasured by anyone interested in the wonders of biology.

 

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Contents

1 Vision at the Threshold
11
2 The Five Percent Solution to Vision
20
3 A More Delightful Vision
31
4 A Burning Issue
43
5 A SAD Tale
56
6 The Purple Disease
69
7 A Novel Method of Weed Control
80
8 Light and Beer
95
11 High Hopes for Hypericin
128
12 Turning on a Butterfly
139
13 Blue Moons and Red Tides
149
14 Photosynthesis and the Great Salt Lake
161
15 Too Much of a Good Thing
173
A Menagerie of Molecules
183
Notes
201
Glossary
259

9 Phycomyces the Fungus That Sees
104
10 Dictyostelium the Amoeba and the Slug
116

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