Life at the Edge of Sight: A Photographic Exploration of the Microbial World

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Harvard University Press, Sep 25, 2017 - Nature - 384 pages

Microbes create medicines, filter waste water, and clean pollution. They give cheese funky flavors, wines complex aromas, and bread a nutty crumb. Life at the Edge of Sight is a stunning visual exploration of the inhabitants of an invisible world, from the pioneering findings of a seventeenth-century visionary to magnificent close-ups of the inner workings and cooperative communities of Earth's most prolific organisms.

Using cutting-edge imaging technologies, Scott Chimileski and Roberto Kolter lead readers through breakthroughs and unresolved questions scientists hope microbes will answer soon. They explain how microbial studies have clarified the origins of life on Earth, guided thinking about possible life on other planets, unlocked evolutionary mechanisms, and helped explain the functioning of complex ecosystems. Microbes have been harnessed to increase crop yields and promote human health.

But equally impressive, Life at the Edge of Sight opens a beautiful new frontier for readers to explore through words and images. We learn that there is more microbial biodiversity on a single frond of duckweed floating in a Delft canal than the diversity of plants and animals that biologists find in tropical rainforests. Colonies with millions of microbes can produce an array of pigments that put an artist's palette to shame. The microbial world is ancient and ever-changing, buried in fossils and driven by cellular reactions operating in quadrillionths of a second. All other organisms have evolved within this universe of microbes, yielding intricate beneficial symbioses. With two experts as guides, the invisible microbial world awaits in plain sight.

 

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Contents

1 From an Ancient Chalk Graveyard
1
2 To the Heartbeat of Earth
31
3 Under Celia Thaxters Garden
75
4 Intelligent Slime
115
5 Tales of Symbiosis
147
6 On the Kitchen Counter
175
7 There Is Life at the Edge of Sight
205
How to Photograph Microbes
239
Glossary
259
Further Reading
291
Acknowledgments
319
Image Information and Credits
323
Index
363
Copyright

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About the author (2017)

Scott Chimileski is a photographer and a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School. He is also a blogger for the American Society for Microbiology.

Roberto Kolter is a Professor at Harvard Medical School and Co-Director of Harvard's Microbial Sciences Initiative. He is also co-blogger at Small Things Considered.

Elio Schaechter is Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Emeritus, at Tufts University School of Medicine. He is the coauthor of Mechanisms of Microbial Disease and Physiology of the Bacterial Cell.

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