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Life's Engines


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix Prologue 1 CHAPTER 1 The Missing Microbes 9 CHAPTER 2 Meet the Microbes 23 CHAPTER 3 The World before Time 40 CHAPTER 4 Life's Little Engines 47 CHAPTER 5 Supercharging the Engines 68 CHAPTER 6 Protecting the Core Genes 91 CHAPTER 7 Cell Mates 108 CHAPTER 8 Supersizing in Wonderland 124 CHAPTER 9 The Fragile Species 145 CHAPTER 10 The Tinkerers 161 CHAPTER 11 Microbes on Mars and Butterflies on Venus? 173 Further Readings 187 Index 191

About the Author

Paul G. Falkowski holds the Bennett L. Smith Chair in Business and Natural Resources at Rutgers University, where he studies how microbes have shaped the history of Earth.


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2015 "[Life's Engines] is full of surprises ... [I]mmensely rewarding."--Tim Flannery, New York Review of Books "Entertaining, easy-to-read and historically rich."--Adrian Wolfson, Nature "Personal stories, hard facts, and illuminative illustrations each contribute to this engaging examination of our microbial overlords ... Paul Falkowski's decades of study in various earth and life sciences fuel this excellent addition... Falkowski effectively uses analogies to convey abstract and complicated ideas."--Rachel Jagareski, Foreword Reviews "Falkowski's loving examination sets out, life on this planet is organized by and for bacteria--the rest of us are just along for the ride."--Brian Bethune, Macleans "Falkowski brings a formidable breadth of scientific understanding to the task of explaining this, having worked as a biologist, an oceanographer and an astrobiologist. He moves easily between biological and earth sciences to help us understand the steps microscopic single-celled organisms took to make the planet habitable."--Cosmos "[The] wonderful and awe-inspiring universe of the microbes, unseen creatures that have shaped the planet such that we may live in it, is engagingly presented by Paul Falkowski in a remarkable text entitled Life's Engines... The book's success is its utter simplicity. It tells the story of the history of life on our planet from a very personal perspective... I was so enthralled by this book from the get-go that I invite you to have a short taste of it."--Roberto Kolter, Cell "A pleasure to read, the book touches on virtually every topic covered in a college biology curriculum by seamlessly weaving concepts with personal anecdotes and analogies. Presenting scientific facts and the fascinating history of their discovery, Falkowski (Rutgers Univ.) intersperses evolutionary theory with biochemistry, ecology, microbiology, molecular biology, anatomy, and even anthropology and economics. He also presents a fact-based, nonpolitical vision for the future of biotechnology... This reviewer came away inspired to learn more. Easily understood by anyone with a passing knowledge of science, this volume poses innumerable questions for further investigation."--Choice "What is known about the hidden world of the microbes and their fundamental roles in sustaining planetary habitability is insightfully revealed by Paul Falkowski in this authoritative, comprehensive, and delightful book. The author is uniquely qualified, perhaps singularly so, to cover topics ranging over broad time and space scales with a scholarly, transdisciplinary perspective that ranges from fundamental physics and chemistry, to Earth and ocean sciences. I cannot think of any other scientist who would accept such a challenge... He is a gifted scientist and writer, and legendary storyteller."--David M. Karl, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin "Not a microbial biologist, I approached this book with a bit of trepidation, imaging lengthy discussions of biochemistry. Instead, I was immediately engaged by Falkowski's conversational, fluid writing, personal anecdotes, and interesting choice of topics... Life's Engines [is] easily accessible to the lay reader but engaging for the scientist as well."--American Biology Teacher "An outstanding attempt to popularize the role of microbes, especially bacteria and archaea, in making multicellular eukaryotic life possible... A superb introduction to the broader consequences of life and its study."--Elof Axel Carlson, Quarterly Review of Biology

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