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Living at Micro Scale: The Unexpected Physics of Being Small

Popular Science

By: David B Dusenbery

394 pages, 125 line illustrations

Harvard University Press

Paperback | Mar 2011 | #190221 | ISBN-13: 9780674060210
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £16.95 $21/€19 approx
Hardback | Feb 2009 | #175939 | ISBN-13: 9780674031166
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £40.95 $50/€46 approx

About this book

Kermit the Frog famously said that it isn't easy being green, and in Living at Micro Scale David Dusenbery shows that it isn't easy being small-existing at the size of, say, a rotifer, a tiny multicellular animal just at the boundary between the visible and the microscopic. "Imagine," he writes, "stepping off a curb and waiting a week for your foot to hit the ground." At that scale, we would be small enough to swim inside the letter O in the word "rotifer." What are the physical consequences of life at this scale? How do such organisms move, identify prey and predators and (if they're so inclined) mates, signal to one another, and orient themselves?

In clear and engaging prose, Dusenbery uses straightforward physics to demonstrate the constraints on the size, shape, and behavior of tiny organisms. While recounting the historical development of the basic concepts, he unearths a corner of microbiology rich in history, and full of lessons about how science does or does not progress. Marshalling findings from different fields to show why tiny organisms have some of the properties they are found to have, Dusenbery shows a science that doesn't always move triumphantly forward, and is dependent to a great extent on accident and contingency.

The book draws on 20 years of Dusenbery's own research, and he doesn't compromise on the science; informed readers will find all the equations they could need. But it is rarely dry or uninteresting, and benefits from a liberal scattering of anecdotes going back 2500 years. My favorite is the idea that Galileo fell foul of the church because of his atomist view of matter. -- Colin Barras New Scientist 20090314 David Dusenbery's book Living at Micro Scale does an excellent job of explaining the physics that is relevant at this scale and, later in the book, how this physics affects the behavior of microorganisms...The book will be accessible and useful to a wide audience of people interested in biology, physics or engineering. And the provocative questions presented are sure to be the subject of intense activity in the research community for years to come. -- Thomas R. Powers American Scientist 20100101

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David B. Dusenbery is Professor of Biology, Emeritus, Georgia Tech.

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