336 pages, Illus, tabs
Alien Ocean immerses readers in worlds being newly explored by marine biologists, worlds usually out of sight and reach: the deep sea, the microscopic realm, and oceans beyond national boundaries. Working alongside scientists at sea and in labs in Monterey Bay, Hawai'i, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Sargasso Sea and at undersea volcanoes in the eastern Pacific, Stefan Helmreich charts how revolutions in genomics, bioinformatics, and remote sensing have pressed marine biologists to see the sea as animated by its smallest inhabitants: marine microbes. Thriving in astonishingly extreme conditions, such microbes have become key figures in scientific and public debates about the origin of life, climate change, biotechnology, and even the possibility of life on other worlds.
"Unique [and] innovative [...] Captures the excitement and crucial nature of oceanographic research [...] Perhaps Alien Ocean will inspire the next generation to fulfill the promise of environmental genomic sequencing."
"Intriguingly, Alien Ocean's main characters are arguably not the scientists, nor Helmreich, but the sea itself and the bizarre microbial communities recently found there."
– Seed Magazine
"Erudite, widely ranging account of currently important aspects of marine microbiology and their broader implications."
"One of the pleasures of Alien Ocean is Helmreich's playfulness."
– Technology Review
"An engaging treatise of a fascinating topic."
– Microbe Magazine
List of Illustrations Moorings Acknowledgments Introduction: Life at Sea 1. The Message from the Mud: Making Meaning Out of Microbes in Monterey Bay 2. Dissolving the Tree of Life: Alien Kinship at Hydrothermal Vents 3. Blue-Green Capitalism: Marine Biotechnology in Hawaii 4. Alien Species, Native Politics: Mixing Up Nature and Culture in Ocean Oahu 5. Abducting the Atlantic: How the Ocean Got Its Genome 6. Submarine Cyborgs: Transductive Ethnography at the Seafloor, Juan de Fuca Ridge 7. Extraterrestrial Seas: Astrobiology and the Nature of Alien Life Notes Bibliography Index
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Stefan Helmreich is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World (UC Press).