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Microbes create medicines, filter waste water, and clean pollution. They give cheese funky flavours, 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 jungles. 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.
Foreword by Elio Schaechter
1. From an Ancient Chalk Graveyard
2. To the Heartbeat of Earth
3. Under Celia Thaxter’s Garden
4. Intelligent Slime
5. Tales of Symbiosis
6. On the Kitchen Counter
7. There Is Life at the Edge of Sight
How to Photograph Microbes
Image Information and Credits
Scott Chimileski is a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School, specializing in imaging and photography. Roberto Kolter is a Professor at Harvard Medical School and Co-Director of Harvard’s Microbial Sciences Initiative. 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.
"This is a most lovely and profound book about microbes. It is a paean to nature, and to the irrepressible curiosity of those who have explored the obscure byways of our world. Both scholars and armchair enthusiasts will enjoy the journey!"
– Martin Blaser, author of Missing Microbes
"Chimileski and Kolter's wonderful book tells stories of microbial discovery. It beautifully illustrates the microscopic organisms that have shaped our world."
– Richard Lenski, Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University
"Through stories that are both entertaining and scholarly, this delightful book celebrates the wonders and grand reach of the microbial world. The photography is stunning, and will leave any reader – expert or novice – with a sense of awe."
– Dianne K. Newman, Gordon M. Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology, California Institute of Technology
"Life at the Edge of Sight offers an inspired journey into microbiology, biodiversity, symbiosis, evolution, and the origin of life, guided by an eminent scientist and an extraordinary photographer."
– Pascale Cossart, Professor and Head of the Bacteria-Cell Interactions Unit, Institut Pasteur