Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life

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9780375424304: Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life

·Within days of being born, we are infected with billions of E. coli. They will inhabit each and every one of us until we die. E. coli is notorious for making people gravely ill, but engineered strains of the bacteria save millions of lives each year.

·Despite its microscopic size, E.coli contains more than four thousand genes that operate a staggeringly sophisticated network of millions of molecules.

·Scientists are rebuilding E. coli from the ground up, redefining our understanding of life on Earth.

In the tradition of classics like Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell, Carl Zimmer has written a fascinating and utterly accessible investigation of what it means to be alive. Zimmer traces E. coli's remarkable history, showing how scientists used it to discover how genes work and then to launch the entire biotechnology industry. While some strains of E. coli grab headlines by causing deadly diseases, scientists are retooling the bacteria to produce everything from human insulin to jet fuel.

Microcosm is the story of the one species on Earth that science knows best of all. It's also a story of life itself--of its rules, its mysteries, and its future.

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From the Inside Flap:

In 1946, a 20 year old medical school student called Joshua Lederberg decided to find out whether microbes make love. Lederbeter was motivated not by a displaced libido, but by scientific ambition. At the age of seven, he had declared that he hoped to become 'like Einstein' and to 'discover a few things in science.'

The 'few things' Lederberg discovered would revolutionise modern science and earn him a Nobel Prize. He chose to observe the breeding habits of a certain bacterium called Escherichia coli, better known as E coli. His experiments used defective E coli strains lacking the essential molecules to reproduce by cloning which should, by rights, perish in the petri dish. But slowly, a few colonies of survivors began to spread accross the dishes. The only possible explanation for their survival was that they were a product of sex. Not only had Lederberg proved that bacteria have sex, he had also proved they have genes.

Since then, what was once nothing more than a humble resident of the human gut has become our best guide to what it means to be alive. Most of us might only know E coli for its lethal strain that causes food poisoning. Zimmer uses E coli as a prism to understand what life is, what it was, and what it will become. Among other things, Zimmer tells us how E coli microbes talk to each other, how studies of their evolution represent the most powerful evidence in support of natural selection, and how they might just explain life on other planets...

From the Back Cover:

Praise for Carl Zimmer's Soul Made Flesh

'The fascinating story of how people first became aware of one the most radical thoughts the human mind has ever had to think. The writing is vivid and literate, the story compelling, and the modern implications drawn out with skill and verve.' Steven Pinker

'Soul Made Flesh is a tour de force, eloquently and excitingly written... Few books of recent times have brought the skills of science and history so instructively and enjoyably together.' Sunday Telegraph

'Immaculately researched, full of sharp insights, deeply thoughtful and written with passion and style, Soul Made Flesh is a compelling work ' Literary Review

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Editorial: Pantheon (2008)
ISBN 10: 037542430X ISBN 13: 9780375424304
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Descripción Pantheon, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M037542430X

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Zimmer, Carl
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