Michael Gross:
Light and Life
Oxford University Press April 2003
Hardback: ISBN 0-1985-6480-5
£ 16.99, pp 161


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Table of contents



1) Sun, Earth, and Life

Goldilocks and the three planets

Life and times of a yellow dwarf

Flashback: Helium

The observer that was lost and found

The fire within

Flashback: Neutrinos

A planet in the balance

No life without light?


2) How photosynthesis changed the world

The origin of life on Earth

How to make complex cells

How plant photosynthesis works: a rough guide

Flashback: Melvin Calvin

From sunbathing bacteria to chloroplasts

The mother of all environmental catastrophes: Global change triggered by photosynthesis

The endangered shield: the stratospheric ozone layer

Feed the world: the importance of photosynthesis today


3) Creatures that glow in the dark

Life in the deep dark sea

The idea that nature had 30 times

Just pour and watch it glow

Flashback: Raphael Dubois

Very nice but what’s it for?

Flashback: William McElroy

... and how can we use it?



4) How life is guided by light

Like a moth to the fire

Turning towards the light

Not quite an eye

Getting the rhythm

Flashback: Colin Pittendrigh and Jürgen Aschoff

It's all in the hormones

Flashback: Nils Ryberg Finsen

Getting the right dose


5) Seeing and perceiving

A brighter way of using light

Various ways of building an eye

A lens is for life

Cells with a vision

Flashback: John Dalton and colour blindness

Why your head is not a camera

How to see without seeing

Flashback: Hermann von Helmholtz

How to be seen, and how not to

The limits of light


6) Changing ideas about light and life.

Sun Gods through the ages

Egypt and Europe

South America


Early theories of vision

Goethe's "Farbenlehre"



Further reading



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