Letters and Politics

Thoughts on whether or not to watch violent videos; Microbes and the beginning of life on Earth

From yesterday’s shooting deaths of the television crew in Virginia to police violence nationally and to ISIS executions, the internet is saturated with videos of extreme violence. Today, a perspective about media, social media and violence with Pat Blanchfield. He writes about gun culture, violence and politics on his blog Carte Blanchfield.

Then, we’ll talk about microbes, the beginning of life and the future of energy with Paul Falkowski, professor of natural resources at Rutger’s University and author of the book Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable.

About the book: 

For almost four billion years, microbes had the primordial oceans all to themselves. The stewards of Earth, these organisms transformed the chemistry of our planet to make it habitable for plants, animals, and us. Life’s Engines takes readers deep into the microscopic world to explore how these marvelous creatures made life on Earth possible—and how human life today would cease to exist without them.

Paul Falkowski looks “under the hood” of microbes to find the engines of life, the actual working parts that do the biochemical heavy lifting for every living organism on Earth. With insight and humor, he explains how these miniature engines are built—and how they have been appropriated by and assembled like Lego sets within every creature that walks, swims, or flies. Falkowski shows how evolution works to maintain this core machinery of life, and how we and other animals are veritable conglomerations of microbes.

A vibrantly entertaining book about the microbes that support our very existence, Life’s Engines will inspire wonder about these elegantly complex nanomachines that have driven life since its origin. It also issues a timely warning about the dangers of tinkering with that machinery to make it more “efficient” at meeting the ever-growing demands of humans in the coming century.

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