The Invisible Kingdom: From the Tips of Our Fingers to the Tops of Our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbesby Idan Ben-Barak
With the wit of Bill Bryson and the spirit of Natalie Angier, Idan Ben- Barak takes us on a fantastic voyage into the infinitesimal world of microbiology. In The Invisible Kingdom, he introduces us to the amazing lives and workings of genes, proteins, bacteria, and viruses, and the ways in which they interact to shape life on Earth. Exploring everything from radioactive waste and insect sex-change operations to the inner workings of antibiotics, Ben-Barak reveals how important these tiny critters are to all of us. He brings this largely unseen world to life with refreshing analogies and metaphors: cells pop like bubbles” and bacteria dream of rain.” On the journey, we learn about the teamwork required to rot human teeth, the origins of diseases, what really goes on inside cow stomachs, and the ways in which microbes benefit human life. An infectious and informative scientific exploration, The Invisible Kingdom will change the way we see the world around us.
Ben-Barak (Small Wonders) writes with verve, enthusiasm and humor about critters that most people find frightening, repugnant, and worthy of mass slaughter via antibiotic hand sanitizer; in this illuminating book, Ben-Barak assures us that without them, "we'll all be dead within days, if not hours." Sure, they cause horrible diseases and turn food rotten, but microbes also clean up waste (including radioactive contamination, chemicals and plastics) and play an important role in digestion (humans have ten times more microbials than human cells). Flexing degrees in both microbiology and medical science, Australian-based scientist Ben-Barak covers a lot of territory, beginning with the origins of single-celled life, 3.8 billion years ago. Connecting the mechanisms of asexual reproduction used by single-celled bacteria to human sexual reproduction, he explains lucidly the mechanics of DNA and RNA, as well as the rapid mutation rate of new strains of germs, diseases and genuinely useful microbes used for thousands of years to make bread, beer, wine and yogurt, and more recently in the manufacturing of hormones. Wonderfully informative and entertaining, Ben-Barak's latest is a brilliant read for both general readers and science buffs.
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“Fun facts are one attraction of Ben-Barak’s work, another is the importance the author accords to what microbes do to us. Perhaps readers will become furious hand washers after learning about the culpability of viruses and bacteria in diseases; perhaps they’ll be inspired by the possibilities of enlisting them to kill cancer or clean up pollution; certainly, they’ll be better informed by Ben-Barak’s entertaining approach.”
“…dotted with pub-worthy facts (two to four pounds of human body weight is made up of microbes) and playful footnotes that make for an accessible and amusing look at the hidden world of ubiquitous microscopic creatures like bacteria, archaea, protists, and viruses. Woven into the humor is a bona fide crash course in parasitology, microbiology, and gene transfer…”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Wonderfully informative and entertaining, Ben-Barak's latest is a brilliant read for both general readers and science buffs.”
“I enjoyed this lighthearted insider’s guide to germs… I'd love to shrink down to microscopic size to see some of the odd lifeforms described in this book.”
- Basic Books
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Meet the Author
Idan Ben-Barak holds degrees in medical science and microbiology from the Hadassah School of Medicine at the University of Jerusalem. His writing has been featured in New Scientist. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. This is his first book.
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If you are interested in the world around you and enjoy a fun book to read with light humor, then this is the book for you. I have a biology degree and work with microbes but I know that this book can be for anyone. The author really personifies microbes in a way that draws you in. Please read this book! You won't regret it.