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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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