Life Under the Sun


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Peter A. Ensminger

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Which fungus is as sensitive to light as the human eye? What are the myths and facts about the ozone hole, tanning, skin cancer, and sunscreens? What is the effect of light on butterfly copulation? This entertaining collection of essays explores how various organisms—including archaebacteria, slime molds, fungi, plants, insects, and humans—sense and respond to sunlight.

The essays in Peter A. Ensminger’s book cover vision, photosynthesis, and phototropism, as well as such unusual topics as the reason why light causes beer to develop a “skunky” odor. He introduces us to the kinds of eyes that have evolved in different animals, including those in a species of shrimp that is ostensibly eyeless; gives us a better appreciation of color vision; explains how plowing fields at night may be used to control weeds; and tells about variegate porphyria, a metabolic disease that makes people very sensitive to sunlight and may have afflicted King George III of England.

These engaging essays present a complicated yet fascinating subject in an accessible way. The book will be treasured by anyone interested in the wonders of biology.

Peter A. Ensminger is a consultant and medical writer.

“This book covers a body of recent scientific research and thinking about light in a way that is fun to read.”—Thomas W. Cronin, University of Maryland, Baltimore

“This collection of essays will tell readers pretty much everything they’ll ever need to know about our complicated relationship with something we often take for granted: sunlight. . . . Ensminger’s work combines hard science and entertaining prose. . . . Fine popular science whether you’re sitting in armchair of working at a desk.”—Booklist

“Fifteen diverse essays share one central theme--sunlight. From photosynthesis in plants to spoilage in beer, biologist Ensminger tracks the myriad ways that organisms react to light. He infuses the scientific aspects of photobiology with vivid descriptions of the unusual ways in which eyes develop in various creatures, how sunlight affects copulating butterflies, and how King George III may have been driven mad by the sun.”—Science News

“A collection of engaging essays, written in an informal style and covering various aspects of the dependence on, and responses of, organisms to light. . . . The breadth of coverage in Life under the sun reflects Ensmingers’s enthusiasm for photobiology and ensures that there is something for everyone. . . . [This book] is vibrant and illuminating, and is strongly recommended for general readership and specialists alike.”—Alex Waller, Biologist

"This is a quick read, full of fascinating scientific stories by an accomplished writer. Readers will put this book down enlightened and satisfied that their time with this elegant exposition of light and its biological and medical effects was enjoyable and well spent."—Albert D. Carlson, Quarterly Review of Biology
ISBN: 9780300088045
Publication Date: February 8, 2001
276 pages, x