John Postgate, one of Britain's leading microbiologists, uses the variegated life-styles of microbes to illustrate the enormous potential of life on this planet. Since the dawn of life on Earth, the world has been gradually transformed by living things into a comfortable home for plants, animals and ourselves. But many harsh and seemingly inhospitable places remain, and it is the inhabitants of such places, mainly invisible microbes, that reveal the remarkable potential and resilience of life. How do microbes survive, even flourish, in superheated water or supercooled brine; at enormous pressures; without air; amid poisons? And what part do, and did, they play in making the Earth hospitable? Illustrated by charming vignettes, and free of technical language and diagrams, The Outer Reaches of Life provides new clues to the origin and evolution of terrestrial life and offers a glimpse of how life might have established itself elsewhere in the universe.
1. Microbes and terrestrial life; 2. Some like it hot; 3. Cool, Man, cool; 4. The big squeeze; 5. Very salty indeed; 6. Corrosive and slippery places; 7. Life without oxygen; 8. Living on minerals; 9. Exotic menus; 10. Of wraiths and ghosts; 11. The inertness of nitrogen; 12. Getting about; 13. Microsensors; 14. A private space; 15. Company; 16. Immortality and the big sleep; 17. Readjustment; 18. Life's outer reaches.