I knew I’d love Carl’s Microcosm for the delicious irony of using a mere “germ” to illustrate the mysteries of life itself. Well, I’m also partial to bacteria and their multicellular abilities, which Carl describes wonderfully. .
First, as the other science writer on the panel, I’d like to express my appreciation for Carl’s way with a metaphor. I think for many of us, what makes science writing take flight are these wonderfully unexpected yet perfect comparisons that convey understanding along with a flash of sensory fireworks. For instance, Carl describes a (eukaryotic) cell’s stained chromosomes as looking like “crumpled striped socks.” Perfect! They really do. Another literary allusion made me laugh out loud. But I hesitate to give away for risk of spoiling its effect for those who haven’t read the book yet. It comes at the end of the first graph on page 21. My daughter, a Shakespeare fanatic, will love it.
Well, I’m posting from a VERY SLOW dial-up connection from a remote cabin off the coast of British Columbia. Friday I’ll catch a ride up island to the radio-connected Internet Center to post more. Till then, I’ll wrap up this plain post with a question for Carl. It’s an old question, I know. But since Carl’s book centers around “what is life?” I get to indulge my obsession with it.
Carl, twice in the book you refer to viruses as “creatures.” Perhaps you used the word metaphorically. In any case I’d love to know whether you think viruses qualify as being alive, and I’d love to hear your reasoning either way.