“I am astounded by the breadth of the science that can be motivated by simple questions about a leaf or a tree. Refreshingly, the answers come from mechanics and engineering—not a DNA sequence in sight! An intelligent and highly readable introduction to important scientific principles in a familiar, human-sized context.”
Ian Stewart, author of In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations that Changed the World
The Life of a Leaf
by Steven Vogel
|Publication Date: November 1, 2012 ||978-0-226-85939-2 |
|UK Publication Date: November 12, 2012 ||$35.00/£22.50 |
On the surface, it appears that we have nothing in common with the leaf. But whether plant or person, every organism must contend with its immediate physical environment, a world that both limits what organisms can do and offers innumerable opportunities for evolving fascinating ways of challenging those limits. As it turns out, many of a leaf’s basic physical needs, as well as the ordinary phenomena they confront, share many similarities to those of animals—including humans.
In Vogel’s account, the leaf serves as a biological everyman, an ordinary and ubiquitous living thing that nonetheless speaks volumes about our environment as well as its own. Thus in exploring the leaf’s world, Vogel simultaneously explores our own—answering questions about how objects get much hotter than air when in sunlight and far cooler when beneath a clear night sky; how air movement matters even when we can’t feel it; how objects such as trees avoid damage from storms; and how gases diffuse and bubbles form. In considering science on our personal scale, Vogel refers complex concepts to everyday observations in our immediate experiences, providing both incredible food for thought and tools for a new way of seeing the beauty and simplicity of the science of life.
Steven Vogel is a James B. Duke Professor Emeritus in biology at Duke University. His books include, most recently, Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds and Cats’ Paws and Catapults. He is available for interviews.
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