Quirks & Quarks

Book Feature: I Contain Multitudes

It’s a microbial world and we’re just living in it
Human feces consist of undigested food residues and a great variety of bacteria. (Getty Images/Science Source/Scimat)

Microbes are microscopic organisms --  bacteria, archaea, fungi, algae, protozoa and viruses. They've been on the planet for about 3,500 million years and for much of that time, they were the only life on Earth. The planet is teeming with them. When microbes were finally discovered in the 1600s, they were a source of wonder and disbelief. But in our modern era, they've been mostly associated with dirt and disease. Thankfully, that attitude is changing.

A new book by science writer Ed Yong uncovers the enormous, and almost magical, impact of this invisible world. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life reveals that microbes and cells are collaborators, and that this symbiotic relationship is essential to all life as we know it.

(Ed Yong)

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