A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer

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Viruses are the smallest living things known to science, yet they hold the entire planet in their sway. We are most familiar with the viruses that give us colds or the flu, but viruses also cause a vast range of other diseases, including one disorder that makes people sprout branch-like growths as if they were trees. Viruses have been a part of our lives for so long, in fact, that we are actually part virus: the human genome contains more DNA from viruses than our own genes. Meanwhile, scientists are discovering viruses everywhere they look: in the soil, in the ocean, even in caves miles underground.

This fascinating book explores the hidden world of viruses—a world that we all inhabit. Here Carl Zimmer, popular science writer and author of Discover magazine’s award-winning blog The Loom, presents the latest research on how viruses hold sway over our lives and our biosphere, how viruses helped give rise to the first life-forms, how viruses are producing new diseases, how we can harness viruses for our own ends, and how viruses will continue to control our fate for years to come. In this eye-opening tour of the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life as we know it, we learn that some treatments for the common cold do more harm than good; that the world’s oceans are home to an astonishing number of viruses; and that the evolution of HIV is now in overdrive, spawning more mutated strains than we care to imagine.

The New York Times Book Review calls Carl Zimmer “as fine a science essayist as we have.” A Planet of Viruses is sure to please his many fans and further enhance his reputation as one of America’s most respected and admired science journalists.


About Carl Zimmer

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Carl Zimmer is a lecturer at Yale University, where he teaches writing about science and the environment. He is the author of numerous books, including Microcosm; Parasite Rex; Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea; At the Water’s Edge; and Soul Made Flesh. His numerous essays and articles on the life sciences have appeared in the pages of the New York Times, Scientific American, Discover, Time, Science, Popular Science, and National Geographic. His work has been anthologized in both The Best American Science Writing and The Best American Science and Nature Writing series.
Published April 15, 2011 by University of Chicago Press. 122 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Education & Reference, History. Non-fiction

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But while many scientists consider viruses too simple to actually be classified as life, the research presented in A Planet Of Viruses shows the incredibly complex nature of their relationship with life on Earth.

May 12 2011 | Read Full Review of A Planet of Viruses

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Franklin was a proponent of the early and more dangerous form of smallpox immunization, which involved the use of a smallpox scab to cause a limited infection that would then confer protection against the disease.

May 12 2011 | Read Full Review of A Planet of Viruses

Science News

Zimmer’s collection of essays takes readers on a guided tour of some of the wonders of this viral world, from ocean-going to bacteria-eating viruses, plus stops for the world’s biggest virus and viruses that put horns on rabbits.

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of A Planet of Viruses


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They are useless against viruses, such as those that cause colds.) But it’s worth sitting through that one small lecture to hear the rest of the stories.

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of A Planet of Viruses

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