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Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet Hardcover – 20 Aug 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (20 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000717179X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007171798
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 295,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A surprisingly fascinating read.' The Independent

'I enjoyed this book as much for the crazed asides as for the upsetting insights…an informative, fascinating and thought–provoking read.' Sunday Times

'Morton is as compelling and eloquent in describing the evolution of landscape as he is at describing the evolution of life itself. He moves easily from explaining cosmological theories to describing the chalky meadows around Lewes. Photosynthesis is, as Morton eloquently describes it, 'an everyday miracle, needing nothing but sunlight, air and leaves - and eyes taught to make sense of them.' This book will, quite literally, change the way you see the world as it teaches you to understand the importance of that everyday miracle that we all depend on.' The Sunday Telegraph

'Photosynthesis is, as Morton eloquently describes it, 'an everyday miracle, needing nothing but sunlight, air and leaves – and eyes taught to make sense of them'. This book will, quite literally, change the way you see the world as it teaches you to understand the importance of that everyday miracle that we all depend on.' Sunday Telegraph

'Everything you could possibly want from a popular science book. There is wonder here, and intellectual excitement; clear explanation and lyrical writing; and much new insight into how the world works, linking the very small and very large.' The Independent

Praise for ‘Mapping Mars’:

‘A wonderful work of intellectual history and a permanent addition to the Mars bookshelf.’ Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the ‘Red Mars’ trilogy and ‘The Years of Rice and Salt’

More praise for ‘Mapping Mars’:

‘Splendid…the best factual book on Mars that money can buy.' New Scientist

'A remarkable book…to read this book is to become infected with a fascinating which I hadn't realised Mars held.' James Hamilton-Patersons, London Review of Books

'A beautifully intelligent meditation on place, and on the paradoxes of place that apply to a place like Mars…it will be around for a long time to come.' Francis Spufford, Evening Standard

About the Author

Oliver Morton is a science writer and journalist. He has written extensively for New Scientist, Nature and a range of National broadsheets.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. James on 9 Sept. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the best science book I've read for 20 years, comparable in scope to "The Making of the Atomic Bomb' by Richard Rhodes. It tackles a fascinating, low-profile field, the molecular machinery of photosynthesis, and the history of its elucidation, and then traces all the tangents and implications of that knowledge: the evolution of photosynthesis and its impact on the earth's atmosphere; the co-evolution of plants and animals; the requirements and nature of life on other planets and in other solar systems; the complexity of the carbon-cycle and its interactions with the nitrogen cycle, temperature, volcanism, the weathering of mountains, ice ages, ice-caps, prairies, forests. When at last he arrives at the current carbon/climate crisis you feel really equipped to comprehend the scale of the changes going on and weigh up the merits of all the different energy sources that have been proposed as solutions to the crisis and to the end of fossil fuels. All this territory could be either incredibly dry and dull (I could never stay awake in lectures about plants when I was doing a degree in biology) or sensationalist in its prediction of future catastrophe. But Morton manages to make even the science of electron transport chains fascinating and indeed lyrical, and his take on the environmental situation is sober, compelling and not without hope. Should be required reading for everyone on the planet. At the very least everyone taking a degree in biological sciences.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Parklands on 6 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a big book. A good couple of weeks' worth of holiday reading. Some chapters contain more actual science than my MA degree course in botany did, but you're not going to be examined on it so you don't need to commit to memory. You can still read through without picking up and remembering all the details.

It is a unique and fundamental primer of the earth, its history and where we fit into the picture, the most entertaining and unputdownable that I have ever read. With huge implications for technology in the future, I challenge sixth form students to read this book and not want to be part of the new plant science revolution. Biology now joins physics as exciting atomic-level science; the only science that will feed the world.

Yes, there is the odd mistake not discovered by editors (the Kew botanist J Hooker is Joseph, not John.) And I got very cross with his teleology - he implies that human progress needed the change from hunter gatherer to cereal eater. He doesn't discuss the downside of this, the move to enslaving and 'farming' people for tax and labour inside villages, and depriving them of the old right to find free food or land to raise food. But it's an interesting point this, that without carbon dioxide levels rising in the old stone age from their low levels 18000 years ago, grasses like wheat and rice would not yield enough to be worth growing and eating.

Give this book to every young person as a bluffer's guide to the earth and everything on it; and as a brilliant introduction to science, to conservation, to the possible futures of your life. It's a very readable, enthralling account of life and everything.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. W. P. Edmonds on 4 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
Strongly recommend this book. It is as delicious as its title suggests. All right, there's lots of quite heavy technical stuff explaining the minutiae of photosynthesis, but the beautiful writing draws you in and it seems quite all right to skip about the book, as the author suggests. It is quite Gaian, which up to now has made me wary, being suspicious of New Age gibberish, but Morton's explanation of our global thermostat regulated by the balance of gases - carbon dioxide and oxygen in particular - and the part played by of our vegetation in particular is very persuasive. Also Morton has a warm positive tone, even optimistic rather then warning of any immanent apocalypse. Feels good.

p234
' Asked about what plants did to their environment in the Devonian, Bob Spicer gives an answer that is, as he points out himself, very Gaian. Life changed the planet in such a way to make it more to life's liking.'
See what I mean.

As a Lewes guy, I particularly enjoyed his description of walking around our Downs.

This book is deserving of a full review, which is beyond my scope. Go on! Place your order, you won't regret it.

Will Edmonds
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Taylor on 1 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book divides in three sections, in 9 chapters over 412 pages of fairly small print. This required more than the usual week it takes me to read a book, plus plenty of concentration to assimilate the long chapters.

What I found was a very good, but variable read. My main criticism was that this book took 141 pages to set the scene in it's historical context before even starting on the main course. This is too long!

However, the remaining two thirds are a shining example of popular science writing at it's best. Morton has a really good sense of what makes an interesting statistic - he has spent time to justify his facts with the figures. I found most of the subject matter to be very original.

The pace of the narrative progressively quickens, along with the salient details. By the final chapter on global energy, Morton has reached a sprint. One wonders if he realised he was exceeding his word count after the first section, then cut to the chase - making the majority of this book a gripping read.
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