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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best popular science book for 20 years.
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...
Published on 9 Sep 2008 by C. James

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book for understanding more about the way every part of life is dependent on another
This book describes the processes of photosynthesis in more detail than I have found in other popular science books. Great for anyone who wants to understand more about photosystems 1 and 2 and the way they are linked, to each other and to the wider world of life and the earth's biospehere.

I occassionally felt the text was presenting only part of the overall...
Published on 4 Sep 2011 by Galileo meets the Pope


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best popular science book for 20 years., 9 Sep 2008
By 
C. James (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every school student should read and discuss this book - the ideas matter so much, 6 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Eating the Sun' by Oliver Morton is Delicious, 4 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book for understanding more about the way every part of life is dependent on another, 4 Sep 2011
This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Paperback)
This book describes the processes of photosynthesis in more detail than I have found in other popular science books. Great for anyone who wants to understand more about photosystems 1 and 2 and the way they are linked, to each other and to the wider world of life and the earth's biospehere.

I occassionally felt the text was presenting only part of the overall picture when the author addressed bigger picture topics such as climate change and future alternative energy sources. Perhaps a recognition that other processes have an influence would be also helpful. The book does have a good explanation of how photo-synthesis is really for low power generation and people shouldn't even think about it for directly powering anything other than stationary plants. The book has made me look more at information about hydrogen production for energy in the future through the splitting of water (although by photovoltaic means rather than photo-synthesis).

The book is also a little long, perhaps with danger of repeating itself in some areas. But overall it provides another valuable, readable and entertaining, description of one of life's most important processes and also helps the reader understand the narrow band of 'stability' in which we all live. Life in general can adapt to new environments but will take a very long time to do so. If the present climatic and sun-energy stability envelope in which we live is breached then life will go backwards before it goes forwards again. This book made me realise that only too well through its descriptions of how photo-systems in plants and algea have evolved to take energy from different wavelengths of light depending on the prevailing conditions.

I liked it and will probably re-read it at some stage as it is well written and informative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One and a half books for the price of one, 1 Aug 2012
By 
J. Taylor (Poole, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, 16 Sep 2011
By 
Laurire P. Neale (UK) - See all my reviews
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My sister bought me this book for my birthday. It starts off going into a lot of detail about the biochemistry of photosynthesis which is relatively hard reading. For those that perservere it is well worth the effort.

Although it touches on very similar themes to James Lovelock's "Gaia" this book is a much better read in my opinion. I won't spoil the key sections but Morton's explanation of our planet's lifecycle really was a profound moment for me and definitely changed how I see the world. In summary it's a book about the beauty of life and the wonder of evolution. With so much confusion around the impact we humans have on our planet this book reassures you as to what really matters and where we should prioritise our technological advancements.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, readable and timely, 22 April 2010
By 
D. A. Wright (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Paperback)
Don't be deceived by the quirky title or illustrated cover into thinking this is a trivial work. It isn't! It is a book that kept me up later than I planned as I had to keep turning the pages. I have some knowledge of the subject and a scientific background so I didn't expect to learn too much from this book. How wrong I was in my deluded self-confidence! The author takes his subject head-on and clearly explains the rather complicated processes involved. I really did enjoy the read and I have it ready to pass on to my son with a strong recommendation to make time in his busy life for this little masterpiece.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pictures?, 10 May 2014
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This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Paperback)
Well written. But this subject cries out for diagrams illustrating the processes of photosynthesis etc. I needed to look on-line for these.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Views from a scientist, 28 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet (Paperback)
Interesting book. Combines science with short stories of some of the skullduggery associated with modern science.

Well worth reading for a view on how plants and photosynthesis keep the world alive.
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Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet
Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet by Oliver Morton (Paperback - 6 Aug 2009)
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