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microcosm:
E. coli and the
New Science of Life

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About the Book:

What is life? Can we make it from scratch? Are there rules that all living things must obey? Can there be life without death? Biologists today are seeking answers to these fundamental questions about life. Few people know that many of those answers may reside in a species of bacteria that live in our guts: E. coli.

In this startlingly original biography of a germ, Carl Zimmer traces E. coli's pivotal role in the history of biology, from the discovery of DNA to the latest advances in biotechnology. Zimmer describes the remarkably sophisticated strategies E. coli uses to stay alive, from practicing chemical warfare to building microbial cities. He reveals the many surprising and alarming parallels between E. coli's life and our own. Zimmer describes the profound insights E. coli has offered about evolution, by changing in real time and by revealing billions of years of history encoded in its genome. E. coli is also the most engineered species on Earth, and as scientists retool this microbe to produce life-saving drugs and clean fuel, they are discovering just how far the definition of life can be stretched.

Microcosm is the first full story of the one species on Earth scientists know best. It is also the story of life itself, of its rules, its mysteries, and its future.

For media inquiries, please contact Katharine Freeman, kfreeman@randomhouse.com