Is There Life on Your Nose?

Is There Life on Your Nose?
Christian Borstlap
Prestel

Dutch illustrator/designer Christian Borstlap presents a playful look at some of the vast number of microbes that occur everywhere you can imagine and places you probably can’t.

Despite his light-hearted style, there’s a lot of information contained between the covers of this book as readers are introduced to a host of these invisible organisms, starting with those living on our noses. Amazingly like all of us humans, these microorganisms are sensitive, able to move, eat and release things from within.

Contrast a single microbe with the largest living thing on our planet: I was surprised to discover that it’s a ginormous fungus that has grown to a size of 3.8 square miles and lives under the Blue Mountains in the USA. The author provides additional details about this and each of the other largely illustrative spreads presented in a ‘Find out more’ section at the end of the book.

The rate at which microbes reproduce is phenomenal as is the tolerance to extremes shown by some – those living in boiling water for instance, or barren deserts. And, did you know that some of these organisms even feed on metal,

and others on oil – both of which can be a good thing.

None of us would be able to digest our food without the action of the microbes living in various parts of our digestive system. So these are definitely vital to our well-being.

During the past year we’ve all become hyper-aware of the harmful kind of microbes, viruses, in particular COVID 19 (mentioned in the final notes) but only alluded to on the relevant spread.

With the ever growing problem of plastic waste, it’s great to read of the possibility of microbes offering an organic solution to this huge issue. Others are even able to generate clean energy through gas production.

Now you might think you’re pretty good when it comes to recycling but we learn here that microbes are actually the very best of all recyclers …

All in all, none of us would be here at all without microbes: those known as cyanobacteria produce almost 50 per cent of the oxygen we breathe.

This fascinating account has truly whetted my appetite and I can’t wait to visit Amsterdam (one of my very favourite places) again: this time I will definitely head for Microbia – the world’s only microbe museum – mentioned at the back of the book.

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