"Many aspects of our daily lives involve some interaction with invisible microorganisms like bacteria and fungi."

Carlberg, a retired microbiologist and chemist, has written primarily for a lay audience of environmental activists and anyone else interested in microbes and the environment. He updates his narrative with a new chapter and updated data in this second edition, exploring how microorganisms affect the quality of people's daily lives. The author has held many positions in academia and industry and is also a multi-faceted writer of both nonfiction and fiction. His ability to present nonfiction in a creative context is apparent throughout this text, and readers will find even the most technical aspects of the material interesting and easy to follow.

In the preface, Carlberg explains the organization of the book: "Following two chapters on an introduction to some basic principles of microbiology, the following chapters are roughly organized according to the four elements of the Greek philosopher Empedocles (495-435 B.C.), fire, water, air and earth as a simple means of separating the four major domains to be discussed." The first two chapters introduce microbiology's history and basic tenets for those needing a primer in the science. The following chapters cover various microorganisms' beneficial and harmful aspects within Earth's diverse environments. Even the citations avoid listing technical papers that are difficult to locate. Instead, the bibliography relies on more accessible, popular sources for further reading. The detailed contents page is quite helpful in listing the various topic sections of the six chapters for easy access. A well-rounded index also supports the reader in locating pertinent material.

Carlberg is quick to remind readers that "With all the headline news about bioterrorism, Salmonella infections, E. coli outbreaks and the Covid pandemic, microorganisms have been getting a bad reputation." He also issues a strong reminder that "the fact is, the vast majority of the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and environments are harmless, and many are actually critical to the survival of life on Earth." The book begins by helpfully outlining the five basic microorganisms: bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, and viruses. Fascinating facts about each of these precursors to all life on the planet are presented in an engaging and lucid voice, as is most of the text. The author then details how humans co-exist with the millions of microbes that "call our bodies home." For example, microbes are crucial in maintaining soil fertility and photosynthesis and are essential to food chains. Microorganisms are also genetically manipulated and are critical to manufacturing products such as vaccines and medications.

Factors of major interest for many people today, such as microbes and disease or natural resistance and immunity, are discussed at length. Carlberg moves on to explore effective ways of controlling microorganisms: heat, low temperature, chemicals, and various types of radiation and filtration. At this point in the book, he congratulates the reader for having read the basics of a "good portion of the material from a beginning course in microbiology." The narrative then focuses on the properties of water and how the hydrologic cycle works. Also covered are some keys to efficient water use, development of usable sources, modern drinking water treatments, and how water consumption and waste can be reduced. The term biofilm, an aggregate or accumulation of bioorganisms, is introduced, and the benefits and drawbacks of different types of biofilms are explored. The text also discusses the hazards of waterborne chemicals and biological hazards in urban runoff and how various types of runoff problems are treated. The book becomes increasingly technical during this phase, but the language is still clear and accessible.

Carlberg returns full circle to biofilm and its capacity to cause toxic dead zones along coastlines in the world's oceans. He cogently observes that aquaculture—fish farming—creates concentrations of fish waste that affect the seafood industry and the health of its consumers. He also notes that fish farming can negatively affect native species. In his discussion of air, Carlberg effectively augments his examination by looking at the historical context of aerobiology—the study of airborne biological material—from Redi's experiments in the seventeenth century to Pasteur's and Tyndall's in the nineteenth century. Many things are affected by airborne microorganisms, including agriculture, epidemiology, medicine, warfare, the pharmaceutical industry, and space exploration. The extensive discussion on bioattack is enlightening and will undoubtedly be of interest to readers in this current era of world unrest. The gem of this portion for many readers will be the extensive discussion of microorganisms and climate change.

The final chapter on Earth delves into the history of the solar system and Earth's evolution, a topic peppered with fun facts about the world's atmosphere, lands, and oceans. Soil constitution and health and water pollution are explored in depth. Gardening enthusiasts will likely be interested in the discussion of industrial and home composting, while infrastructure fans will find the examination of the microbial deterioration of iron and concrete and the discussion of mining and oil field microbiology fascinating.

Overall, this volume is a solid introduction to microbiology for the general reader and is both insightful and entertaining. The environmental issues brought up within this discipline's context are concerning, yet Carlberg's text presents valuable insights and technical solutions that foster hope for the planet's future.

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