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The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007

by Richard Preston Tim Folger

This collection has a range of topics, from the farthest reaches of space to the world around us and to the secrets hidden in our own bodies. Some harmful impacts of science on the natural world is also mentioned.

The Cobra Event

by Richard Preston

Five days ago, a homeless man on a subway platform died in agony as startled commuters looked on. Yesterday, a teenager started having violent, uncontrollable spasms in art class. Within minutes, she too was dead. Dr. Alice Austen is a medical pathologist at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. What she knows is that the two deaths are connected. What she fears is that they are only the beginning...

The Demon in the Freezer

by Richard Preston

"The bard of biological weapons captures the drama of the front lines." -Richard Danzig, former secretary of the navy. The first major bioterror event in the United States--the anthrax attacks in October 2001--was a clarion call for scientists who work with "hot" agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U. S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense. Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world's most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers--at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines. Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government's response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill. Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

First Light

by Richard Preston

Seven years before Richard Preston wrote about horrifying viruses in The Hot Zone, he turned his attention to the cosmos. In First Light, he demonstrates his gift for creating an exciting and absorbing narrative around a complex scientific subject--in this case the efforts by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains of California to peer to the farthest edges of space through the Hale Telescope, attempting to solve the riddle of the creation of the universe.Richard Preston's name became a household word with The Hot Zone, which sold nearly 800,000 copies in hardcover, was on The New York Times's bestseller list for 42 weeks, and was the subject of countless magazine and newspaper articles. Preston has become a sought-after commentator on popular science subjects.For this hardcover reprint of what has been called "the best popular account of astronomy in action," (Kirkus Reviews) he has revised the text and written a new introduction.

The Hot Zone

by Richard Preston

A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their "crashes" into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction. [This text is listed as an example that meets Common Core Standards in English language arts in grades 9-10 at http://www.corestandards.org.]

Micro

by Michael Crichton Richard Preston

In Jurassic Park, he created a terrifying new world. Now, in Micro, Michael Crichton reveals a universe too small to see and too dangerous to ignore. In a locked Honolulu office building, three men are found dead with no sign of struggle except for the ultrafine, razor-sharp cuts covering their bodies. The only clue left behind is a tiny bladed robot, nearly invisible to the human eye. In the lush forests of Oahu, groundbreaking technology has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting. Trillions of microorganisms, tens of thousands of bacteria species, are being discovered; they are feeding a search for priceless drugs and applications on a scale beyond anything previously imagined. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, seven graduate students at the forefront of their fields are recruited by a pioneering microbiology start-up. Nanigen MicroTechnologies dispatches the group to a mysterious lab in Hawaii, where they are promised access to tools that will open a whole new scientific frontier. But once in the Oahu rain forest, the scientists are thrust into a hostile wilderness that reveals profound and surprising dangers at every turn. Armed only with their knowledge of the natural world, they find themselves prey to a technology of radical and unbridled power. To survive, they must harness the inherent forces of nature itself. An instant classic, Micro pits nature against technology in vintage Crichton fashion. Completed by visionary science writer Richard Preston, this boundary-pushing thriller melds scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction to create yet another masterpiece of sophisticated, cutting-edge entertainment.

Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science

by Richard Preston

Panic in Level 4 is a grand tour through the eerie and unforgettable universe of Richard Preston, filled with incredible characters and mysteries that refuse to leave one's mind. Here are dramatic true stories from this acclaimed and award-winning author, including * the phenomenon of "self-cannibals," who suffer from a rare genetic condition caused by one wrong letter in their DNA that forces them to compulsively chew their own flesh--and why everyone may have a touch of this disease * the search for the unknown host of Ebola virus, an organism hidden somewhere in African rain forests, where the disease finds its way into the human species, causing outbreaks of unparalleled horror * the brilliant Russian brothers--"one mathematician divided between two bodies"--who built a supercomputer in their apartment from mail-order parts in an attempt to find hidden order in the number pi (π). In exhilarating detail, Preston portrays the frightening forces and constructive discoveries that are currently roiling and reordering our world, once again proving himself a master of the nonfiction narrative.

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

by Richard Preston

Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustained-the coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have trunks up to thirty feet wide and can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. In The Wild Trees, Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored. The canopy voyagers are young-just college students when they start their quest-and they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that there's nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air. The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called "fire caves." Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to one's death. Preston's account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists' passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Trees--the story of the fate of the world's most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself.

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