Alien Ocean (Paperback)
Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas
University of California Press, 9780520250628, 422pp.
Publication Date: January 5, 2009
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Alien Ocean immerses readers in worlds being newly explored by marine biologists, worlds usually out of sight and reach: the deep sea, the microscopic realm, and oceans beyond national boundaries. Working alongside scientists at sea and in labs in Monterey Bay, Hawai'i, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Sargasso Sea and at undersea volcanoes in the eastern Pacific, Stefan Helmreich charts how revolutions in genomics, bioinformatics, and remote sensing have pressed marine biologists to see the sea as animated by its smallest inhabitants: marine microbes. Thriving in astonishingly extreme conditions, such microbes have become key figures in scientific and public debates about the origin of life, climate change, biotechnology, and even the possibility of life on other worlds.
About the Author
Stefan Helmreich is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World (UC Press).
Praise For Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas…
“Unique [and] innovative. . . . Captures the excitement and crucial nature of oceanographic research. . . . Perhaps Alien Ocean will inspire the next generation to fulfill the promise of environmental genomic sequencing.”
“Alien Ocean is likely to become a standard reference point, especially as the anthropology of environment gears up to think seriously about such unwieldy topics as climate change. Overall the book stands as a remarkable achievement with key innovations for advancing work to connect new epistemological objects with the human projects that bring them into existence.”
— Cultural Anthropology
“Erudite, widely ranging account of currently important aspects of marine microbiology and their broader implications.”
“Books about science can often be boring. Not so with Alien Ocean. . . . It is an engaging treatise of a fascinating topic.”
— Microbe Magazine
“Alien Ocean offers a tour de force demonstration of the world making power of a scientific inquiry. . . . An important contribution of this book is a subtle exploration of how knowledge travels as it moves from experimental data to public knowledge.”
— American Ethnologist
“An engaging treatise of a fascinating topic . . . well-researched . . . the book is successful documenting this revolutionary period in microbiology.”
— Chris Rensing
“One of the pleasures of Alien Ocean is Helmreich's playfulness.”
— MIT Technology Review
“Opens new vistas, creates fresh associations, and raises profound questions. . . . Helmreich’s work is a brilliant piece of scholarship, playfully written, freely moving from site to site and from one theoretical perspective to another, packed with perceptive ethnographic details and observations as well as original insights and theoretical positions.”
“Alien Ocean opens up whole new exciting realms of connections.”
“Intriguingly, Alien Ocean’s main characters are arguably not the scientists, nor Helmreich, but the sea itself and the bizarre microbial communities recently found there.”
— Seed Magazine