Words matter. These are the best Richard Preston Quotes, and they’re great for sharing with your friends.
‘First Light’ has gotten a reputation as a kind of cult classic about science. I never really intended it to be read as a science book, but books, like children, have a way of choosing their own friends.
I think we sometimes give ourselves a little too much credit as humans, as being able to control and understand nature, when in fact we do neither.
The annual flight of the dragonflies goes mostly unnoticed, though it is one of the great migrations of flying creatures that occur across North America.
Though the redwoods in Muir Woods are hauntingly beautiful trees, they are relatively small and not very tall, at least for redwoods.
If ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, then children are somewhat closer to our roots as primates in the arboreal forest. Humans appear to be the only primates that I know of that are afraid of heights. All other primates, when they’re scared, they run up a tree, where they feel safe.
I was surfing the Internet, and I came across a school in Atlanta where you could learn how to climb trees with ropes the way the pros do. It sounded terrific, and so I went down there, and I began to learn these kind of rarified techniques for how you get up and down trees while using special ropes and gear.
If a healthy person were placed on the other side of a room from a person who was sick with AIDS, the AIDS virus would not be able to drift across the room through the air and infect the healthy person.
The crown of a supertall redwood has a towering, cloudy, irregular form, and the crowns of the tallest redwoods can sometimes look like the plume of exhaust from a rocket taking off.
Seeing outward is equivalent to looking backward in time because the telescope’s mirror is capturing primeval light… galaxies that existed before our time.
A football player is often bigger than a basketball player – more massive, that is. The basketball player is taller and more slender. So it is with redwoods. The tallest redwoods are often slender, and so they aren’t the largest ones.
AIDS is the revenge of the rain forest.
It turns out, from what I hear, that roasted fruit bats are delicious.
Redwoods flourish in fog, but they don’t like salt air. They tend to appear in valleys that are just out of sight of the sea. In their relationship with the sea, redwoods are like cats that long to be stroked but are shy to the touch.
We’re creating these massive urban areas in the Third World. It’s like you take the entire population of California and put it in one city. Then you remove basic sanitation and medical services, and you have a ticking biological time bomb.
Scientific facts are often described in textbooks as if they just sort of exist, like nickels someone picked up on the street. But science at the cutting edge, conducted by sharp minds probing deep into nature, is not about self-evident facts. It is about mystery and not knowing. It is about taking huge risks.
The redwoods you can see in Muir Woods are nothing like the redwood titans that stand in the rainforest valleys of the North Coast, closer to Oregon. These are the dreadnoughts of trees, the blue whales of the plant kingdom.
Fox bought the rights to the book way back when, and there was this attempt by Fox to make a movie out of ‘The Hot Zone,’ and it tended tragically in a Hollywood disaster involving Robert Redford and Jodie Foster and Ridley Scott. But the rights have been sitting at Fox ever since.
When you get up into the crown of a redwood tree, you lose sight of the ground entirely. You also lose sight of the sky. And you’re in a lost world. You’re in an undiscovered, unexplored ecosystem, somewhere between Heaven and Earth, filled with forms of life, not all of which have been given names by scientists yet.
Life on the planet is being homogenized by the expanding human population and the frequent and rapid movement of people and goods, which carry invasive organisms with them. These invasives often flourish in their new ecosystems because, like the woolly adelgid, they have escaped their predators.
I don’t believe in a biological apocalypse, but I think there is stormy biological weather ahead as the human population continues to grow.
An Ebola particle is only around eighty nanometres wide and a thousand nanometres long. If it were the size of a piece of spaghetti, then a human hair would be about twelve feet in diameter and would resemble the trunk of a giant redwood tree.
‘First Light’ is nonfiction, a true story about astronomers who are looking for light coming from the edge of the universe. It tells how science is really done – and science is a lot weirder and more human than most people realize.
No one knows exactly when or where the redwood entered the history of life on earth, though it is an ancient kind of tree and has come down to our world as an inheritance out of deep time.
Dragonflies kill their prey in the air and eat it on the wing. They feed on aerial plankton, which consists of any sort of small living thing that happens to be aloft – mosquitoes, midges, moths, flies, ballooning spiders.
Here’s what’s terrifying about Ebola. Ebola is invisible. It’s a monster without a face. With the science that we have now, we can perceive Ebola as being not one thing but as a swarm, and the swarm is moving through the human population and expanding its numbers. It has the qualities of a monster.
If you want to survive Ebola, you need to be young. If you’re in your late 30s, the death rate is about 80 percent, and if you’re over 45, then the death rate goes up to about 90 percent.
Redwoods have an enormous surface area that extends upward into space because they have a propensity to do something called reiteration. A redwood is a fractal. And as they put out limbs, the limbs burst into small trees, copies of the redwood.
Global climate change has become entangled with the problem of invasive species. A warmer climate could allow some invaders to spread farther, while causing native organisms to go extinct in their traditional habitats and making room for invaders.
I’m all in favor of looking deeply into as much as we possibly can. I’m not afraid of knowledge… With all new technology, weapons inevitably emerge… Evil comes out of the human heart. It doesn’t come out of nature.
The problem with Ebola is that it makes mistakes while it copies itself. The mistakes are actually good for Ebola because they help Ebola change, and as a result of this, as it jumps from one human body to the next, roughly half the time, it’s got a mutation.
If a portion of a redwood is rotting, the redwood will send roots into its own form and draw nutrients out of itself as it falls apart. If we had redwood-like biology, if we got a touch of gangrene in our arm, then we could just, you know, extract the nutrients and the moisture out of it until it fell off.
I happen to love science… Scientists are all slightly mad. There is truth in the stereotype of the mad scientist. They are mad with curiosity.
I had actually finished the manuscript of ‘The Wild Trees’ and turned it in to Random House when all of a sudden word came. Michael Taylor and his colleague, Chris Atkins, another explorer, have just knocked one out of the park. They found the world’s tallest tree. The tree is named Hyperion, 379.1 feet tall.
Redwood time moves at a more stately pace than human time. To us, when we look at a redwood tree, it seems to be motionless and still, and yet redwoods are constantly in motion, moving upward into space, articulating themselves and filling redwood space over redwood time, over thousands of years.
There may be a little bit of finger-pointing – there always is in a situation like this – but I think of Ebola as an act of nature. It’s the biological equivalent of a tsunami, and yes, we are having trouble handling it.