Friday, October 08, 2010

Quotation from the Periodic Table by Primo Levi

I just finished The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. Here is a quotation that jumped right off the page at me.

"Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus, and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world."

Photosynthesis made beautiful- don't you think? Primo Levi is a genius of a science writer. I'll have to go back and read his accounts of his days at Auschwitz and other experiences.