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.
The dragonfly is an exceptionally beautiful insect and a fierce carnivore. It has four wings that beat independently. This gives it an ability to maneuver in the air with superb dexterity. A dragonfly can put on a burst of speed, stop on a dime, hover, fly backward, and switch direction in a flash. This is a hunting behavior known as hawking.
The earth's biosphere could be thought of as a sort of palace. The continents are rooms in the palace; islands are smaller rooms. Each room has its own decor and unique inhabitants; many of the rooms have been sealed off for millions of years. The doors in the palace have been flung open, and the walls are coming down.
When a parasite moves to a new habitat, it can find new hosts through a process called the trans-species jump. Often, the new host has no resistance; it and the parasite haven't had time to adjust to each other through natural selection (it is frequently not in the best interest of a parasite to kill its host quickly).
In the course of writing 'First Light,' I climbed all over and through the Hale Telescope, where I found rooms, stairways, tunnels, and abandoned machines leaking oil. My notebooks show tooth-marks where I gripped them with my teeth while climbing around inside the telescope, and the notebooks are stained with Flying Horse telescope oil.
As life forms, viruses are just inherently interesting. It's the microworld - this universe of life too small for us to see - but it's profoundly complicated, and immensely powerful. Ebola is like a beautiful and frightening predator. There is a wonder in the operations of nature that can't be denied, even when we're the losers.