January 14, 1985 12:00 PM

by Lennart Nilsson

To make the remarkable photographs in this book, which is subtitled “An Exploration of Nature’s Microcosm,” Nilsson used an electron microscope which, he says, allows almost unlimited magnification (conventional microscopes can magnify only about 2,000 times). Thus, we are shown a newborn ant emerging into the world as a nurse ant breaks its cocoon. The nurse’s head is almost two inches long. A bee, its wings a silvery helicopter blur, hovers over bright pink petals. The bee’s eye in another photograph is enlarged to show its separate optical elements; it looks like a chain-link fence. Still another photo shows a drop of nectar, enlarged to more than five inches wide, being sucked up by the broom-like tip of the bee’s tongue. A chapter on decay and renewal shows exactly what happens to a maple leaf when bacteria, which look like a half-dozen varieties of undersea creatures, begin to extract the organic nutrients. There are also chapters on fossil flowers (the story of plant evolution in pictures) and the mosquito (looking like a Martian monster with a four-inch beak sunk into the bumps of human skin magnified 45 times). This is an extraordinary book—the kind that opens a window into worlds previously only imagined. (Pantheon, $14.95)

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