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The Life of a Leaf

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In its essence, science is a way of looking at and thinking about the world. In The Life of a Leaf, Steven Vogel illuminates this approach, using the humble leaf as a model. Whether plant or person, every organism must contend with its immediate physical environment, a world that both limits what organisms can do and offers innumerable opportunities for evolving ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 17th 2012 by University of Chicago Press (first published September 1st 2012)
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Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a fun book. Steven Vogel has a great voice - it's like having your fun, very smart uncle sit you down and open your mind to a bunch of science that applies to plants. Everything is built up from common intuition about shapes and our everyday experience, so it's quite accessible. He also has the actual equations floating around in the footnotes for the more quantitatively minded. I learned a bunch of fun facts, but more importantly it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about things in ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Life of a Leaf falls in a small subgenre of pop science books, pet projects of charmingly dorky professors emeritus, things they never had the time to write during their proper research careers. Books like this are a treat because they curate the products of a lifetime of active thought, and because you can feel the authors relax and let loose all the pet hypotheses and ideas for experimentation that never found a place in a grant. Leaf was a special treat for me, since I've read so many pop ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Overall, I came to understand how the words physical and physics were related in a more direct sense than ever before. When I took biology in high school, it always seemed different from chemistry and physics, while this book better integrates these sciences.

The "Life of a Leaf" is a misleading title for this book: it might better be called "The Mechanics of Trees", as it primary considers the mechanical engineering problems of trees (fluid dynamics, heat dissipation, structural load, physical
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Mostly the physics of leaves, not their molecular biology. I learned many interesting things - that you can float using a wet pillow-case, but not a dry one, why your gas mileage goes down so quickly with increased speed, and a review of the peculiarities of water (the way it adheres to itself, the way its density changes with temperature) that permits life as we know it. Also, why you have to use a dish cloth when you clean dishes; the velocity of a viscous fluid at the luminal surface is zero.
I grabbed this when looking at other books near it on the shelf at the library. I picked it up based solely on the title and cover art; I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this: a look at plants (and in particular, trees and their leaves) from a physics-based, physiological point of view.

Vogel does a wonderful job of discussing the many ways in which leaves have evolved to withstand pressures from their environment. Topics include heat dissipation, physical arrangement of leaves,
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoy reading about science, especially physics. I haven't done as much reading in biology, and I was hoping this would help me expand my knowledge in that field. I enjoyed reading this book, and I think it did help me expand my thoughts about biology, but it was also a lot of the physics of leaves and plants (not that I minded). It was clear, but it made it feel like there was a lot more to know and look up. I'm glad I read it.

It left me feeling like I wanted to go back and read it over the
Angela Powell
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A well written book on a very interesting subject. This is a powerful and well-researched book about the leaf. I liked the examples of the leaf that enabled them to adapt to its physical world. The behavior of the leafs in sunlight, in a clear night sky, in air movement are well written. Vogel's everyday observations on leafs are excellent.
Michael Blackmore
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Excellent book. Mainly focused on the mechanics of plants so a bit of a slog, but really worth it if you read it. Very interesting and complete enhanced by view of trees.
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best science book, more at 11
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Steven Vogel is James B. Duke Professor, Emeritus, in the Department of Biology at Duke University.

As it has turned out, my activities as a teacher and writer have extended well beyond the explication of the immediate results of research. The first two of my seven books, A

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“as I intend, you should begin to look with different eyes at your immediate surroundings, seeing not just leaves but yourself and everything around you as reflections of the physical situation here on solar planet number four. Too often we imagine science as a body of facts, growing breakthrough by breakthrough the way a pile of pancakes rises as each new one comes off the pan. At its core, though, science is not the facts but a way of thinking; not a body of knowledge but a way of knowing; a particular and peculiar way of looking at the world.” 0 likes
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