Two years ago, Dr Mary Brakke of the Department of Agronomy and Plant
Genetics, U. of Minnesota suggested that we might jointly look at the
possibility of "developing an instructional package" to accompany my book
Energy, Plants and Man. This conjured up thoughts of digital technology,
animation, the lot. But of course we needed something to animate so I set to
work on a slimmed down version of EPM. This idea appealed to me for many
reasons. I see little point, in a digital age, of sending heavy books to the
far corners. I like the idea of putting stuff straight on to a colleague's
computer; pages that he or she can quickly access and use according to their
needs. Most of all I yearn for academic freedom. I have no wish to write a
text for a specific course. Worse, I don't wish to write a text at all. I
wish to write a story (about an aspect of science), part serious, part less
than serious. Readers either like this or they don't but publishers make the
choice for them and assume that science can't be fun.
Steadfastly encouraged by Govindjee (Professor of Biophysics & Plant
Biology, U. of Illinois), I put finger to keyboard. Four chapters are done.
A fifth nears completion. But what about animation? There, progress has not
been fast. Energy, Plants and Man occupies 277 pages of 'hard copy' but a
mere 4 MB in PDF format which anyone can read (courtesy of Acrobat).
Conversely, a single animated figure can occupy 3 or 4 MB thus ruling out
online distribution of any large number of figures. So animation (probably
on CD) must wait a while. Regrettably, I'm not sure that I can. Intimations
of mortality are not to be denied. After much thought, and depending on what
response this Email brings, early publication, online, of what has already
been written seems a good idea. If this concept is on any interest at all,
please have a look at
There, if you would care to ignore the inadequacies of my newly learned HTML
(and an element of gratuitous self-indulgence which I couldn't resist) you
should be able to download the first chapter of 'Like Clockwork'. This will
come to you free and without obligation (apart from acknowledging source and
copyright should you choose to use it).
Clearly what I am anxious to learn is what you, my colleagues, think of the
whole concept. A favorable response will bind me to my aging Mac. An
unfavorable one will turn my attention to books still unread, CDs not yet
played and a garden long neglected.
From David Alan Walker Emeritus Professor of Photosynthesis,
University of Sheffield, UK
Phone +44 (0)114 2305904
Email david at alegba.demon.co.uk