Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Tim Flannery, director of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, had never given much thought to dry dirt, but while he was researching “Lush Life,” an article on Australian flowers (page 78), he gained a new appreciation for aridity. “I discovered that some of the least fertile parts of our planet are home to its greatest biodiversity,” he says. Flannery is the author of several books, including The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples.

Courtesy of Martin Mischkulnig

Martin Mischkulnig traveled thousands of miles to photograph the wildflowers of Australia (“Lush Life”). But the assignment wasn’t exactly foreign to him. Growing up outside Adelaide, he loved to career around the countryside on motorbikes with his sister. “We were unsupervised and would take off for two or three days at a time, exploring the sandhills and salt pans, everything desolate and dry.”

Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, has been at the forefront of dark-matter research since it became a hot topic of conversation among physicists about 25 years ago. So he writes from a learned perspective about how and why we can’t see most of what makes up the cosmos (“A Field Guide to the Invisible Universe,” page 42). “Understanding that invisible stuff is key to solving the mystery of how stars and galaxies form,” he says. “People are really interested in these fundamental questions.”

Courtesy of Phil Greenhalgh

Reuben Cox, who photographed biologist Ted Cranford and his whale heads (“Blast from the Vast,” page 50), was unprepared for the stench of rotting flesh: “There is something about marine mammals, something in their blood, that makes them smell extremely bad—even when they’re frozen.” He teaches photography at Sarah Lawrence College and at Cooper Union, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Details, and Spin.

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