||book that does not fit easily into any simple categories. I know that some readers will find this approach too broad or too taxing. Their patience may be particularly tried as they encounter many pages devoted to the intricacies of microbial life —but this more-detailed focus on bacteria and archaea is merely an acknowledgment of the still underappreciated dominance and ubiquity of these organisms in the biosphere and of their irreplaceable roles in the cycles of life.
I am also sure that some specialists will feel that many topics have not been given enough attention or that explanations of some particulars would have benefited from a greater detail or from a more subtle understanding. I plead guilty on all counts. Syntheses cannot be written as lengthy encyclopedias and, no matter how hard one tries, subtle, confident understanding of myriads of details making up the mosaic of life is beyond anyone's abilities. Such are the perils of this nonreductionist intellectual adventure; its rewards, I hope, are some new perspectives.
As with any book of this kind, I am indebted to thousands of scientists whose work I cite, admire, or criticize and without whose findings and ideas I would not have been able to scan the global horizon and deliver this new synthesis. My particular thanks go to Marty Hoffert, John Katzenberger, and David Schwartzman, who read the entire typescript, corrected some lapses, and suggested numerous additions and improvements.
Any remaining mistakes and misinterpretations are mine—and only mine. As any true interdisciplinarian I have been always aware of numerous weaknesses in my quest for grand syntheses, and I have never had any illusions about the impact of my books. I just do my best. But I am also always mindful of Seneca's sobering verdict regarding our understanding of the world in general:
Veniet tempus quoposteri nostri tam aperta- nos nescisse miren-tur. (The day will come when posterity will be amazed that we remained ignorant of matters that will to them seem so plain.)