Up the microbes! It is time to stop bad-mouthing the ""animalcules"" and live in happy symbiosis with these beneficent and essential creatures, says Bernard Dixon, microbiologist-cum-science writer. (He is now editor of New Scientist.) Without them we would be wine- and spirit-less, lack the means to make certain vitamins, combat the few bad bugs, make aqua pura from sewage, leach gold, generate methane, enrich soil, and endlessly so on. Dixon discourses on the virtues of viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and algae as food, medicine, scavengers, chemical synthesizers, and research tools. (What would geneticists have done without the gut bacterium E. coli?) He is enthusiastic about algae as food or directly as a powdered additive rich in protein. Indeed, he tends to overoptimism in speculating about bow microbes could cure our critical food, fuel, or pollution problems. For example, it is not always clear how certain species that can cause infection can be rendered risk-free when used in industrial processes. The writing is brisk and clear, although occasionally burdened with ""converselys"" or ""neverthelesses."" The range of information is enormous and includes fascinating accounts of how wines, beers, cheeses, bread, and pickles are made (with digs at American uniform control or homogeneous techniques). There are also such titillating tidbits as the fact that the average bowl of cole slaw contains 400 billion particles of (harmless) cabbage looper virus. And did you know that litmus comes from lichen?