The Immune System Piercing a Bacterial Cell Wall

Imagine that we had some way to look directly at the molecules in our bodies, perhaps with an x-ray microscope or an Asimov-style shrinking-and-enlarging machine (unfortunately, neither is currently feasible). Think of the wonders we could witness firsthand: antibodies attacking a virus, electrical impulses shooting down nerve fibers, proteins building new strands of DNA. Many of the questions puzzling the current cadre of biochemists would be answered at a glance. But the microscopic world of molecules is separated from our everyday world by an insurmountable, million-fold difference in size.

I created the illustrations in this book to help bridge this gulf and allow us to look at the molecular structure of cells, if not directly, then in an artistic rendition. I have drawn two types of illustrations with this goal in mind: drawings that magnify a small portion of a living cell by one million times, showing the arrangement of molecules inside, and computer-generated pictures showing individual molecules in atomic detail.

I have written the text with the nonscientist reader in mind; I have drawn the illustrations at a level of scientific rigor to satisfy the biochemist. For the lay reader this book is an introduction to biochemistry -- a pictorial overview of the molecules that orchestrate the processes of life. For the biochemist, it is my hope that the book will act as a touchstone for intuition. Please use the illustrations, as I have, to help imagine biological molecules in their proper context: packed into living cells. (from the Preface)