Science: Secrets from Sunlight

How do green plants manufacture food and store energy by absorbing carbon dioxide, water and sunlight? Scientists have been piecing together the answer for years, sure that when they learn the last detail of the complicated process they will be closer than ever before to understanding the secret heart of nature. For life itself—in whatever form it appears on earth—steadily expends the solar energy stored during the intricate chemical reaction that scientists call photosynthesis.

Some of the mystery began to come clear in 1938 after researchers learned to use isotopes to trace the transformation from water and carbon dioxide to sugar and...

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