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Gabrielle Walker

An Ocean of Air

The air around us is something we tend to take for granted, but in An Ocean of Air: A natural history of the Atmosphere Gabrielle Walker shows that it provides us with more benefits than we may realise. Not that the study of the atmosphere has always been plain sailing. The book starts with a look at the discovery that air had weight and the acceptance that a vacuum could really exist. Walker moves on to the identification of the constituents of air, and in particular Oxygen. This is followed by a chapter on carbon dioxide - its vital role in providing the food we eat, but how too much of it is leading to global warming.

Walker then takes a look at weather systems, telling us that what is called the Coriolis effect should really be named after William Ferrel. The story then goes upwards, looking at the jet streams, the ozone layer and the discovery of a hole in it, the ionosphere and its use in radio transmission, and the vital role of the Van Allen belts in protecting us from the solar wind.

I'd recommend this book to all readers: if you want to find out about the atmosphere then you'll find plenty of interest here, and in any case it provides a highly enjoyable read.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 288 pages  
ISBN: 015603414X
Salesrank: 833919
Weight:0.45 lbs
Published: 2008 Mariner Books
Amazon price $14.75
Marketplace:New from $10.00:Used from $1.97
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 336 pages  
ISBN: 0747581908
Salesrank: 1553815
Weight:1.15 lbs
Published: 2007 Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Marketplace:New from £7.46:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 288 pages  
ISBN: 015603414X
Salesrank: 1426243
Weight:0.45 lbs
Published: 2008 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 14.44:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description
We don’t just live in the air; we live because of it. It’s the most miraculous substance on earth, responsible for our food, our weather, our water, and our ability to hear. In this exuberant book, gifted science writer Gabrielle Walker peels back the layers of our atmosphere with the stories of the people who uncovered its secrets:

• A flamboyant Renaissance Italian discovers how heavy our air really is: The air filling Carnegie Hall, for example, weighs seventy thousand pounds.

• A one-eyed barnstorming pilot finds a set of winds that constantly blow five miles above our heads.

• An impoverished American farmer figures out why hurricanes move in a circle by carving equations with his pitchfork on a barn door.

• A well-meaning inventor nearly destroys the ozone layer.

• A reclusive mathematical genius predicts, thirty years before he’s proved right, that the sky contains a layer of floating metal fed by the glowing tails of shooting stars.