- Taschenbuch: 288 Seiten
- Verlag: Bloomsbury Publishing; Auflage: 1., Aufl. (19. Mai 2008)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 074759290X
- ISBN-13: 978-0747592907
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 12,9 x 2 x 19,8 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 653.713 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 19. Mai 2008
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'I never knew air could be so interesting' Bill Bryson 'A wonderful lesson in how science works' Simon Singh, Daily Telegraph 'A blend of science writing and historical anecdote that is hard to fault ... Walker's account of half a dozen scholars and their inspired hunches, painstaking experiments, wrong turns and dazzling discoveries is like a good detective story' New Statesman 'Spectacular ... Kittinger's fall serves as entree to an amazing tale of the scientific discovery of the atmosphere' Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller
We not only live in the air, we live because of it. At ground level air transforms miraculously; it wraps our planet in a blanket of warmth, while the outer layer of our atmosphere soaks up violent flares from the sun. In this fascinating celebration of the Earth's fragile atmosphere, Gabrielle Walker traces a journey of groundbreaking scientific discovery from the first experiments in the Renaissance to recent findings in space.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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It was a revelation of great magnitude to discover air can be weighed. Passing your hand through it doesn't seem to meet much resistance. Balloons and birds pass through it effortlessly, it seems. But the realisation that air was "there" was the first step in a long journey in understand what exactly was "there" to understand. Walker, although opening the account with Galileo's trial and confinement, reminds us that "air" was considered by some ancients, especially Aristotle, to be one of the four "Elements", along with earth, fire and water. Air, because it exhibits pressure, must have measureable "weight". Another Renaissance Italian, Alessandro Torecelli, resolving a dispute about that suggestion, invented the quicksilver [mercury] barometer still in use today - coining the phrase "ocean of air" as a result. In dealing with the pressure derived from its mass, Walker panders to her US readers by noting that Carnegie Hall in New York City holds over 32 thousand kilogrammes of air.
What naturally follows leads Walker to such scientific heavyweights as Joseph Priestly, Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Black and even Gugliemo Marconi. Marconi? Why is the man credited with the invention of the wireless mixed in with gas investigators? Although Marconi wasn't certain how his signals could cover such vast distances, it was later learned that signals bounced from high altitudes. Whatever views we may have of weather events, Walker demonstrates, the upper atmosphere is in constant turmoil, with electrical and chemical changes occurring at intense rates. At each step in narrating the discoveries, she provides a descriptive segment on the life and thinking of the researchers. Her description of Oliver Heaviside will repel a few, but at this distance others will find him of interest.
Her focus is mostly on the science concerned with what comprises the atmosphere and its activities. Even so, it's disappointing that no mention is made of the earliest forecasters such as Robert Fitzroy, Darwin's captain on the HMS Beagle. Offsetting this lack, Walker brings to light a figure unaccountably forgotten. Early in the 19th Century, Virginian William Ferrel, who should have been doing his farm chores, instead studied mathematics and meteorology to decipher how the winds work. His calculations led to a new assessment of how air masses move due to the Earth's rotation. Today, the region of the atmosphere producing the winds and weather we experience daily is deemed the "Ferrel Cell".
Unlike some science writers, indeed, unlike some of her earlier books, Walker keeps herself out of this account - at least until the "Epilogue". The writing is vibrant and captures your attention. Occasionally, close scrutiny reveals some errors - "tropical" air cells do not originate at the Pole, nor was Columbus the "first European to step into a new world" - but these are minor glitches. The science story is well told and enthusiastically. Walker has done a great deal of digging into background material and guides us through the results almost effortlessly. This book would make an excellent gift to a young person looking for a career pursuit. But shop carefully as there are more thorough accounts than this one, no less well written. Much about "the ocean of air" has been explained, but even more remains. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Ontario]
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The author has broken the book into two main sections. The first deals with the major discoveries about air and the men who discovered each of them. She goes into detail about how the experiments worked (or didn't) and what each was trying to prove. Along the way, she demonstrates nicely that science is not about a single discovery, but about building on what those before you have done.
The second section is more dedicated to what air does. She looks at how winds blow, and why they do so along with why and how air protects us from space and the radioactive particles that are bombarding us on a continual basis. Again, weaving the stories of the men and what they found gives and interesting voyage through time as we learn more about the atmosphere.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to those who have any interest in the atmosphere. It is extremely well written and can be easily understood by people with little or no physics experience. Great read that I completely enjoyed!