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Air [Hardcover]

William Bryant Logan

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Book Description

Aug. 21 2012
Air sustains the living. Every creature breathes to live, exchanging and changing the atmosphere. Water and dust spin and rise, make clouds and fall again, fertilising the earth. Twenty thousand fungal spores and half a million bacteria travel in a square foot of summer air. The chemical sense of aphids, the ultraviolet sight of swifts, a newborn's awareness of its mother's breast - all take place in the medium of air. With the passionate narrative style and wide-ranging erudition that have made William Bryant Logan's work a touchstone for nature lovers and environmentalists, Air is - like the contents of a bag of seaborne dust that Darwin collected aboard the Beagle - a treasure trove of discovery.

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"A joyous read from a brilliant communicator." The Bookseller

About the Author

William Bryant Logan is a certified arborist. He is the author of the "wise and excellent" (March Cocker, The Times Literary Supplement), Oak (ISBN 978 0 393 32778 6) and Dirt (ISBN 978 0 393 32947 6) the latter of which was made into an award-winning documentary.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AIR April 22 2013
By Gordon Moog - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a pilot, hang glider pilot, sailor, mushroom hunter and outdoors man, AIR had a lot in it for me. Explanations are clear and straight forward. (Even I could understand almost everything.) And you don't have to read it in the order it is written. Skip around and you'll still enjoy it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good book Feb. 15 2013
By Michael D Johnson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Some of the chapters are a little slow and it was a streach relating them to air but over all I liked it. I loved his book, "dirt" and I will read oak in the future.
4.0 out of 5 stars Air: the most powerful element? March 22 2014
By Louis Hemmi - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Liked this book that was the monthly selection of the [...] and found Logan's writing very effective, the book was incredibly well researched.

It's chock full of anecdotes, scientific data, and opinion. This is a complex subject, and with his in-depth treatment, you will find yourself much better educated about the subject matter. We live on an incredible planet, and it all rests on a foundation of air!
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical popular science book Nov. 29 2013
By Jenny Schwartz - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This is such a wonderful book that I completely understand why the New York Times Book Review chose it as a "Notable Book" of the year. This is science woven into life and reflections on life, and written with a poet's enjoyment of language and using language to evoke an experience.

Air was simply a delight to read. I also learned things I hadn't known (like the origin of the phrase "beeline" - bees are determined and focussed flyers) and had some of my assumptions shaken up a bit. I love when a book can do that.

Part of what made the book so accessible was William Logan's use of his personal experiences. Then he'd reflect on them, and on occasion, widen them out to philosophical musing.

"Active, responsive, not reactive. These are the qualities of a good pilot. You must give up assumptions and live alert to the slightest nuance that comes into the five senses, responding not as your supposed self, but as your wings. It doesn't sound like a bad way to live: without complaint, fantasy, or demands, but in conversation with the moment." pp.190-91

"A person wears so many grooves (habits) during a long life that eventually the deep-worn grooves begin to dig a grave." p.216

Overall, the "Air" read to me like an appreciation of life and a challenge to adventure. Pretty good for a science book.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Information About Air, What's In It, and Weather Dec 4 2012
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on
All flesh is made from the carbon dioxide in the air. Photosynthesis and respiration would balance were it not for death. Some cellular carbon is buried in the soil or sinks to the bottom of the sea. Thus, release of oxygen in photosynthesis exceeds the release of carbon by respiration. Oxygen in the upper atmosphere shields us from UV radiation which blasts double-oxygen molecules apart that may then recombine or form ozone. This raises the temperature in the upper stratosphere to 28 degrees F, up from -71 F below that layer. Weather thus cannot rise through this warmer top layer, creating the anvil-shaped tops on the largest thunderheads where they hit the stratosphere.

Over 78% of air is nitrogen - essential for life/proteins. Without decay and decomposition, the atmosphere would have been devoid of nitrogen long ago.

Air is set in motion by the sun heating areas near the equator more than at the poles. Rising air near the equator flows north and cools, lowering the pressure beneath it. Colder air from the poles is denser, flows south, and warms as it goes. Because the Earth spins while this occurs the air is deflected west of east, depending on whether it is in the northern or southern hemisphere, and the results quickly become unpredictable and ever-shifting.

Growing air pollution first masked the effects of climate change - temperatures declined slightly from 1945 til the 1970s.

Dust carried by the trade winds from Africa supplies much of the iron and calcium and over half the phosphorus the ocean's plankton require. The dust reaches Brazil, the Caribbeans, the SE U.S., etc. About one billion tons/year, mostly from the Sahara and nearby deserts. Little windstorms in the desert (no rainstorms) lift the fine soil, microbes, and spores into the upper air where it is move NE to SW across the Atlantic. Similarly with the Gobi desert - to eg. Hawaii.

There are 10 - 15 thousand spores in the average cubic yard of air, rising to as high as a million after a summer rain. These fungi, when not decaying the dead, are mostly responsible for plant diseases, though sometimes problems for humans as well (eg. athlete's foot, St. Anthony's Fire - serious problem, now prevented by treating rye plants). Bacteria, when aloft, create condensation nuclei.

EPA analyses post 9/11 near the WTC used samples from the ground, instead of from the air. Even so, the pH found was high (9 - 11), and long, slender fibers that could lodge in the lungs were present. Ten years later 43 of the 60 - 70 thousand site workers have incurred medical problems and biopsies have found silicates, asbestos, and carbon nanotubes in their lungs.

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