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Life's Matrix: A Biography of Water Paperback – Jun 20 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 433 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, With a new preface edition (June 20 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520230086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520230088
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 14.7 x 22.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #600,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Wow. At first having noted the author's vita on the cover, I wasn't certain that an individual trained "only" in chemistry and physics could adequately write a book that was "obviously" about geology. As I read on, however, I realized that Phillip Ball's intention really was to write a "biography of water" as the subtitle suggested. The book in fact contains information about water from almost every perspective: from the origins of its constituent elements oxygen and hydrogen in cosmological processes to it's social and political effects in the modern world. The book covers it all. Because I have almost a complete degree in geology, I enjoyed most particularly the geological effects of water including its effects on geomorphology, its impact on glacial formation, its effect on climate and ocean physics, etc. The author lost me a little in his discussion of the chemistry and physics of the substance, but I still found what I understood of it very instructive. Water's function in the evolution of life and in the biochemistry of cellular metabolism was also interesting to me since I enjoy studying evolution-paleontolgoy and earth history were my major focus in studying geology--and I also am a nurse caring for patients whose fluid and electrolyte status arises from the cellular effects of water.
Probably the most important messages in the book, however, are those regarding conservation and utilization of water resources. Certainly the information about the disparity of water availability and quality between the western and 3rd world countries, between urban and rural use, and between countries and states that have competing interests in a particular watershed were very enlightening.
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Format: Hardcover
We live on the planet called Earth. That just shows our chauvinism and inability to see the larger picture. The planet ought to be called Water. As Philip Ball points out in _Life's Matrix: A Biography of Water_ (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), water covers two thirds of the globe, and seen from space, water in its three different states is what determines what Earth looks like. It also determines that every other heavenly body we have been able to see looks to us like a lifeless orb. It is water that defines life for us, and when we go poking our noses into other planets, one of the first things we try to find is water. So no wonder that Ball has called this a biography.
And like a good biography, the book covers all the aspects of his subject. He goes into the origins of water back to the big bang. He shows how we found it on the moon and Mars, and of all places, our Sun. Since he is a doctor of physics, it is not really surprising that he looks at the chemistry and physics of his subject, detailing why ice expands, and why you can ski on solid water but not on asphalt. He tells how its currents run the oceans, and how we don't completely understand the molecular happenings in water flow, or in the formation of snowflakes. He tells us about the dire problems we could have if we don't start handling this most precious and most taken-for-granted resource with more wisdom. He reports at length on the foolishness of cold fusion of heavy water, or of polywater.
In short, this book wonderfully covers every aspect of water you could think of. Ball writes with humor and excellent analogies, and even when the science gets complicated, he is an excellent guide.
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By R. Hardy on Dec 22 2000
Format: Paperback
We live on the planet called Earth. That just shows our chauvinism and inability to see the larger picture. The planet ought to be called Water. As Philip Ball points out in _Life's Matrix: A Biography of Water_ (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), water covers two thirds of the globe, and seen from space, water in its three different states is what determines what Earth looks like. It also determines that every other heavenly body we have been able to see looks to us like a lifeless orb. It is water that defines life for us, and when we go poking our noses into other planets, one of the first things we try to find is water. So no wonder that Ball has called this a biography.
And like a good biography, the book covers all the aspects of his subject. He goes into the origins of water back to the big bang. He shows how we found it on the moon and Mars, and of all places, our Sun. Since he is a doctor of physics, it is not really surprising that he looks at the chemistry and physics of his subject, detailing why ice expands, and why you can ski on solid water but not on asphalt. He tells how its currents run the oceans, and how we don't completely understand the molecular happenings in water flow, or in the formation of snowflakes. He tells us about the dire problems we could have if we don't start handling this most precious and most taken-for-granted resource with more wisdom. He reports at length on the foolishness of cold fusion of heavy water, or of polywater.
In short, this book wonderfully covers every aspect of water you could think of. Ball writes with humor and excellent analogies, and even when the science gets complicated, he is an excellent guide.
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