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Air: The Restless Shaper Of The World Hardcover – Aug 21 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton (Aug. 21 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039306798X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393067989
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.3 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #567,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Air is... a spore-world of essays, essaylets, mini-biographies, gossip, whispers, lists, prose-poems and asides. ...Cheery, chatty and compulsively curious, Mr. Logan is able to draw the reader into pretty much any subject... In this lovely book, Mr. Logan makes the air airy again. — Robert Macfarlane (Wall Street Journal)

About the Author

William Bryant Logan is a Quill & Trowel Award-winning writer, a member of the faculty at the New York Botanical Garden, a sought-after lecturer and teacher, and a practicing arborist. He is the author of Oak and Dirt, the latter of which was made into an award-winning documentary. He lives in New York City and the Hudson Valley.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9e9d79fc) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f4bfae0) out of 5 stars Deflated Oct. 19 2015
By Harry Eagar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I wouldn’t have thought you could write 350 pages about “Air” without mentioning what gases make up Earth’s air and in what proportions, but William Logan has done it.

On the other hand, I’d have thought you could write 350 pages about “Air” without scatology, but William Logan hasn’t done that.

This is a very strange book in which we learn more about the untouristy places William Logan has visited than we do about trace gases in the atmosphere. When he does refer to the physical characteristics of air, he doesn’t always get them right; notably when he writes that the mass of the air is 500 trillion tons. That’s only one-eleventh of the accepted value.

Perhaps if he had spent less time on the vaporings of Maritain and Merton and more with reference books, he’d have gotten it right.

“Air” is not without its moments. Though he cannot be bothered to discuss the gaseous constituents of air, he is eloquent about the particles that the air supports, like fungus spores. He writes interestingly about learning to fly an airplane and sail in a hang glider; about weather; and about smells.

He also spends way more pages writing about the sonata form in western music than you’d expect —I’d have expected nothing — but what that has to do with air is not stated. He does point out that the sounds of music travel through air, but they travel also through water and steel.

The failure to discuss the constituents of air and their relative proportions is a very serious thing. Though Logan makes less of a fuss about climate change than I’d have expected, it is clear that he is among those who believe that the air’s share of carbon dioxide is titrated so delicately at three parts per 10,000 that it is ideal for humans, but that 4 parts per 10,000 would be a disaster.

The closest he gets to discussing proportions of gases comes in a discussion of oxygen levels (which, typically, he sets too low), which today are around 21%. He mentions they were very low before the evolution of photosynthesis, but there’s no hint that they seem later to have been very high — perhaps 50% above current levels.

You’d think that a discussion about why they dropped back and have settled, for quite a long time, at a lower level would have been part of a book about “Air.” But, again, you’d be wrong.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0d82bc4) out of 5 stars Four stars for lots of interesting facts, but the writing is not up to his usual standard. Feb. 19 2015
By lyndonbrecht - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an infuriating book. It could be so good, and Logan has written other books that I thought good. This book. however, is a hodgepodge and for me it didn't all fit together.

It does have interesting information, lots of it. The book explores wind, storms, breathing, pollution, spores, pollination and more. At several points in the book Logan goes off on tangents about his own experience with a sort of biographical detail more or less relating to the book's topic, but not very germane. His life seems to have been a fascinating one, but let's put that in an autobiography and edit this one.

Three stars for the actual writing but four for a large amount of interesting information.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9eb680a8) out of 5 stars good book Feb. 15 2013
By Michael D Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Gordon Moog - Published on Amazon.com
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.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9eb6824c) out of 5 stars Interesting Information About Air, What's In It, and Weather Dec 4 2012
By Loyd Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.