An Ocean of Air
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An Ocean of Air : Why the Wind Blows and Other Mysteries of the Atmosphere

4.08 (335 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 134.62 x 200.66 x 17.78mm | 204.12g
  • United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 015603414X
  • 9780156034142
  • 856,238

Flap copy

In 1960, Captain Joseph Kittinger fell to earth from the edge of space and lived. He stepped from the basket of a gigantic helium balloon into an appalling, hostile environment which, without the protection of a pressure suit, would have simultaneously frozen his body and boiled away his blood. It is the air that Kittinger fell through that makes our lives on earth possible.
Air is about more than just breathing. Air transforms miraculously into solid food, and without it every creature on earth would starve; it wraps our planet in a blanket of warmth; radio signals bounce off a floating mirror of metal in the air to travel round the world; and the outer layer of our atmosphere soaks up flares from the sun more violent than all the world's nuclear warheads put together. In this exuberant work, Gabrielle Walker peels back the layers of our atmosphere with 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 invisible winds [or giant rivers of air?] that blow with the force of a hurricane five miles above our heads.
An impoverished American farmer figures out why storms move in a circle by carving equations with his pitchfork on a barn door.
A well-meaning but ill-fated inventor creates wonder chemicals that nearly destroy the ozone layer (he also came up with the idea to put lead in gasoline [he did the lead first]).
A reclusive mathematical genius with a predilection for painting his toenails cherry red figures out the technology that would come to the rescue of the Titanic.
An Ocean of Air is a triumphant celebration of the fragile complexity of Earth's atmosphere and a completely engaging work of popular science."
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Back cover copy

Front cover:



Tag 3: A sense of wonder . . . animates Ms. Walker s high-spirited narrative and speeds it along like a fresh-blowing westerly. The New York Times



Back cover:



This is science writing at its best: clear, witty, relevant, unbelievably interesting, and just plain great."-- Mary Roach, author of Stiff



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. Gabrielle Walker peels back the layers of our atmosphere with the stories of the people who uncovered its secrets:
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.


"Walker has a PhD in chemistry, but she writes like a poet. With a few deft strokes, she brings wacky characters to life . . . Walker's book should absorb and delight anyone who breathes."--Los Angeles Times



"[Walker] shows a storyteller's knack for making long-settled questions seem again intriguing and mysterious. As a result, the book imparts a new appreciation of an element so pervasive as to be invisible."--American Scientist



GABRIELLE WALKER earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Cambridge. She is the coauthor, with Sir David King, of The Hot Topic: What We Can Do About Global Warming. She lives in London.



"
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Review quote

PRAISE FOR AN OCEAN OF AIR
"I never knew air could be so interesting."--Bill Bryson, author of A Short History of Nearly Everything
"[Walker provides] counter-intuitive delights . . . This is a fabulous introduction to the world above our heads."--Daily Mail on Sunday (London)
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Rating details

335 ratings
4.08 out of 5 stars
5 34% (113)
4 45% (152)
3 17% (58)
2 3% (9)
1 1% (3)
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