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Gabrielle Walker

An Ocean of Air

The air around us is something we tend to take for granted, but in An Ocean of Air: A natural history of the Atmosphere Gabrielle Walker shows that it provides us with more benefits than we may realise. Not that the study of the atmosphere has always been plain sailing. The book starts with a look at the discovery that air had weight and the acceptance that a vacuum could really exist. Walker moves on to the identification of the constituents of air, and in particular Oxygen. This is followed by a chapter on carbon dioxide - its vital role in providing the food we eat, but how too much of it is leading to global warming.

Walker then takes a look at weather systems, telling us that what is called the Coriolis effect should really be named after William Ferrel. The story then goes upwards, looking at the jet streams, the ozone layer and the discovery of a hole in it, the ionosphere and its use in radio transmission, and the vital role of the Van Allen belts in protecting us from the solar wind.

I'd recommend this book to all readers: if you want to find out about the atmosphere then you'll find plenty of interest here, and in any case it provides a highly enjoyable read.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews