Synopses & Reviews
Outside of yoga class, we donand#8217;t pay too much attention to the air we take in every day. Long one of the essential elements to life on earthand#151;from the atmospheric composition that gave life to the coal-forming forests some three hundred million years ago to the air that fuels our most important technologies todayand#151;we think little of its incredible properties. In this innovative cultural and scientific history, Peter Adey takes stock of the great ocean of air that surrounds us, exploring our attempts to understand, engineer, make sense of, and find meaning in it.
Adey examines how humans have managed and manipulated air as a natural resource and, in doing so, have been taken to the limits of survival, brought to high-altitude mountain peaks, subterranean worlds, and the troughs of new moral depths. Going beyond how vital air has been to our philosophical, scientific, and technological pursuits, he also reveals the way that the artistic and literary imagination has been lifted through air and how, in air, cultures have learned to express and inspire each other. Combining established figures such as Joseph Priestley, John Scott Haldane, and Marie Curie with unlikely individuals from painting, literature, and poetry, this richly illustrated book unlocks new perspectives into the science and culture of this pervasive but unnoticed substance.
""[A] delightful of a book. . . 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
"Logan is an enjoyable companion with which to explore his subject. He is erudite and thoughtful, with an agreeable mix of the personal and scientific" Wall Street Journal
"Starred review. Logan's meticulously researched and engagingly presented treatise is a breath of, well, fresh air." David B. Williams Seattle Times
"Splendid. . . . Logan delivers vast amounts of science with brevity and elegance." Carol Haggas Booklist
andldquo;Air drifts delightfully over a wide range of subjects, never dwelling on any for too long but reveling in the connections and cultural context of our relationship with air. It is also a physically beautiful volume, full of oil paintings and architectural diagrams, wind tunnels and prehistoric dragonflies. Adeyandrsquo;s writing style is elegantandmdash;he addresses complex issues without slipping into jargon and is able to inject excitement into the subject without the text becoming stylized or distracting. . . . It is [his] ability to show us different perspectives and build new connections between ideas that enables Adey to turn ever-present, everyday air into something strange and magical.andrdquo;and#160;
The author of and brings to life this quickest, most sustaining, most communicative element of the earth.
Ignorance of the air is costly. The artist Eva Hesse died of inhaling her fiberglass medium. Thousands were sickened after 9/11 by supposedly safe air. The African Sahel suffers drought in part because we fill the air with industrial dusts. 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. "
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, fertilizing the dirt. 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. Ignorance of the air is costly. The artist Eva Hesse died of inhaling her fiberglass medium. Thousands were sickened after 9/11 by supposedly "safe" air. The African Sahel suffers drought in part because we fill the air with industrial dusts. With the passionate narrative style and wide-ranging erudition that have made William Bryant Logan's work a touchstone for nature lovers and environmentalists, is--like the contents of a bag of seaborne dust that Darwin collected aboard the --a treasure trove of discovery.
Air has always been essential to life: from the atmospheric composition that gave life to the forests and gigantic insects of the Carboniferous age some 300 million years ago to the air that fuels the most important technologies today. We are immersed in a great ocean of air: from internal combustion and jet engines, to modern cities with artificial climates, air is remarkable because it is so widespread and at the same time so intimate. But by managing and manipulating air as a natural resource, humans have been taken to the limits of their survival, brought to the extreme situations of high altitude mountain peaks, and taken to the lows of subterranean worlds and the troughs of new moral depths. Yet rarely are we aware of air and its incredible properties.
Air is an innovative cultural and scientific history that focuses on our attempts to understand air, to engineer and grapple with it, to make sense of it and find meaning in it. For as essential air has been to our philosophical, scientific and technological pursuits, Adey shows that it is through air that the artistic and literary imagination has been lifted. It is also in air that cultures have learnt to express and inspire each other.
Combining established figures such as Joseph Priestley, John Scott Haldane, and Marie Curie with previously unseen heroes and perspectives from painting, literature, and poetry, this richly illustrated book will appeal to anyone interested in the science as well as the culture of this pervasive, often unregarded, yet vital substance.
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.
Table of Contents
An Excess of Air
Dust to Dust
Associations and Websites