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How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind

How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind [Kindle Edition]

Charles H. Langmuir , Wally Broecker
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Honorable Mention for the 2012 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Earth Sciences, Association of American Publishers

"[T]his classic history of our common home with the latest discoveries in planetary science . . . is a cutting-edge exploration of the Earth's evolution from the Big Bang to the advent of human civilization."--Barnes & Noble Review

"To be worth being this unwieldy, a book ought to do something pretty remarkable. And that's just what How to Build . . . does, as you can tell from its subtitle, The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. Now that's what you call a large canvas."--Brian Clegg, Popular Science

"Like any good story, the tale that Langmuir and Broecker tell is a complex, weaving narrative that would be ideally placed on your bookcase between James Kasting's How to Find a Habitable Planet and Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee's Rare Earth. . . . As non-astronomers they cover the initial cosmological and astronomical sections adequately, but as the book develops towards explaining the processes that make Earth habitable, the authors' expertise really comes to the fore. . . . How to Build a Habitable Planet is Earth's story, but Langmuir and Broecker conclude with a nod to exoplanets and the search for alien life. Could it one day also become another planet's story?"--Astronomy Now

"The authors . . . have taken on a mighty task. You cannot underestimate the accuracy of their scholarship, or its thoroughness."--Heather Couper, BBC Sky at Night

"This is a completely different book, wholly updated but also more detailed and more comprehensive. Yet, it keeps the bright flavour of the old version, and remains accessible without compromising on accuracy. . . . How to Build a Habitable Planet is an accurate and enjoyable read."--Euan G. Nisbet, Nature Geoscience

"Enormous advances have been made in the Earth sciences in the years since the original volume appeared. In addition, climate change has become a much more urgent topic. The revised version aims to bring the science up to date and to give a current environmental perspective. In this undertaking, Broecker has been joined by Langmuir, who now becomes first author. Their approach of providing each chapter with a clear introduction and summary will help greatly in accommodating the lay reader. . . . We can be grateful to the authors that they had the initiative and energy to undertake a scientific synthesis of such broad scope. . . . All who are concerned with the global environment and who wish to be scientifically well-informed in relation to it will find the book a worthwhile and inspirational challenge."--Ray Bates, Irish Times

"[Langmuir and Broecker] strike a nice balance with roughly an equal number of chapters devoted to life, earth, and extraterrestrial processes. . . . What makes it work is the authors' admirable job of focusing tightly on how the many processes they outline feed into life's makeup or systems needed to support it."--Choice

"Although this 718 page book is over twice as long compared to the first edition, it is still a comfortable read both for earth scientists as well as nonspecialists. The diverse topics dealt with have been skillfully stitched together and each chapter provides lucid descriptions, logical discussions and a nice summary. This book could be an useful text for undergraduate students in earth sciences and with necessary supplements, could also be used for advanced courses in earth sciences."--Ramananda Chakrabarti, Current Science

"I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a well-informed exploration of the theories behind building a habitable planet. Although complex in some places, it is still accessible to many and is overall a very useful addition to any astrobiologist's library."--Samantha Rolfe, Astrobiology Society of GB

"This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now it has been made even better."--Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin

Product Description

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth’s complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth’s habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

Leading schools that have ordered, recommended for reading, or adopted this book for course use:

  • Arizona State University
  • Brooklyn College CUNY
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • ETH Zurich
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Luther College
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio State University
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Pan American University
  • Rutgers University
  • State University of New York at Binghamton
  • Texas A&M University
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • University of Bristol
  • University of California-Los Angeles
  • University of Cambridge
  • University Of Chicago
  • University of Colorado at Boulder
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Maine, Farmington
  • University of Michigan
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of North Georgia
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Ulster
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Wyoming
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Yale University

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 10720 KB
  • Print Length: 734 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised and Expanded Edition edition (13 Aug 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009GDH1NQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #284,521 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What else matters? 7 April 2013
As the sub-title states this is "The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind". In fact it also goes further to discuss the future facing the planet, its ecosystems and humanity in particular. The subject material covered is comprehensive, encompassing several scientific disciplines including cosmology, nucleosynthesis, the Solar system, Earth structure, plate tectonics, geochemistry, the origin and evolution of life forms, the evolution of Earth's atmosphere, natural catastrophes and climate changes. The interdependence of the developments of the surface of the planet and of life on it is repeatedly emphasised, especially the recent influence of humans.

Readers lacking a scientific education might find parts of the text difficult; indeed the authors must have faced a problem in judging where to set the level of presentation. In this regard, I found the book to be a curate's egg, perhaps reflecting the dual authorship. Whilst I was able to "eat up" many of the chapters, others were hard going - not because the material was advanced, but as a result of the style of writing which in places appeared to have been hurried, lacking self-criticism and indeed sometimes careless. The authors seemed to make heavy weather of chemistry, insisting on treating the Earth-Life interaction as a fuel cell; one analogy too far for this reader. Similarly I found the central chapters on geology excessively verbose and laboured. By contrast the early material on cosmology and celestial bodies, as well as the five final chapters, made for stimulating reading.

The book suffers from a few serious errors of fact and many sloppy mistakes in the assembly of figures, tables or text which should have been corrected after careful proof reading.

Despite the adversely critical aspects of this review, I regret neither my purchase of the book nor my time spent reading it. The information within it should be made available to a wide readership.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars correct 13 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The best book I have come across for accompanying a Geology degree. I am in my first year and it covers nearly all my modules, with such a diversity of up to date content and brilliantly written although still informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ahhhh. Well. Need to get your head down to get into this one. Great read however takes commitment. Commitment well rewarded by insight into some really super stuff. Again, inspired by the new stuff going on with geochemistry and geochronology. If you are doing an Earth Science course, this is an absolute must read. Tough going at times but hey, well worth it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough, comprehensive summary 12 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While still in the process of reading this book, I can already give a few valid points.

1. It is is extensive, taking a considerable time to read!
2. It is very comprehensive, including a lot of detailed information that I was ignorant of.
3. Each chapter is well written with a concise introduction and summary (excellent).
4. Very much up to date.

I would consider this book a 'must' for any undergraduate in the Earth Sciences. I only wish I had this book when I was a student....
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to build a habitable planet 8 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was surprised and delighted at the depths the book goes into to on the subject. Certainly a book for the serious reader and not one to pick up and read through
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