Customer Reviews


6 Reviews
5 star:
 (4)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 
Most Helpful First | Newest First

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A weight on your shoulders, 15 Oct 2007
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Apart from the unoriginal title and misleading subtitle [any fourth-grader knows why the wind blows], this introduction to the history of atmosphere has much to recommend it. Walker is able to take us through the search for what comprises the air we breathe. She resurrects some important figures in this quest, showing why we should know of them. There are also familiar characters, not the least of which is Galileo, whose study of the air took his remaining years during house arrest by The Church. Although the challenge to cover so many characters and their efforts to put substance to something we consider almost ephemeral is daunting, the author covers the ground with spritely prose. The book is a good starting point for those unfamiliar with the air that sustains us.

It was a revelation of great magnitude to discover air can be weighed. Passing your hand through it doesn't seem to meet much resistance. Balloons and birds pass through it effortlessly, it seems. But the realisation that air was "there" was the first step in a long journey in understand what exactly was "there" to understand. Walker, although opening the account with Galileo's trial and confinement, reminds us that "air" was considered by some ancients, especially Aristotle, to be one of the four "Elements", along with earth, fire and water. Air, because it exhibits pressure, must have measureable "weight". Another Renaissance Italian, Alessandro Torecelli, resolving a dispute about that suggestion, invented the quicksilver [mercury] barometer still in use today - coining the phrase "ocean of air" as a result. In dealing with the pressure derived from its mass, Walker panders to her US readers by noting that Carnegie Hall in New York City holds over 32 thousand kilogrammes of air.

What naturally follows leads Walker to such scientific heavyweights as Joseph Priestly, Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Black and even Gugliemo Marconi. Marconi? Why is the man credited with the invention of the wireless mixed in with gas investigators? Although Marconi wasn't certain how his signals could cover such vast distances, it was later learned that signals bounced from high altitudes. Whatever views we may have of weather events, Walker demonstrates, the upper atmosphere is in constant turmoil, with electrical and chemical changes occurring at intense rates. At each step in narrating the discoveries, she provides a descriptive segment on the life and thinking of the researchers. Her description of Oliver Heaviside will repel a few, but at this distance others will find him of interest.

Her focus is mostly on the science concerned with what comprises the atmosphere and its activities. Even so, it's disappointing that no mention is made of the earliest forecasters such as Robert Fitzroy, Darwin's captain on the HMS Beagle. Offsetting this lack, Walker brings to light a figure unaccountably forgotten. Early in the 19th Century, Virginian William Ferrel, who should have been doing his farm chores, instead studied mathematics and meteorology to decipher how the winds work. His calculations led to a new assessment of how air masses move due to the Earth's rotation. Today, the region of the atmosphere producing the winds and weather we experience daily is deemed the "Ferrel Cell".

Unlike some science writers, indeed, unlike some of her earlier books, Walker keeps herself out of this account - at least until the "Epilogue". The writing is vibrant and captures your attention. Occasionally, close scrutiny reveals some errors - "tropical" air cells do not originate at the Pole, nor was Columbus the "first European to step into a new world" - but these are minor glitches. The science story is well told and enthusiastically. Walker has done a great deal of digging into background material and guides us through the results almost effortlessly. This book would make an excellent gift to a young person looking for a career pursuit. But shop carefully as there are more thorough accounts than this one, no less well written. Much about "the ocean of air" has been explained, but even more remains. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Ontario]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read!, 15 Aug 2009
This review is from: An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere (Paperback)
This book is written in a 'chatty' manner that will no doubt annoy some people, but in my opinion adds a lot to the readability of this book.

Walker tends to explore a lot of tangets rather than stick to the main thread. (For example she goes into detail about Columbus's journey across the Atlantic to illustate trade winds.) However, these 'tangents' are still enjoyable, if not to the point.

I did find 'Snowball Earth' better (although noting from that ratings that view is not necessarily shared!).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ocean of Air, 7 Oct 2007
By 
Tami Brady "Tami Brady: Transition-Empowermen... (Calgary, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
A copy of An Ocean of Air should be on every library bookshelf in the world. I found this text both immensely informative and extremely interesting. Quite a number of times, I jumped up, put the book down, and went to find someone to tell about an remarkable fact or a story about a particular scientist that I thought was amusing.

The book is set up in chronological order, exploring the various issues surrounding air. It starts off with the presumptions about air that our ancestors had about the substance. Then, it begins looking at the various individuals who were courageous, curious, and sometimes just plain mad enough to ask questions and seek answers. The stories progress throughout touching on a variety of associated topics from chemical composition of air and the ozone layer to carbonation and space flight.

Apart from the historical and scientific usefulness of this book, I also want to note the humanizing aspect of the various scientists. Often when we picture scientists, we assume that they sit in their laboratory using their great intellect to uncover scientific discoveries. We don't often think about the sacrifices of these individuals or that often such discoveries have not always been popular. Moreover, often the most interesting successful experiences were those that went horribly wrong.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Air - thoroughly recommended, 13 Feb 2012
By 
A. N. Burns - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere (Paperback)
This is a most interesting book about the History of Air - not at all the dull subject you might imagine but a fascinating story of how the unique and varied contents of our atmosphere were discovered by many famous scientists, sometimes against all the odds. and how important those discoveries were. Hydrogen the very first element in the periodfic table, Oxygen which we beathe every day and depend on, Ozone which protects us from damaging radiation from outer space and many others. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the book
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars We are in an ocean of air!, 28 April 2011
By 
D. Quelhas (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
You know you found a good scientific book when your completely, non geeky girlfriend reads it and likes it. That's what happened. Great book to read and learn easily, and an amazing gift, for boys and girls!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 9 Aug 2008
By 
Mr. R. C. Maytum (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere (Paperback)
This is an outstanding book. The introduction alone is a great piece of writing and will have you clinging to your seat! Don't hesitate - buy it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere
An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere by Gabrielle Walker (Paperback - 19 May 2008)
8.40
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews