Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth Hardcover – 4 Oct 1979
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About the Author
Inventive, unorthodox, ingenious and a latter day Darwin, James Lovelock is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding and influential scientist-thinkers of our time. His establishment-science career reads like an honour role, and is reflected by his knighthood in 2002. Lovelock's many inventions include the electron capture detector (ecd), which has been of major significance in increasing our knowledge of the environment. The ecd was also instrumental in the discovery of global pollution by fluoro-carbons, critical to both global warming and the hole in the ozone layer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
So the Gaia theory, for all its flaws, should be read by serious folk as a key step in the development of thinking on the global environment. And, lets face it, no subject is more important.
Lovelock's book is *very* easy to understand and beautifully illustrated with large pastel coloured graphics of a children's natural history book. It should appeal to the interested child too, even when they will not understand most of the text, they *will* understand the theme and by association "subliminally" get the learning.
I think I remember Lovelock saying in an interview, many years ago, that he learnt a lot about chemistry as a child even though he did not know what it all meant and it was *this* learning that was more significant, not the following university degree course "...you can't get that knowledge in just four years..."
If you were not too keen on chemistry, biology and geology because it was boring then you might find this book Quite-Interesting in the Steven Fry sense. I generally liked these things but was too lazy to learn them... until now that is: It is extremely interesting, now I know what a free-radical actually is!
Almost every page has some gem on it e.g. I laughed out loud when I read that oxygen is a carcinogen! It is so obvious - but I never realised it till that very moment :)
Another was our origin from Big Bang: every one of us contains 30,000 bequerels of radio active potassium - our very existance depends on nuclear fussion and fission - he puts things in perspective - And that is the biggest message of the book/idea/theory...
...or is it theorem?Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The most important point that I do not agree is the part on Oxygen, on which the author said the limit of the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere is set at 21% because of fires. He also said that if the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere is above 25% then "combustion is instant and awesome fires would rage, destroying all forests". Is there any convincing evidence of this claim? I don't see any mentioned in the book except for a brief statement that "An increase of oxygen of more than 1% to 22% (in a submarine), however, cannot be allowed because of the greatly increased risk of fire it would bring". Sorry, but I am not convinced of this, especially from the author.
Actually, what was said in the book "Oxygen -- The molecule that made the world" by Nick Lane was quite different. In that book the author claimed that oxygen levels of more than 30% (may be as high as 35%) existed in the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago, and he provided detailed arguments and evidence why this might be so. The author also pointed out problems in the "experiments" done by Lovelock and his students to "prove" Lovelock's claim that at no point in the history of the Earth was the oxygen level in the atmosphere higher than 25%.
I find Nick Lane's arguments much more convincing, and I am sure Lovelock should have been aware of this work. I would really want to see a reaction from Lovelock to Nick Lane's arguments but unfortunately there is none. He just repeated what he said in his earlier books written during the 1970's. I consider this a flaw.
Also, on P.133, he said "the Sun has increased its heat output by 25% from 3.8 billion years ago" while elsewhere he said "the Sun was about 25% less luminous than now 3.8 billion years ago". I am sure everyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of mathematics knows that these two statements are not the same. The first statement means that the Sun's heat output was 1/1.25 = 80% of present 3.8 billion years ago, while the second statement means that the Sun's heat output was 75% of the present 3.8 billion years ago. Quite a huge difference, I would say. Which is true? Another flaw, albeit a minor one in the context of the book.
Overall, the book is good and beautifully illustrated. But I cannot give it 5 stars because I believe that some of the arguements were not based on sound evidence, like the oxygen problem.