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Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World Hardcover – 1 Sep 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198508034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198508038
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 3.4 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,067,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"...Nick Lane marshals an impressive array of evidence - [an] ambitious narrative [...]This is science writing at its best" -- Jerome Burne The Financial Times

A glorious book that tells of dragonflies as big as seagulls, the magic of photosynthesis...and why we get old. Do NOT miss this book! -- David Freeman, Relaxwithabook.com, August 2002

A truly unique book which takes the reader into unknown territory... might well become the talking point of 2003. -- John Emsley, Chemistry at Cambridge, Autumn 2002

A wonderful book... a scientific saga as compelling as any creation myth and Lane tells it with appropriate zeal -- Tim Lenton, Times Higher Educational Supplement

An extraordinary orchestration of disparate scientific disciplines, connecting the origins of life on earth with disease, age and death in human beings. -- Sunday Times (John Cornwell)

Highly ambitious... a piece of radical scientific polemic, nothing less than a total rethink of how life evolved... science writing at its best. -- Jerome Burne, Financial Times 16 November 2002

Lane overturns theories about how our planet came to have an atmosphere that was 21% oxygen... -- The Times, October 5, 2002

Lane's learning and historical scope enable vivid descriptions of the role oxygen has played in determining the course of evolution -- Times Literary Supplement (Michael Peel)

Oxygen is the story of life on Earth.... Lane’s chapters are dispatches from the frontiers of research into Earth and life history.... -- The Guardian (Tim Radford)

[Oxygen's] history has never been told as well as Lane tells it here... one of the better books to appear this year. -- David Payne, Focus Magazine, November 2002

an entertaining and cogent account of how oxidative stress fits in to our rapidly expanding knowledge about ageing... deserves to be widely read -- Nature (Tom Kirkwood)

From the Back Cover

'...popular science writing at its very best - clear yet challenging, speculative yet rigorous. The book is a tour de force which orchestrates a seamless story out of both venerable ideas and very recent discoveries in several disparate fields.'
Bernard Dixon

'... a breathtaking, broad vision of the role of a single gas in our life, from the origin of organisms, through the emergence of creatures, and to their deaths ... packed full of interesting life- and death-stories .... A wonderful read.'
Peter Atkins

'... one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read.'
John Emsley

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book gives a very broad and thoughtful perspective on the importance of oxygen in the development of life on Earth. The chain of reasoning is long and brings to contact discoveries from a series of disciplines otherwise apparently unrelated to each other. In this aspect lies one of the greatest strengths of this book, as it shows, as few have been able to shown, how important it is to have a broad perspective and an open mind to undertake a scientific research program. Besides, the author is most critic to the current trends in medical research, most of them can be traced back to such problems as over-specialisation, and lack of knowledge from nearby research fields. The huge amounts of data accumulating every day leaving no time to reduce it properly and put it coherently in a workable body of knowledge does not help either.
What does this book deal with? Oxygen is an all-important molecule, which is fundamental to life, however it is also a threatening and toxic element as well. Through this book, Nick Lane explains the importance oxygen had in the evolution of life. How it is inferred that our Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) possessed already a series of genes and proteins that lasted until our present days. How these have developed in response to oxidation stress from the environment. How the responses are similar to an organism's reaction to an infectious disease. How this is related to diseases such as Alzheimer, cancer and diabetes. How this can give clues to unravel the secrets of ageing in organisms and the search for better ways to extend a person's life span.
The book covers the early biological, atmospheric, and geological evolution of the Earth. It presents basic biochemical reaction mechanisms. It covers biology and medical research.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The truly fascinating story of how oxygen shaped our world and ourselves. Without oxygen and the life it made possible, the Earth today would look like Mars; we need oxygen to survive, yet it causes our bodies to deteriorate and eventually succumb to disease. If nothing else kills you, just breathing will!

Writing objectively and entertainingly about science is a challenge that Nick Lane pulls off brilliantly in this book. Lay readers like me should be grateful that the author has resisted the temptation to over-simplify, for mass market consumption, such a richly complex subject area as this. Consequently one does need to concentrate in order to follow the plot, but Lane's way of connecting scientific ideas through their evolutionary history provides a sure thread - a thread strung with many pearls. Time after time, through painstaking research and brilliant insights, scientific notions arrive and have their day, only to be demolished by new evidence and replaced by a new paradigm. The chapters unfold like detective stories, with sub-plots, twists and turns in mankind's long struggle to understand. By the end one feels as well informed as anyone else on the planet and ready to explore the side-avenues of knowledge lying wait in the many literature sources cited.
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Format: Paperback
Absolutely loved this book, although it took me a month to get through. Having studied biochemistry at university I found that many of the concepts in the book were familiar to me (such as respiration, photosynthesis, and oxygen free radicals), but perhaps a reader with a more casual interest in science might struggle in places. Half of the book dwells heavily upon a very detailed history of the evolution of early life forms on the planet- perhaps for a bit too long really- but remains readable and interesting throughout. However, for me the second half was more exciting, with its discussion of antioxidants and the 'darker side' to Vitamin C, some revelations about the strong link between the fecundity and the longevity of a species, and how oxidative stress underlies all age-related diseases.
This book will make you feel an awful lot more well-informed about aging and about the evolution of life, and is reassuringly optimistic about the former, stating that: "aging is neither programmed nor inevitable".
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Format: Paperback
This book sets out the complex relationship between oxygen and life. In particular Lane discusses how organisms have adapted to using oxygen for respiration despite the inevitable production of damaging free radicals. These leads on to the role of anti-oxidants and ageing.

The concepts are introduced thick and fast. By the end you will be an expert on the differences between the Dispoable Soma and Antagonistic Pleitropy theories of ageing! However, the use of diagrams and illustrations is sparing and a general reader will find several chapters a struggle. Some sections read like a biochemistry text book and it is also unclear when he deviates from mainstream thinking into more controversial theories.

A readable account, but this belies the level of difficulty of some of the concepts and pushes it somewhat beyond the popular science genre.
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This book is very well written and informative. There is lots of information here about the role of oxygen in the body. This is too difficult a topic to make for an easy read, but should be well within the capability of any interested person.
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