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The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  54 ratings  ·  11 reviews
The story of carbon—the building block of life that, ironically, is humanity’s great threat.

Carbon has always been the ubiquitous architect of life: Indeed, all living things need it to stay alive, and carbon cycles through organisms, ground, water, and atmosphere in a kind of global respiration system that helps keep Earth in balance. Yet, since the start of the industri
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Walker & Company (first published June 24th 2008)
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Jul 19, 2011 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Eric Roston
So I know the author -- he was a couple years ahead of me on the Columbia Spectator. I found this book at the SFO bookstore before boarding a red-eye to New York, and figured it was appropriate reading for a cross-country flight. It's one of the better non-fiction science books I've read recently, right up there with "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Eric does a good job of explaining complex chemical reactions in lay language; the concepts are never dry or obtuse. The book is elegantly st ...more
It was really quite informative. The author separates the book into two parts; part 1 being "natural" carbon, part 2 being "unnatural" carbon. (The author does qualify that by saying there's no such thing as "unnatural" carbon. However, it's a conscious grammatical use whose purpose is to simplify the different between the natural world (the natural process of carbon through the atmosphere, stars' formation and life, etc.), and the unnatural, or human, world (humans using and burning hydrocarbon ...more
Sep 07, 2008 Ashley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scientists
Recommended to Ashley by: someone on the radio
Science heavy. Informative. I appreciated this wasn't a preachy environmental book that threatens an apocalyptic ending as a result of our ignorant continuation of self indulgence. Instead it explains what carbon is, how it was formed (lots of earth origins info) and the result of our continual use of it. It also makes some interesting arguments regarding how resistant humans are to changing their lifestyle for the sake of future generations, and some ways to make it economically rewarding to us ...more
Sep 05, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Great book! The author uses wonderfully creative language to bring the science to life. Here's a snippet: "The story of carbon is also oxygen's tale. They are the Lennon and McCartney of the periodic table. They each have solo careers, but neither is as compelling as their ensemble work." (p. 50)

S. R.
Outstanding. Even-handed, well-researched, accessibly written and full of illuminating observations. Carefully avoids preaching or hyperbole but still takes current situation very seriously and from a thoughtful, scientific point of view.
Wonderful, wonderful science read worth owning (forget the gimicky subtitle).
Cosmology, physics, chemistry, ecology, climate -- it's all here, woven together to explain our world -- how it happened and where it's going.

The author, Roston, makes technical information quite understandable. His frequent references to historical context is especially useful, I think.
Chapters 6 through 9 are outstanding for biologists.
Intense and dense...better get your chemistry books out for review. Makes me want to be a carbon scientist. One of those books, one can read more than once to fully understand.
A big bowl of ok. The claim on the book of the author being a "super storyteller" is itself a bit of story. But overall - a useful read - just not terribly gripping.
Dave Martin
an interesting perspective of carbon, its place in the universe, Earth, life and our society
very interesting and insightful so far, very broad sweep.
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