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Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  109 ratings  ·  18 reviews
The air we breathe is twenty-one percent oxygen, an amount higher than on any other known world. While we may take our air for granted, Earth was not always an oxygenated planet. How did it become this way? "Oxygen" is the most current account of the history of atmospheric oxygen on Earth. Donald Canfield--one of the world's leading authorities on geochemistry, earth ...more
Hardcover, 196 pages
Published January 19th 2014 by Princeton University Press (first published November 21st 2013)
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Andrew Davis
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: natural-science
An excellent example of what a popular science book should be. Some criticised it for being too technical. I disagree. With so much material on Internet, one can easily clarify some of the more difficult parts, even when admittedly some of the passages could be explained a bit better. The author is a prominent expert in his field and that's perhaps why. I prefer this to an approach, often used by journalists or the science popularisers, to ensure maximal understanding whilst oversimplifying the ...more
Sally
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This book describes current research on the history of oxygen in earth's atmosphere. It was particularly good at conveying the collegiality of science and the way that data and conflicting hypotheses are built up, tested and rethought. While written for the general public, reading it requires close attention.

I found it sobering that the tremendous quantities of cyanobacteria existing in the oceans were only discovered in 1979 since they were too small to be caught in the netting used to gather
...more
Steve
Dec 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I often complain about popular science books written by journalists, and how they often elide over many of the technical details, which is where the mystery and the beauty lie. This book is kind of the opposite: a working scientist who writes moderately well, but gets a little too lost in the details, Which in the end it makes me wonder who the intended audience is.

The subject, how did the Earth's atmosphere get to have so much free oxygen, is massive and inspiring, and there seem to be few
...more
Daniel Martins
When I first heard about Oxygen I immediately wanted to read it. This is an amazingly important topic for understanding the history of life on Earth and it was written by a true renowned specialist, Prof. Donald Canfield. Although the positives hugely outweigh the negatives, such as the author's clear and precise use of language and the careful selection and exposure of data, there were some distracting features such as the oversimplification of relatively simple geological and biological ...more
Anett Kovacs
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-y, nonfiction
In Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History, ecology professor Donald E. Canfield recounts the history of Earth's atmosphere, focusing on one of the most important elements of life: oxygen. The author describes scientific theories around the oxygenation of our planet and their evolution precisely and in a very detailed manner.
This book is a bit more technical than your typical popular science book, which I enjoy but it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Nevertheless, it is a very informative book
...more
Steven
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although this is a popular science book written for a general audience, there are a few technical spots. Canfield does a superb job describing the great oxygen event and the subsequent reducing atmosphere that caused the great rusting or oxidizing event. Banded iron formations are evidence of this. The rise in oxygen brought an increase in biodiversity. Canfield does an excellent job of detailing the history of oxygen on Earth.
Megan
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cool-science
This might be better if you have a more thorough chemistry background. The topic was interesting, but the book was weighed down by chemical diagrams and reaction equations.
Peter Tillman
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-tech
Good book, by a student of Bob Garrels. See notes.

Sadly, it's due. I'll have to get it back to finish it. Too many books!

Set back to "want to read" for now.....
Steve Jones
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a quite readable, and interesting, book by one of the world's leading authorities on geochemistry, earth history, and the early oceans. It covers the evidence gathered over the last several decades (and before) concerning the evolution of Oxygen in Earth's atmosphere. Other popular science accounts on this and related topics have given a more detailed (and maybe misleading?) account of the changes in the Oxygen content of the atmosphere, but Canfield is much more conservative in his ...more
Ahmed
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
كتاب جميل جدا استمتعت به وتعلمت منه كثيرا...لغة الكتاب علمية في الاغلب ولكن الكاتب احيانا يمزج معه الاسلوب الروائي والكوميدي مما يجعلك لاتستطيع التوقف عن المتابعة....
يتحدث الكتاب عن تكون الاوكسجين في الارض عبر العصور....كيف بدات ال ساينو باكتريا بستخدام وانتاج الاكسجين من قبل ٢ ونصف بليار سنة....عوامل وطرق اخرى لانتاج الطاقة كانت موجودة قبل الاوكسجين ولازالت كالسولفات والميتان وايونات الحديد.....كيف يتم الحفاض على مستوى الاوكسجين عن طريق
Negative and positive feedback mechanisms
وستغربت جدا كيف ان
...more
timv
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Theres a interesting story to be told about the enabling of life on earth by the creation of an oxygen rich environment in early geological history, but this story gets lost in the unnecessary details of this book. I am constantly irritated by academic writers who spend all sorts of energy and page space writing what good friend of theirs proposed an insignificant detail in an obscure academic journal. Yes, these details are important in your academic field, but the rest of us really dont want ...more
Jacob Blandford
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I have been wanting to read this book for awhile and so I had high expectations. It was a good book but it did not live up to my expectations. This book contained great information,much of it new to me, but I did not like the intellectual level it was written to. Canfield said that he was writing it for a broader audience than just scientists and I feel like he accomplished this goal. I just wished it had higher level science.
Mark Moon
I thought this would be a pop-science introduction to geochemistry, but it turned out to have all the technical details I could have ever wanted (and more!). Some of the history-of-geochemistry tangents were of less interest to me, but overall this is a succinct and readable summary of what we know about the history of oxygen on Earth.

I read this as part of my ongoing project of getting to grips with *(big) history.
Susanne
Jun 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Purportedly a book written for the masses and including the latest research, Oxygen delivers on the latter but fails abysmally on the former. Only a geochemist could love this book, and most members of the public would find little that is comprehensible. Too bad; I was really looking forward to learning some interesting new information about the formation of the modern atmosphere.
Bbarr
Dec 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Good and worth reading, although difficult at times. It gave me a new perspective on Earth's geological history and how it relates to the development of life. As someone who teaches about photosynthesis I was hoping for a more biochemical point of view (less about rocks.). I had considered having my students read it, but I am leaning against that now.
Science For The People
Featured on Science for the People show #267 on May 30, 2014, during an interview with author Donald Canfield. http://www.scienceforthepeople.ca/epi...
Travis Williams
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Excellent overview of earth history.
Steve Walker
Interesting introduction to one of the hot topics in early planetary geology and biology.
Brandon Cinquepalmi
rated it it was amazing
Aug 03, 2015
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Jun 19, 2016
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Jul 15, 2014
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Adam Frank is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and co-founder of NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog and an on-air ...
67 likes · 10 comments
“oxygen-evolving complex (OEC),” 0 likes
“photosystem I (PSI) and the other as photosystem II (PSII). They are coupled together in what is commonly called the Z-scheme,” 0 likes
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