Life's Matrix: Biography of Water

Philip Ball, Author, Phillip Ball, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (417p) ISBN 978-0-374-18628-9
Water, water everywhere: from cell nuclei to the morning dew and the polar icecaps, water matters in every biological and almost every physical process we can observe on earth. Ball (Designing the Molecular World) has therefore written a very ambitious book: physics and chemistry of many varieties, cell biology, geology, volcanology, climatology, the history of science, gardening, near-earth astronomy and even urban planning and Middle East politics enter into his fact-packed and pleasurably long flume ride of a book. Ball moves swimmingly from the Big Bang to the discovery of hydrogen, oxygen and molecular structure and then into the workings of rivers, groundwater flow, oceanic currents and evapotranspiration, which together make up the all-important hydrological cycle. That cycle in turn depends on properties that make water exceptionalDamong them its ""ability to exist in more than one physical stateDsolid, liquid or gasD... at the surface of the planet."" Frozen water in glaciers, advancing or retreating as earth cooled or warmed, created much of our present landscape. Atmospheric water interacts constantly with air currents to keep California's vineyards fertile or to flatten Bangladesh with frequent cyclones. Ball covers the early investigators who tried to figure out how liquids behave. He considers how ions in water work, and what this means for solar power. And he looks at the brouhaha over ""polywater,"" a sort of '70s prequel to cold fusion. ""Water's inner nature, the physics and chemistry of its unique personality"" might have flummoxed a lesser writer, but Ball has composed for the serious reader a definitive account of rain, sleet, snow, vapor and other forms of H2OD""why it is so remarkable a substance, and why as a result it is the matrix of life."" (June)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 417 pages - 978-0-520-23008-8
Ebook - 433 pages - 978-0-520-92749-0
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