Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything

Robert M. Hazen. Norton, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-60943-1
In this clearly written study, Hazen, a George Mason University science professor, explores what is known about carbon’s impact on the universe’s 13.8-billion-year history, from the Big Bang and the formation of stars and planets to the origin and evolution of life. It is, he declares, the “most adaptable, most useful element of all.” Hazen demonstrates that carbon, unique among the elements for its versatility, is an essential subject for study both on a cosmic scale, for supplying the “most critical chemical link across the vastness of space and time,” and on Earth, for how human alterations to the global carbon cycle are causing significant climate change. Beyond the science, Hazen brings the process of scientific investigation to life. Whether he’s describing the way researchers measure the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes, and the grave risks associated with such endeavors, or how animals first produced calcium carbonate shells for protection, Hazen conveys the delight he finds in the process of understanding the world around him. Even while demonstrating just how much humanity has learned about the “element of life,” his enthusiastic survey also shows the limits of existing knowledge and the potential for future discoveries in an exciting field. (June)
Reviewed on : 02/20/2019
Release date: 06/11/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68457-084-3
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