The remarkable scientific story of how Earth became an oxygenated planet
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? Donald Canfield—one of the world's leading authorities on geochemistry, earth history, and the early oceans—covers this vast history, emphasizing its relationship to the evolution of life and the evolving chemistry of the Earth. Canfield guides readers through the various lines of scientific evidence, considers some of the wrong turns and dead ends along the way, and highlights the scientists and researchers who have made key discoveries in the field. Showing how Earth’s atmosphere developed over time, Oxygen takes readers on a remarkable journey through the history of the oxygenation of our planet.
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Oxygen reviewed by Douglas Mashburn
After reading Donald Canfield's book Oxygen, one can't help but see the proposed terraforming of Mars and possible extrasolar planets in a few centuries as downright laughable. What the author shows is that such a process takes billions of years. And it is far more intricate and intertwined with Geologic processes such as plate tectonics, sediment buildup, subsequent eruption and weathering, volcanism, more weathering, etc.
What does this mean for the likelihood of finding extraterrestrial life somewhat like ourselves? Even tho the number of planets discovered is in the hundreds with candidates in the thousands, and extrapolated predictions in the billions? The intricacy and chance accumulation of fundamental cellular chemistry over billions of years seems unlikely to be duplicated.
Those of us brainwashed by StarTrek, Star Wars, and hundreds of Science Fiction books, face a serious reeducation task. This is a good place to start. If you can absorb it in one read, you're way smarter than me, an engineer/physicist. But even a cursory read should convince you it's important.
I found the EarthViewer App for the iPad very helpful to refer to while reading this book.