Gaia's Body: Toward a Physiology of Earth / Edition 1

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Overview

The concept of Gaia resonates with a wide range of people -- from nature lovers,
theologians, and philosophers to environmental and earth systems scientists. The term, which scientist James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hyposthesis, borrowed from Greek mythology, refers to the interacting system of life, soil, atmosphere, and ocean. Like the interiors of organisms,
Gaia contains complex cycles and material transformations driven by biological energy. Gaia's inclusion of life means that from some perspectives it resembles life. But Gaia also differs from organisms in significant ways. Although it has changed through time, it does not evolve in a
Darwinian sense. Whereas organisms are open, flow-through systems, Gaia is relatively closed to material transfer across its borders. It exists according to its own level of operating rules, a level as complex as that of organisms and the subject of the emerging field known as Earth physiology, or geophysiology.Blending science and evocative imagery, Gaia's Body offers an engaging introduction to this new field. It explains how every important chemical in the atmosphere is regulated by living processes -- why, for example, strange, spaghetti-like bacteria off the coast of
Chile have an intimate connection with the plants in Long Island backyards; why "biochemical guilds"
may be Earth's most important unit of life; and how scientists have detected the biosphere's
"breathing." The book includes a Preface written for the paperback edition.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Full of fresh and stimulating perspectives on Earth System science for any student or teacher in that field." Bill Chaloner Biologist

The MIT Press

" Gaia"s Body is an outstanding contribution to global ecology...it brings the Gaia concept to the heart of science." Peter Westbroek Nature

The MIT Press

"Volk writes splendidly and passionately, but avoids the trap of letting his command of language stand in for scientific clarity." Fred Pearce New Scientist

The MIT Press

"Volk... weaves a tapestry of solar radiation, plate tectonics, and atmospheric chemistry, all bound by engaging prose..." Joel D. Gunn Quarterly Review of Biology

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262720427
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 291
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Tyler Volk is Science Director of Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at New York
University. He is the author of Gaia's Body: Toward a Physiology of the Earth
(MIT Press, 2003), Metapatterns: Across Space, Time, and Mind, and other books.
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Table of Contents

Preface: Fantastic Voyagers
Acknowledgements

1. Breathing of the Biosphere
2. A Global Holarchy
3. Outer Light, Inner Fire
4. The Parts of Gaia
5. Worldwide Metabolisms
6. Embodied Energy
7. The Music of This Sphere
8, Gaia in Time

Bibliography
Index
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2000

    If you read one book on the Gaia hypothesis, this should be it.

    Tyler Volk created a thoughtful and well written book that clearly defines the biogeochemical mechanisms that govern the biosphere. Reading this book is like reading a gripping who-dunit ¿ you don¿t want to put it down. The 'Gaia in Time' chapter captivated me with its analogy of viewing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as an integral of a complex web of biogeochemical cycles. How this proxy was shifted by cryptogamic microbial crusts, photosynthetic organisms, nitrogen fixers, non-photosynthetic sulfide oxidizers, land plants, and calcareous plankton fascinated me. If you read one book on the Gaia hypothesis, this should be it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2000

    The Unity of Life

    Volk takes an appealingly folksy and romantic concept and turns it into the stuff that even scientists can't scoff at. Seeing the interdependence of all living organisms in a system helps drive home the point that no human act is without repercussions. Volk's prose is vivid enough to please an English major, and substantive enough to subdue biogeochemists and their ilk the world over. Read Gaia's Body and see how molecular mechanisms can make meaning and metaphor for both poets and scientists.

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