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Air: The Restless Shaper of the World

Air: The Restless Shaper of the World

by William Bryant Logan


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In a sublime exploration of the most unpredictable element of the earth, William Bryant Logan opens our eyes to the astonishing physics, chemistry, biology, history, art, and even music of the air.

Air sustains the living. Every creature breathes to live, exchanging and changing the atmosphere. Water and dust spin and rise, make clouds and fall again, fertilizing the dirt. Twenty thousand fungal spores and half a million bacteria travel in a square foot of summer air. The chemical sense of aphids, the ultraviolet sight of swifts, a newborn’s awareness of its mother’s breast—all take place in the medium of air.

Ignorance of the air is costly. The artist Eva Hesse died of inhaling her fiberglass medium. Thousands were sickened after 9/11 by supposedly “safe” air. The African Sahel suffers drought in part because we fill the air with industrial dusts. With the passionate narrative style and wide-ranging erudition that have made William Bryant Logan’s work a touchstone for nature lovers and environmentalists, Air is—like the contents of a bag of seaborne dust that Darwin collected aboard the Beagle—a treasure trove of discovery.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393345391
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/01/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

William Bryant Logan is a practicing arborist and the author of four acclaimed books on nature: Sprout Lands, Dirt, Oak, and Air. He is on the faculty of the New York Botanical Garden and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1


Darwin's Dust 24

The Spore Sucker 33

Where Fungi Are 48

Splash, Fire, Blow, Fling 50

The Ergot of the Rye 59

Lifted, Lofted, and Living 63

The Pollen Rain 66

Invisible Cities 71

Is the Furniture Poison? 76

The Air after 9/11 82


Weaving 90

Vortices 99

Ground Truth 108

El Greco's Clouds 115

The Big Mistake 122

The Forecasters 128

The Weather on D-Day 139

Forcing 146

The Winds 152

Firestorm 162


Dragged Aloft 168

Saab in Flight 171

The Common Crane 174

Stall Practice 181

The Bat, the Bee, the Bar-Headed Goose 192

The Lee Wave 201

The Wind Riders 205

What Now? 216


The Wilderness of Pheromones 226

Mother and Child Communion 233

Allure 237

The Atmosphere of the Beloved 243

Zooming In 248

Aphids in the Invisible World 255

The Bolas Spider 258


What Is Sound? 262

Parrot Duets 267

Tfce Answered Question 272

Nothing in It but What Goes through It 277

Enchanted 282

Sonata Form and Chaos 289

The Aeolian Harp 295


The Tarpon's Breath 300

Fenchel's Dance 305

The Quantity of Breath 312

Fogging the Mirror 322

Shall These Bones Live? 328


Why the Daytime Sky Is Light 336

There Is Only One Sun 338

The Sap Rising 342

The Air Is a Slow Cold Flame 348

Notes 352

Bibliography 370

Index 385

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