Monday, September 13, 2010

The Evolution of Air


I recently read The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. It is about Joseph Priestley and the Enlightenment movement that he was part of in England and America.

Joseph Priestley is the man who is commonly credited with discovering oxygen. Unfortunately Priestley was neither the first to isolate oxygen (that was Carl Scheele), the first to understand its true nature (Antoine Lavoisier), nor the one to give it the name we use today (Lavoisier again). Priestley was the first to publish the fact that he had isolated oxygen, and he was already well known for other pursuits, so his is the name we usually associate with oxygen.

But what I really want to know is - what the heck does the title of the book mean?

Obviously, no one including our hero Priestley "invented" air. The title must be a metaphor. I went to engineering school, so I won't be much help with the metaphors.

According to one of the reviewers quoted at the front of the book, who was clearly a literature major, the "invention of air" refers to "how groups of scientists, natural philosophers, religious leaders, and politicians served as cultural petri dishes in which ideas were discussed, experimented with, discarded, or accepted".

This is definitely one of the themes of the book. But using the K.I.S.S. principle of metaphor interpretation, I noticed that the few times the author actually used the word "invent" in the book, he was referring to evolution - as in 'Mother Nature invented this', or 'plants invented that'.

Supporting my simplistic decoding of the title is the fact that the author stresses the one thing Priestley unequivocally did discover - that whatever it was plants breathed out, animals breathed in. Priestley was the father of ecosystem science. For this he received the Copley Medal, the Nobel Prize of his day. The presenter of this award in 1773 could have been making a presentation today on "ecosystem services":
From these discoveries we are assured, that no vegetable grows in vain, but that from the oak of the forest to the grass of the field, every individual plant is serviceable to mankind.
So where does evolution come in? The author explains that when our Earth came into being, its atmosphere did not contain any oxygen. Some of the earliest life forms, cyanobacteria, evolved to use what they had available to them - water, sunlight and carbon dioxide. Their waste product, oxygen, was deadly to the other (anaerobic) microorganisms they were battling for world dominance. Great plan!

It would be millions of years before plants evolved that could make use of some of this waste oxygen, along with the water, sunlight and carbon dioxide, and produce even more waste oxygen. (Yes, plants do use oxygen for respiration. But since they produce more oxygen through photosynthesis than they use for respiration, we don't think of them as using oxygen too.)

It would be millions more years before animals evolved that would finally use up some of this waste oxygen. Before atmospheric oxygen levels settled into equilibrium at today's 21%, they climbed as high as 35%. This created some huge plants and animals in the Carboniferous period - mosses 130 feet tall, dragonflies with a wingspan of 2 1/2 feet, and millipedes 8 feet long.

Here's the 8 foot millipede (Arthropleura), advertising BBC's show Walking With Monsters. I'm sure glad I missed the Carboniferous.

87 comments:

  1. Thank you for the interesting review of "The Invention of Air." I am glad to know a bit more about Mr. P.
    Rebecca
    http://ayearwiththetrees.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. We are renowned as the Manufacturer of Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants and Acetylene plants.
    http://www.oxyplants.net/oxygenplant.php

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants, Oxygen Plants Manufacturers, Nitrogen Plants Manufacturers, Nitrogen Plants Suppliers India Bangalore.


    http://www.oxyplants.net

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oxyplants India deals mainly with Oxygen plants, Nitrogen plants. We are renowned as the Manufacturer of Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants and Acetylene plants.Oxygen Plants Manufacturers, Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants, Nitrogen Plants Manufacturers, Nitrogen Plants Suppliers India.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oxyplants India deals mainly with Oxygen plants, Nitrogen plants. We are renowned as the Manufacturer of Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants and Acetylene plants.Oxygen Plants Manufacturers, Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants, Nitrogen Plants Manufacturers, Nitrogen Plants Suppliers India.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oxyplants India deals mainly with Oxygen plants, Nitrogen plants. We are renowned as the Manufacturer of Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants and Acetylene plants.

    Oxygen Plants Manufacturers
    Nitrogen Plants Manufacturers
    Oxygen Plants
    Nitrogen Plants

    For more details Visit :- http://www.oxyplants.net/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oxyplants India deals mainly with Oxygen plants, Nitrogen plants. We are renowned as the Manufacturer of Oxygen Plants, Nitrogen Plants and Acetylene plants.

    Oxygen Plants Manufacturers
    Nitrogen Plants Manufacturers
    Oxygen Plants
    Nitrogen Plants

    For more details Visit :- http://www.oxyplants.net/

    ReplyDelete
  8. a new name UK Replica watches “Boutique” BR-X1 limited edition watch, design on the continuation of the style appearance, including signs of Watches Replica square watchcase and durable rubber strap etc. Designer handbags This watch is the biggest characteristic of red translucent dial with metallic red buttons, dials can be seen Replica Rolex Watches through the automatic movement inside the perplexing, instantly set off the movement style movement. In addition, the pointer is also used for handbag replica .

    ReplyDelete
  9. Công ty sản xuất giày nam đẹp cao cấp với giày công sở nam đẹp nhất và giày lười nam đẹp. Chuyên nhận thiết kế nội thất tại hà nội, đơn vị thiet ke noi that căn hộ chung cư vinhomes nguyễn trãi với nội thất tiện nghi chung cu vinhomes nguyen trai hiện đại trong thiết kế vinhomes nguyễn trãi đẳng cấp vinhomes nguyen trai là căn hộ cao cấp vinhome nguyen trai chất lượng hàng đầu vinhome nguyễn trãi gần gũi với thiên nhiên vincom nguyen trai trung tâm thương mại vincom nguyễn trãi

    ReplyDelete
  10. This blog is so nice to me. I will continue to come here again and again. Visit my link as well. Good luck
    cara menggugurkan kandungan
    cara menggugurkan kandungan

    ReplyDelete
  11. Some times its a pain in the ass to read what people wrote but this site is rattling user pleasant! .
    Canada Permanent Residence

    ReplyDelete
  12. We absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome web log! small business seo consultant

    ReplyDelete
  13. Over the years there have been many different Michael Kors Outlet Store launched with some being more successful than others. Even the Michael Kors Outlet that did not reach the dizzying heights of success as some of Michael Kors's best sellers were still very, very well made leather handbags. One such Michael Kors Outlet Store Online that became a fashion icon was the Michael Kors Wristlet Sale.
    If you want to get more information,click here!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This a nice read. Wonderful article. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Al Afsh Beneba Transport Co. All our services are provided by experts and specialists using the latest technology, advanced technology and tools. We have the expertise and make it in your hands.
    ارخص شركة نقل اثاث

    ReplyDelete
  16. Coach Outlet Online Clearance was the bamboo handle that was used on all of their Coach Factory Outlet Online to give it a distinction from all others. In fact, look at all other handbags to make sure that the style of the Coach Handbags Outlet Sale that you want to purchase is something that you will like. Never purchase Official Coach Factory Outlet Online based upon its namebrand recognition unless you truly do like the quality and style of the item.

    Tags:Coach Bags On Sale At Outlet | Coach Factory Online Sale Invitation | Coach Outlet Online Clearance

    Before purchasing Michael Kors Factory Outlet Online Store At Wholesale Price, it is important to have a mindset that allows you to find the right Michael Kors Factory because it is right for you. Any designer Michael Kors Factory Outlet Online, even a Discount Michael Kors Handbags, can make or break your image based upon your own personality and personal wardrobe. If you are looking for more information on Michael Kors,click here.

    Tags: Michael Kors Factory Outlet | Michael Kors Clearance Bags | Michael Kors Store Locator

    ReplyDelete
  17. Both things are possible if you carry Michael Kors Handbags Wholesale. If you are a woman who goes for innovative designs, a designer Michael Kors Bags On Sale is perfect for you. Offering a huge selection of chic purses, handbags, shoes and accessories, Michael Kors Outlet Online Store celebrates womanhood in an entirely unique way. Michael Kors Factory Outlet Online Store At Wholesale Price are one of the most sought-after handbags worldwide. We all agree that diamonds are a woman's best friend; however Official Coach Factory Outlet Online are absolutely next in line. To Coach Outlet Sale aficionados, don't fret because we have great news: a discount Official Coach Outlet Online isn't hard to find. If you are a smart shopper looking for a good buy and great deals on your next handbag purchase, you can go to Official Coach Outlet Online.

    Friendly Links: Toms Shoes Womens | Toms Clearance

    ReplyDelete

  18. شركة تنظيف الامارات

    شركة تنظيف دبي شركة نظافة بدبي
    شركة تنظيف كنب دبي بالبخار تنظيف كنب دبي بالبخار
    شركة غسيل سجاد بدبي غسيل سجاد دبي
    شركة تنظيف في ابوظبي شركات تنظيف ابوظبي
    شركة تنظيف منازل فى العين شركة تنظيف منازل العين
    شركات تنظيف كنب في ابوظبي شركات تنظيف كنب ابوظبي




    ReplyDelete
  19. Air Jordan Retro 15 Black Varsity Red, If (playing within the division) would lessen the travel, it would be more for that. It seems unlikely CFL games will be played before empty stadiums, which would prove to be a financial disaster, it possible players might have to be quarantined or, at the very least, face frequent testing for the coronavirus. Jones doesn believe the players would contest this likelihood..

    Air Jordan 1 Phat Low Black Varsity Red, Although there was no significant difference between treated and control group, 50 mg methylcobalamin treated patients with early start within 12 months' duration of diagnosis showed longer time intervals to the primary event and keep the Revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS R) score than the placebo group. The adverse effects by this treatment were similar and low prevalence among placebo, 25 mg or 50 mg groups. I think that the vitamin B12 analog treatment in combination with recent neuro protective drugs might be acceptable for future trials (2).

    Only once did he take a break, after he went through a particularly rough band break up. Didn listen to music for two years after that, he says. Was really like a girlfriend leaving you, like somebody stuck a stake through your heart.In 1992 Williams decided to move to Dallas to be closer to home. {tag: Resale Value Of Yeezy 350 V2 Triple White}

    As a patient whose life was saved by a ventilator, I believe it is an outrage and an embarrassment that a nation as wealthy as ours is even discussing possible ventilator shortages. {tag: Buy Yeezy Cloud White}

    Purple Black And White Jordan 1, This is home to some of the biggest sequoia trees in California. Take a nature break by watching and hearing some of the park's soundscapes, which is defined as "the human perception of the acoustic environment." Put simply, it's everything you would hear if you were there: a quail calling, the gushing of river water. You can choose soundscapes of different areas of the park..

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jordan Shoes For Sale Cheap Kovalev marks Alvarez's third bout since signing a five year, 11 fight deal worth a reported minimum of $365 million with DAZN last year..

    AbstractWe present the detection at 89 m (observed frame) of the Herschel selected gravitationally lensed starburst galaxy HATLAS J1429 Cheap Yeezy Shoes 0028 Coach Bags On Sale Online (also known as G15v2.19) in 15 Air Jordan 1 Sale minutes with the High resolution Airborne 2020 Jordan Release Dates Wideband Camera plus (HAWC+) onboard New Black Yeezys the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The spectacular lensing system consists of an edge on foreground disk galaxy at z = 0.22 and a nearly complete Einstein ring of an intrinsic ultra luminous infrared (IR) galaxy at z = 1.03. We MK Outlet perform a 27 band multiwavelength spectral energy distribution (SED) modeling Discount Jordan Shoes Wholesale including the new SOFIA/HAWC+ data to constrain the fractional AGN contribution to the total IR luminosity.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I know your expertise on this. I must say we should have an online discussion on this. Writing only comments will close the discussion straight away! And will restrict the benefits from this information. 토토

    ReplyDelete
  22. You delivered such an impressive piece to read, giving every subject enlightenment for us to gain information. Thanks for sharing such information with us due to which my several concepts have been cleared. 먹튀안전업체

    ReplyDelete
  23. I needed several examples to write an article on this subject, and your article was of great help to me.먹튀신고

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm so happy to finally find a post with what I want. You have inspired me a lot. If you are satisfied, 토토사이트 please visit my website and leave your feedback.

    ReplyDelete
  25. We have a site for sports games. 토토사이트 You must be interested. 토토사이트

    ReplyDelete
  26. I've been searching for hours on this topic and finally found your post. , I have read your post and I am very impressed. We prefer your opinion and will visit this site frequently to refer to your opinion. When would you like to visit my site? 바둑이사이트

    ReplyDelete
  27. Looking at this article, I miss the time when I didn't wear a mask. 먹튀검증 Hopefully this corona will end soon. My blog is a blog that mainly posts pictures of daily life before Corona and landscapes at that time. If you want to remember that time again, please visit us.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I need you to thank for your season of this awesome 먹튀검증!!! I definately appreciate each and every piece of it and I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff of your blog an absolute necessity read blog!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Youre so right. Im there with you. Your weblog is definitely worth a read if anyone comes throughout it. Im lucky I did because now Ive received a whole new view of this. 토토사이트

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm writing on this topic these days, , but I have stopped writing because there is no reference material. Then I accidentally found your article. I can refer to a variety of materials, so I think the work I was preparing will work! Thank you for your efforts. 바둑이사이트

    ReplyDelete
  31. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that will make the most important changes. Many thanks for sharing 메이저토토 !

    ReplyDelete
  32. There must have been many difficulties in providing this information.Bóng 88 Nevertheless, thank you for providing such high-quality information.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Many thanks for the article, I have a lot of spray lining knowledge but always learn something new. Keep up the good work and thank you again. 먹튀사이트

    ReplyDelete
  34. Right now it sounds like Movable Type is the preferred blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?
    바카라사이트

    ReplyDelete

  35. Hi there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

    my web page ➤ 오피사이트
    (jk)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Of course, your article is good enough, Tàixỉu but I thought it would be much better to see professional photos and videos together. There are articles and photos on these topics on my homepage, so please visit and share your opinions.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hello, I'm happy to see some great articles on your site. Would you like to come to my site later? My site also has posts, comments and communities similar to yours. Please visit and take a look 토토사이트

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi there i amm kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere,
    when i read this paragraph i thought i could also
    create comment due to this sensible post.
    대구오피

    ReplyDelete
  39. I got a web site from where I be capable of really obtain valuable information regarding my study and knowledge.
    Great Article… Good Job… Thanks For Sharing…

    Website:casino

    ReplyDelete
  40. First of all, thank you for your post. Bóng88 Your posts are neatly organized with the information I want, so there are plenty of resources to reference. I bookmark this site and will find your posts frequently in the future. Thanks again ^^

    ReplyDelete
  41. After exploring a few of the blog posts on your web site, I
    really like your way of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark
    website list and will be checking back soon. Take
    a look at my web site as well and tell me how you feel.부산오피

    ReplyDelete
  42. I'm so happy to finally find a post with what I want. 실시간바카라 You have inspired me a lot. If you are satisfied, please visit my website and leave your feedback.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. I wanted to thank you for this websites! Thanks for sharing. Great websites 메이저토토추천

    ReplyDelete
  44. When I read an article on this topic, the first thought was profound and difficult, and I wondered if others could understand.. My site has a discussion board for articles and photos similar to this topic. Could you please visit me when you have time to discuss this topic? Keo hay

    ReplyDelete
  45. This post is really magnificent. I really like this post. It is one of the best posts that I ve read in a long time. Thanks a lot for this really good post. I really appreciate it 메이저토토

    ReplyDelete
  46. Your writing is perfect and complete. However, I think it will be more wonderful if your post includes additional topics that I am thinking of. I have a lot of posts on my site similar to your topic. Would you like to visit once? kèo nhà cái

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi there, I simply hopped over in your website by way of StumbleUpon. Now not one thing I’d typically learn, but I favored your emotions none the less. Thank you for making something worth reading. 먹튀검증업체

    ReplyDelete
  48. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired! 토토


    ReplyDelete
  49. First of all, thank you for your post. Your posts are neatly organized with the information I want, so there are plenty of resources to reference. I bookmark this site and will find your posts frequently in the future. Thanks again ^^ phimsex

    ReplyDelete
  50. Your ideas inspired me very much. 메이저안전놀이터 It's amazing. I want to learn your writing skills. In fact, I also have a website. If you are okay, please visit once and leave your opinion. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I blog often and I truly appreciate your content.
    야설

    Feel free to visit my blog :
    야설

    ReplyDelete
  52. This great article has truly peaked my interest.
    일본야동
    Feel free to visit my blog : 일본야동

    ReplyDelete
  53. I’m going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new details about once per week.
    국산야동
    Feel free to visit my blog : 국산야동

    ReplyDelete
  54. I subscribed to your Feed too.
    일본야동
    Feel free to visit my blog : 일본야동

    ReplyDelete
  55. Hi there! This article could not be written much better!
    야설
    Feel free to visit my blog : 야설

    ReplyDelete
  56. You made some good points there. I did a Google search about the topic and found most people will believe your blog. 온라인카지노
    (mm)

    ReplyDelete
  57. You are terrific. You're actually like an angel that composed this outstanding things and also created it to your viewers. Your blog site is ideal, consisting of material format. This ability resembles an expert. Can you inform me your abilities, as well? I'm so interested. 바카라사이트

    ReplyDelete
  58. Nice post, you give the clear idea of the topic and I subscribed your blog, I have some links to share here
    Get up To 30% Off Buy Ambien 10mg Online
    Get up To 30% Off Buy Xanax 1mg online

    Get up To 30% Off ativan 2mg buy online

    Get up To 30% Off ativan 1mg tablet buy order

    ReplyDelete

  59. I found this is an informative blog and also very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this blog


    Get up To 50% Off buy modalert online

    Get up To 50% Off buy artvigil online
    Get up To 50% Off buy waklert online
    Get up To 50% Off buy vilafinil online

    ReplyDelete
  60. Thank you ffor this very good posts. I was wanting to know whether you
    weere planning of publishing similar posts to this. Keep up writing superb
    content articles!오피월드


    1YOUNGYANG

    ReplyDelete
  61. Do you have a spam problem on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wanting to know your
    situation; many of us have created some nice procedures and we are looking to swap methods
    with others, please shoot me an email if interested.사설경마


    7JIYANGWOOK

    ReplyDelete
  62. I finally found what I was looking for! I'm so happy. 사설토토사이트 Your article is what I've been looking for for a long time. I'm happy to find you like this. Could you visit my website if you have time? I'm sure you'll find a post of interest that you'll find interesting.

    ReplyDelete