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Sam Kean is the author of The Disappearing Spoon, The Violinist's Thumb, and The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery all of which were national bestsellers. The Disappearing Spoon was nominated by the Royal visa mer Society for one of the top science books of 2010, while The Violinist's Thumb was a finalist for PEN's literary science writing award. Kean's stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Psychology Today, and The New Scientist, among other places, and his work has been featured on "Radiolab" and NPR's "All Things Considered," among other shows. (Bowker Author Biography) visa färre
Foto taget av: San Kean, The Violinist's Thumb

Verk av Sam Kean

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2018 (2018) — Redaktör — 104 exemplar


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Sam Kean is a writer of books that discuss scientific discoveries in a relatable and entertaining style. Four of his books, The Violinist’s Thumb, The Disappearing Spoon, The Tale of The Dueling Neurosurgeons, and this one: Caesar’s Last Breath, were all named as Amazon's top science book of the year.

Caesar’s Last Breath tackles the subject of the air we breathe; of gases more generally; and how their composition on earth tells the story of the evolution of the earth and of the ways in which mankind has changed its planet.

Nitrogen and oxygen are the main ingredients of air, making up 99 per cent of what you inhale. If you ever wondered how small atoms (and in combination, molecules) actually are, Sam Kean includes a stunning set of statistics about the air we breathe. Every time you take a breath, you inhale nine sextillion molecules of nitrogen (78% of the air) and two sextillion molecules of oxygen (21% of air).

But you inhale a lot of the remaining 1% of molecules as well; for example, whenever you breathe, you take in 120 billion molecules of sulfur dioxide and 60 billion molecules of hydrogen sulfide. Other gases you breathe include methane, ethanol, helium, argon, and more.

That one per cent turns out to be pretty significant. It is responsible for all of global warming as well as all scents and perfumes. It includes gases released by volcanic eruptions, a number of pollutants from industrial development, and particles from nuclear bomb fallout.

Kean’s exploration of the history of the air we breathe is peppered with interesting and eccentric characters. He begins with Harry Randall Truman, a stubborn man who refused to leave Mount Saint Helens in 1980 even after two months worth of warnings from the mountain itself. He tells what would have happened to him, as well as to the victims of the great eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and how those volcanic gases altered the atmosphere.

He profiles various chemists who studied gases, such as Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier - executed during the French Revolution - who once mummified a colleague to study breathing. He describes attempts to affect levels of rainfall, to predict the weather, and to take advantage of layers of air in the atmosphere for spying, this latter effort leading to “UFO” sightings around Roswell, New Mexico in the late 1940s.

Evaluation: Kean is an excellent raconteur, and this collections of facts and anecdotes will have you itching to share them with everyone around you.
… (mer)
nbmars | 16 andra recensioner | Nov 6, 2023 |
This is one of those books that made me glad I abandoned the GR star rating system because.. well I have very mixed feelings and that doesn't translate well to a 5 star system!

I learned a LOT of really fascinating stuff here and glad that I read it for that reason. The writing itself-- well it was good and clear buuuut the amount of phrases like "to be sure" and "to be fair" (even just those two specific phrases alone) would have made for a dangerous drinking game. It gave the work a sort of... I dunno, unintentional apologist tone? It was weirdly "tbf" to horrible practices but did make an effort to *acknowledge* that (not super successfully in my own opinion) so yeah, glad I ditched star ratings.

I'd recommend to true crime fans interested in history and science that are willing to go in with a BIG grain of salt. The authorial tone can grate but the book does yield some really interesting looks into the facts of unethical scientific method throughout history. Audio narrator was terrific.
… (mer)
parasolofdoom | 9 andra recensioner | Oct 3, 2023 |
In Icepick surgeon Sam Kean looks for scientists who did bad things in the name of science. In doing so, he mostly tries to avoid the easy ways out: most of the chapters are about sincere scientists, who at least start out meaning well, not cartoon villains. And on the flip side, Kean makes clear that there is no justification for the sorts of harm inflicted by these scientists -- he reminds us again and again that this is not how science advances.

Reading it, I was stunned at how many of the tales were tales about scientists who did bad things in the name of MONEY, not science: taking to piracy, slave-trading, even murder with the goal of raising enough money to continue doing science. I complain bitterly about the NIH and the silly hoops for grant-funding, but at least science is funded. So much of historical science was only for people who were already gentry and could self-fund.… (mer)
settingshadow | 9 andra recensioner | Aug 19, 2023 |
I love Sam Kean and this pop science accounting of various atmospheric gases does not disappoint. Roughly arranged by contribution to Earth's atmosphere, the chapters bounce from hot air balloons to chemical warfare. Kean focuses on depth rather than breadth, making for memorable and engaging reading.
settingshadow | 16 andra recensioner | Aug 19, 2023 |



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