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How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind

Popular Science

By: Charles H Langmuir(Author), Wally Broecker(Author)

734 pages, 16 plates with colour photos, colour illustrations; 62 b/w photos, 220 b/w illustrations, 28 tables

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Aug 2012 | Edition: 2 | #198060 | ISBN-13: 9780691140063
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £36.99 $48 / €42 approx

About this book

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world's leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand How to Build a Habitable Planet for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth's complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. How to Build a Habitable Planet also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth's habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

"[T]his classic history of our common home with the latest discoveries in planetary science [...] is a cutting-edge exploration of the Earth's evolution from the Big Bang to the advent of human civilization."
- Barnes & Noble Review

"In this comprehensive and engaging tour of environmental science, world-leading authorities Charles Langmuir and Wally Broecker provide the residents of the only habitable planet we know with the essential knowledge of how we got here and where we might be going."
- Richard Alley, Pennsylvania State University

"As NASA continues to assess the habitability of our planetary neighbor, Mars, this insightful and approachable book is a timely reminder of how important it is to understand the habitability of our own Earth. Comprehensive and up-to-date, it exposes how ideas, imperfect understanding, and controversies drive scientific knowledge forward."
- Roger Everett Summons, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"This is a magnificent book, a successful and very worthwhile revision of its legendary and coveted first edition. The new edition offers more than a minor dusting off of the material. There are some completely new chapters and the authors have also done a good job of introducing newer discoveries. This book is more timely than ever, and I greet this revision with uncontained enthusiasm."
- Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, University of Chicago

"This book is exceptionally well written and easy to read. The authors have taken a huge and complex topic and simplified it, removed the jargon, used analogies common to everyday experience, and as a result made a book that should be accessible and enjoyable to readers with little background in science."
- Becky Alexander, University of Washington

"This book is a monster. More than 700 pages long, it has 21 chapters that deal with a variety of important topics from the Big Bang, the formation of organic and inorganic molecules, formation of the Earth, plate tectonics, the coevolution of life and our planet, weather and climate change, the rise of humans and the question of habitability in the universe. This book is a very complete and thorough reference work, where individual chapters can provide an excellent working background for those who want to learn the fundamentals associated with a particular topic before launching into a more in-depth study of some aspect of that field. It's filled with data, diagrammes and photographs, it has a glossary and index, and each chapter has a list of useful supplementary readings."
- Hedwig Pöllöläinen, Guardian, August 2012

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Charles H. Langmuir is the Higgins Professor of Geochemistry at Harvard University. Wally Broecker is the Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and the author of Fixing Climate and The Great Ocean Conveyor, among other books. Both are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

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