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This book describes the interlaced histories of life and oxygen. It opens with the generation of oxygen in ancient stars and its distribution to newly formed planets like the Earth. Free O2 was not available on the early Earth, so the first life forms had to be anaerobic. Life introduced free O2 into the environment through the evolution of photosynthesis, which must have been a disaster for many anaerobes. Others found ways to deal with the toxic reactive oxygen species and even developed a much more efficient oxygen-based metabolism.
The authors vividly describe how the introduction of O2 allowed the burst of evolution that created today's biota. They also discuss the interplay of O2 and CO2, with consequences such as worldwide glaciations and global warming. On the physiological level, they present an overview of oxidative metabolism and O2 transport, and the importance of O2 in human life and medicine, emphasizing that while oxygen is essential, it is also related to aging and many disease states.
Oxygen, its nature and chemistry.-- What is so special about this element? -- A brief history of oxygen.-- Coping with oxygen.-- Aerobic metabolism -- benefits from an oxygenated world.-- Facilitated oxygen transport.-- Climate over the ages; is the environment stable? -- Global warming: human intervention in world climate. -- Oxygen in medicine.-- Oxygen and the exploration of the universe.