Oxygen by Nick Lane
The molecule that made the world (Popular Science)

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews



Oxygen has had extraordinary effects on life.

Three hundred million years ago, in Carboniferous times, dragonflies grew as big as seagulls, with wingspans of
nearly a metre. Researchers claim they could have flown only if the air had contained more oxygen than today -
probably as much as 35 per cent. Giant spiders, tree-ferns, marine rock formations and fossil charcoals
all tell the same story. High oxygen levels may also explain the global firestorm that contributed to the
demise of the dinosaurs after the asteroid impact.

The strange and profound effects that oxygen has had on the evolution of life pose a riddle, which this book
sets out to answer. Oxygen is a toxic gas. Divers breathing pure oxygen at depth suffer from convulsions
and lung injury. Fruit flies raised at twice normal atmospheric levels of oxygen live half as long as their
siblings. Reactive forms of oxygen, known as free radicals, are thought to cause ageing in people. Yet if
atmospheric oxygen reached 35 per cent in the Carboniferous, why did it promote exuberant growth,
instead of rapid ageing and death?

Oxygen takes the reader on an enthralling journey, as gripping as a thriller, as it unravels the unexpected
ways in which oxygen spurred the evolution of life and death. The book explains far more than the size of
ancient insects: it shows how oxygen underpins the origin of biological complexity, the birth of photosynthesis, the sudden evolution of animals, the need for two sexes, the accelerated ageing of cloned animals like Dolly the sheep, and the surprisingly long lives of bats and birds.

Drawing on this grand evolutionary canvas, Oxygen offers fresh perspectives on our own lives and deaths,
explaining modern killer diseases, why we age, and what we can do about it. Advancing revelatory new ideas,
following chains of evidence, the book ranges through many disciplines, from environmental sciences to
molecular medicine. The result is a captivating vision of contemporary science and a humane synthesis of our
place in nature. This remarkable book will redefine the way we think about the world.

About Nick Lane

See more books from this Author
Nick Lane is a biochemist and honorary reader at University College London, where he lives. His book Power, Sex, Suicide was named an Economist Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Aventis Science Book Prize.
Published September 26, 2002 by OUP Oxford. 384 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Oxygen

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

British biochemist Lane (University College, London) examines questions of life and death as seen through the lens of oxygen.

Jun 24 2010 | Read Full Review of Oxygen: The molecule that mad...

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

Oxygen, like hydrogen, can exist in free form only as a molecule - two atoms joined together - because both elements are highly reactive.

Nov 22 2002 | Read Full Review of Oxygen: The molecule that mad...

Reader Rating for Oxygen

An aggregated and normalized score based on 55 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review