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Publisher's Summary

Three hundred million years ago, in Carboniferous times, dragonflies grew as big as seagulls, with wingspans of nearly a meter. Researchers claim they could have flown only if the air had contained more oxygen than today - probably as much as 35 percent. 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 that this audiobook 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 the normal atmospheric levels of oxygen live half as long as their siblings. Reactive forms of oxygen, known as free radicals, are thought to cause aging in people. Yet if atmospheric oxygen reached 35 percent in the Carboniferous, why did it promote exuberant growth instead of rapid aging and death?

Oxygen takes the listener 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.

©2002 Nick Lane (P)2020 Tantor

What listeners say about Oxygen

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    5 out of 5 stars

A Story About Pretty Much Everything

Super interesting book that covers the formation of the earth, the beginning of life on our planet, evolution, genetics, health, lifestyle, diet, etc. Lot's of new information to me like:

1. LUCA, the last universal common ancestor or last universal cellular ancestor (LUCA), is the most recent population of organisms from which all organisms now living on Earth have a common descent, the most recent common ancestor of all current life on Earth.

2. The Great Oxidation Even or Catastrophe might not have been a catastrophe at all. Meaning, a surplus of oxygen in the atmosphere after the invention of photosynthesis might not have caused a mass extinction as has been widely speculated.

3. Photosynthesis evolved only once.

4. Were it not for the invention of photosynthesis, which created a surplus of oxygen in the atmosphere, which in turn helped to create an ozone layer, Earth would have lost it's liquid oceans to evaporation as happened to the liquid oceans on Mars and Venus. This also points to the fact that if life ever existed on Mars and Venus, it certainly never evolved the ability to photosynthesis.

5. Mitochondria, by taking up residence, or more likely, seeking refuge inside a the cell membrane, might have found a way to perpetuate the conditions of a low-oxygen environment from which it originally evolved as a bacteria billions of years ago! Whoa!

Finally, I listed to the audio book which was read by Nigel Patterson. Patterson might be my favorite narrator. I could listen to him read just about anything.

11 people found this helpful

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Loved it

Such an outstanding review of a complex subject without dumbing it down. I think I shall listen to it multiple times.

3 people found this helpful

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The science of where oxygen came from & adaption.


very comprehensive, full of science that had passed me bye since graduating College. A lot to still learn, it will be a better read during the next read.

2 people found this helpful

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The Very Best of The Best

This was the third and my favorite of books written by Nick Lane, my new favorite biochemist/author . This book with the “simple” title of Oxygen weaves together General chemistry, biochemistry, geochemistry, organic chemistry, plate tectonics , nutrition, life origin research...... the list is endless . Yet these seemingly minimally related topics are deftly woven together to cover most things I imagined might be covered in a book named after the element, and many more I never considered . A thoroughly enjoyable was to spend an entire day.
I’m sure to go back through it time and again!

2 people found this helpful

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Great read!

Nick Lane is one of my favourite authors. His story telling and writing style makes complex scientific concepts come to life, and easy to understand.

1 person found this helpful

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Very insightful

Great information, and a cool premise about how life evolved and oxygen's role in that evolutionary story. I enjoyed the narrator. Some chapters were dull and difficult to get through, but aside from that it was good

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Exceeded my expectations; highly recommended

Very interesting how the author ties in so many seemingly unrelated topics but makes them an interesting part of the story. He was great at explaining the relationships at a level that made it interesting and understandable but w/o requiring a Masters degree in the subject matter or making it boring. I appreciated how he compared and evaluated various explanations and how he and others arrived at their conclusions.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in Earth's past, the relationship between various environmental conditions and the factors that affect them. or the cause and effect relationship between our environment and ourselves.

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mind-boggling

There is so very much to learn from this fascinating book! Everything made sense as I was listening, but I had trouble absorbing it all. I will definitely want to listen to it again in its entirety. It integrates chemistry, the history of the solar system, the evolution of life, the problem of free-radicals... and so much more. Depending on how your brain works, it might be better read than listened to.

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started off great but got really bogged down.

I love science. I enjoy reading about the natural world and how things are connected and work. but unfortunately this book got way too bogged down in the middle and to the end. to the point I was just like "I can not wait to finish this book" performance is ok, but also tends to drone on. interesting and certainly has parts worth it, but the thick middle part is just not worth the time for a casual listen.

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Disturbing narration, dated material

I'm well-adapted to the UK use of the mother tongue, but the narrator-Nigel-Patterson- spoke in an imperious, suck-in- the last syllable amateurish tone that made the entire book a very tedious listen all the way through. Nick Lane is a fabulous writer, though the material presented is out of date. I do not recommend this book.The narration ruined it;

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-17-21

It's a biology book

This book is not about the chemistry and physics of oxygen. It is about biology and life sciences.

1 person found this helpful

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  • SilverWave
  • 12-30-21

Brilliant. Great book, engaging, fascinating and enlightening

Read this book after seeing an article about birds flying over the Himalayas. It was also the best book about basic metabolic processes, mDNA, ATP, cell division, mitochondria & cell signalling. What a fantastic treasure. The only issue is the material being based around the year 2000 but that has just made me want to look up further current information on the basic issues raised. Brilliant.

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  • Ian Davidson
  • 06-16-21

Oxygen and its entwined history with the evolution of life.

Nick Lane once again writes a popular science book for both scientists and the general public eager to learn more about life as we know it, it’s complex relation with oxygen and the implications for longevity.

Access able to most and yet stimulating enough for those scientist from all disciplines of science and science educators.

I thought the narration was clear and compelling.

I can’t wait to read/ listen to another book by Nick Lane as he write so well and there are many to choose from.

5🌟 rating from me.

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  • clare james
  • 06-06-21

Oxygen

Outstanding concepts some overall technical for a no biologist but raises fascinating questions and great insights, dispelling many myths.

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  • Sam Lucas
  • 05-14-21

incredibly interesting

so much more interesting than I could of imagined. Fairly academic in places but 100% worth reading

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  • Petr Palacky
  • 09-03-20

great

Far more interesting than a book of such subject deserved to be. I enjoyed from start to finish.