ISBN is

978-0-297-64314-2 / 9780297643142

H20: A Biography of Water

by

Publisher:Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

When we think of liquid, we think of water. However, water is a very strange liquid indeed and it is its very strangeness that makes our planet possible, in all its geological and biological variety. H2O is a biography of the "many faces of natural water: the agent of planetary-scale life and death, the sculptor, the occult lubricant of volcanism and the agent of mineral formation, the brushwork of the skies." This clever, commercially appealing concept commits Ball to an encyclopedic journey, from the universe's inception to a consideration of "water politics", via geology, biology, high-pressure physics and even a long section on how science can become derailed by popular dreams and expectations. (The idea of using water as a magic fuel has a long pedigree: in 1996 an Indian chemist named Ramar Pillai claimed to have found a way to turn water into petrol by brewing it with a local herb; Pons and Fleischmann's claims for cold fusion were no more substantial). If it is a writer's job to efface themselves behind their text, then Philip Ball fails miserably. His opinionated, elegiac style--above all his concern to reflect water's cultural and mythical importance as well as its physical peculiarity--imprints itself strongly on the reader. The sense that he has attempted to fit everything he ever learned into one book can irritate. (Do we really need to know his unexceptional views on space exploration?) His achievement is to convince us that, given water's bizarre nature, such thoroughness was necessary. --Simon Ings

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