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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth Rerpint Edition

31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192860309
ISBN-10: 0192860305
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"This may turn out to be one of the epochal insights of the 20th century."--CoEvolution Quarterly


"The most fascinating book that I have read for a long time....Both original and well-written."--New Scientist


"Places a daring hypothesis before the general reader....[His book] is the exciting and personal argument of an original thinker caught up in wonder."--Philip Morrison, Scientific American


"A book that I have read with immense pleasure."--René Dubos, Nature


About the Author


About the Author:
Jim Lovelock, an independent scientist and, since 1974, a Fellow of the Royal Society, worked on the NASA space program. He is a Visiting Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University and inventor of the electron capture detector.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Rerpint edition (December 17, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192860305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192860309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,457,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 17, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Lovelock has created a powerful and interesting argument in this book that will keep scientists busy for centuries. He notices that there is an ability for the Earth to maintain relatively constant conditions in temperature, atmosphere, salinity and pH of the oceans, and reductions in pollutants that defies the simple observations of what "should" happen. From this, he concludes that there is a complex of physical, chemical and biological interrelationships that work like a living organism, which he defines as the Gaia Hypothesis. For defining that concept and providing some of the measurements to establish its premises, he deserves a 7 star rating.
Unfortunately, the argument is expressed in overlong and convoluted fashion. He deliberately limits himself to a nonscientific explanation in this book. The scientific version of the argument is in The Ages of Gaia. Although the book is not long, it certainly could have been condensed into a longish article for Scientific American or The Atlantic Monthly. My second quibble is that the editor was nowhere in sight on the organization of the book. The key point is often buried in the third sentence of the last paragraph in a chapter. The argument in between wanders into all kinds of places where it doesn't need to go. For organization and editing, I give this book a one star rating.
So the average is a 4 star rating. The writing itself is pleasant enough. Don't let the lack of organization and editing put you off, for it is worth your while to read this book. It will remind you of the benefits of the sort of sytems thinking that Peter Senge talks about in The Fifth Discipline.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By nina_poppy.staniford@virgin.net on September 10, 1997
Format: Paperback
Although parts of the text are confusing and too deep for a mere mortal like myself, this book changed the whole way I look at the earth and my own role upon it, not to mention the part my species is taking. Reading and re-reading yields great rewards, the arguments, whether agreed with or not, are cogent and thought provoking, and will provide for many a night spent in those deep discussions with friends
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Cybele on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth is an overall good read. J.E. Lovelock gives valuable insight into the Gaia theory and supports it with convincing evidence of a surprisingly large variety. Proving that the life in Earth's biosphere may sound like a dauntingly complex task, but this little book presents information in a way that even the less scientifically minded can understand; high school and college students everywhere will applaud the lack of a dictionary in this particular reading experience. The analogies used throughout the book are creative and sometimes odd, but help immensely with the reader's understanding of the subject.

The content of this book is fascinating and highly credible. Even better, the chapters are well organized for a comprehensible read. Lovelock, while mostly concerned with explaining the Gaia theory itself, also endeavors to address questions the contemporary reader would present, such as what processes are a part of Gaia, what effect pollution has on Gaia, and what human population Gaia can sustain. He also hypothesizes on how Gaia came to be, what could injure Gaia on a global scale, and how humans can harmonize with Gaia.

Though this little layman's guide is very interesting and well-written, this high school student thinks that going a bit more in-depth and focusing instances of conjecture more if possible, though these suggestions may well have been addressed since the 1989 version. I'm sure there is much more information and support for the Gaia theory since then, and the recent edition even has a spiffy new cover.

I give this book a three for the fluency with which it presents an obscure theory to the masses, and the convincing evidence actually used.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Philip Carl on June 8, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading Edward Wilson's "The Future of Life" served as the spark to pick up and read this book. And its true, good things do come in small packages. The book is all of 140 pages, and is written in a lean, but not glossed-over style. Robert Lovelock (to my knowledge) is the contemporary father of the study of the earth as a complete living system.
Lovelock readily admits that the book serves more to promote the dialog about our planet as a living, breathing whole and to share key discoveries that support his concept. (He states in the Preface that his follow-on book, "The Ages of Gaia" aims to build the scientific argument to the Gaia theory.)

By no means, does Lovelock detour around the science that supports his case. With the scope of the topic requiring knowledge of both physical and biological science, and the small number of pages, he manages to instruct and create a sense of awe in a short amount of time.
The 3 major principles he brings to light about Gaia are:
1. Gaia exhibits a tendency to keep conditions (e.g., temperature, air quality) constant for all terrestrial life.
2. Like other living systems, Gaia has vital organs at the core, and expandable or redundant ones on the periphery.
3. Under the worse conditions, Gaia responses similar to other cybernetic systems (i.e., where time constant and loop gain are important)
The material is far reaching in both its scope and in shaping our understanding of where we stand. Put in the context of Gaia, we have straddled ourselves to the largest of all known living and breathing creatures.
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