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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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: #3,607,995 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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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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mr. C. Doyle on October 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In essence, Lovelock says that since evolution started eons ago, all forms of life evolved together resulting not only in balance among themselves and their surroundings, but also in such a way that they regulate the environment, controlling the atmosphere, the salinity of the seas and the temperature. This complex eco-system is presumably an inevitable consequence of the algorithm of evolution running successfully. Want to know if there is life on another planet? Easy, look at the atmosphere.

This comes out in the book, but it is a bit bizarre. Lovelock seems to go from anthropomorphism (the world learning to breath and making decisions) to using scientific terms that the average non-science reader will have to look up. He presents a table on page 63 that I think is incomprehensible unless you understood the work that went into it, which is not presented. He finishes with a plea not to hunt whales, which seems like a strange non-sequester to the book as whole.

As a consequence of this he seems to have appealed to crystal-swinging, horoscope-reading new age wo-wos rather than hard scientists. This is a shame, because the idea is brilliant (thus 4-stars), and could result in decades of research, added to which Gaia is a great name. It seems self-evident that we are part of and completely dependent upon the environment around us. Lovelock has such faith in the self-regulating mechanisms, he rather pooh poohs our ability to mess with it too much. However, it seems to me that evolution and balance takes time - we do things incredibly fast - our ability to warm the globe has only been for a couple of hundred years. We could easily give Gaia a fever, by overcoming her ability to make gentle regulations. If this happens, we do not know what the results will be, but we almost certainly will not benefit from them. As they say; "nature bats last".

Everyone should read this book and, despite its faults, it is readable.
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