A flamboyant Renaissance Italian discovers how heavy our air really is (the air filling Carnegie Hall, for example, weighs seventy thousand pounds). A one-eyed barnstorming pilot finds a set of winds that constantly blow five miles above our heads. An impoverished American farmer figures out why hurricanes move in a circle by carving equations with his pitchfork on a barn door. A well-meaning inventor nearly destroys the ozone layer (he also came up with the idea of putting lead in gasoline). A reclusive mathematical genius predicts, thirty years before he’s proven right, that the sky contains a layer of floating metal fed by the glowing tails of shooting stars.
We don’t just live in the air; we live because of it. It’s the most miraculous substance on earth, responsible for our food, our weather, our water, and our ability to hear. In this exuberant book, science writer Gabrielle Walker peels back the layers of our atmosphere with the stories of the people who have uncovered its secrets.
“A sense of wonder . . . animates Ms. Walker’s high-spirited narrative and speeds it along like a fresh-blowing westerly.” —The New York Times
“A fabulous introduction to the world above our heads.” —Daily Mail on Sunday
“A lively history of scientists’ and adventurers’ exploration of this important and complex contributor to life on Earth . . . readers will find this informative book to be a breath of fresh air.” —Publishers Weekly