Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth

By James Lovelock | Go to book overview

Definitions and explanations of terms
Abiological

Literally without life, but in practice a specialist adjective to describe situations where life has played no part in the end result or product. A piece of rock from anywhere on the surface of the moon has been shaped and formed abiologically, whereas almost all rocks from the Earth's surface have to some extent, great or small, been changed by the presence of life.

Acidity and pH

In common scientific usage acids are substances which readily donate positively charged hydrogen atoms, or protons, as chemists call them. The strength of a solution of an acid in water is conveniently expressed in terms of the concentration of protons it bears. This usually varies from about 0.1 per cent with very strong acids to one part in a thousand million for a very weak acid such as carbonic acid, the acid of 'soda water'. Strangely, chemists express acidity backwards in logarithmic units called pH, so that a strong acid is pH1 and a very weak one pH7.

Aerobic and Anaerobic

Literally with and without air. Words used by biologists to describe environments which are respectively surfeited with or deficient in oxygen. All surfaces in contact with the air are aerobic, as are most of the oceans, rivers, and lakes which bear oxygen in solution. Muds and soil and the guts of animals are all greatly deficient in oxygen and hence called anaerobic. Here live micro-organisms similar to those which inhabited the Earth's surface before oxygen entered the atmosphere.

Biosphere

The biosphere was defined in the last century by the Austrian geologist Suess as the geographical region of the Earth where life is found. It has subsequently become a vogue, and consequently, vague word meaning anything from a superorganism like Gaia to a catalogue of all the species of organisms. In this book I have used it in its original geographic sense.

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Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gaia - A New Look at Life on Earth i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introductory 1
  • 2 - In the Beginning 12
  • 3 - The Recognition of Gaia 30
  • 4 - Cybernetics 44
  • 5 - The Contemporary Atmosphere 59
  • 6 - The Sea 78
  • 7 - Gaia and Man: The Problem of Pollution 100
  • 8 - Living Within Gaia 115
  • 9 - Epilogue 133
  • Definitions and Explanations of Terms 143
  • Further Reading 147
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