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Caesar's Last Breath
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** GUARDIAN SCIENCE BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017 ** It's invisible. It's ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell. In Caesar's Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world. On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you're probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra's perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe's creation. Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we'll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar's Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.
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About the Author

Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a child and now he is a writer in Washington DC. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, Air & Space/Smithsonian and New Scientist. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers' Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for best science writer under the age of thirty. He currently writes for Science. His first book, The Disappearing Spoon, was a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Royal Society's Winton Prize for science writing.

Reviews

"Absorbing, entertaining... provocative but compelling... eminently accessible and enjoyable. A real gas - in short!" -- Robin McKie * Observer * "Funny, clever and altogether effervescent... Kean writes superbly about science itself... A joy for any reader" -- James McConnachie * The Sunday Times * "There is no denying the pleasure and indeed the wealth of scientific information to be obtained from reading Caesar's Last Breath. It will change forever the way I think about breathing." * Financial Times * "Kean is the teacher you wish you'd had: genial, companionable and infectiously enthusiastic. This is an entertaining and accessible guide to the mysterious vapour of gases. Popular science at its best." -- Simon Humphreys * Mail on Sunday * "Kean is the teacher you wish you'd had: genial, companionable and infectiously enthusiastic. This is an entertaining and accessible guide to the mysterious vapour of gases. Popular science at its best." -- Simon Humphreys * Mail on Sunday * "It's a helluva read. And it's a gas." -- Tim Radford * The Guardian * "An altogether excellent read, an invigorating and stylish mixture of chemistry, history and reportage that brings to light many of the untold stories of the air that surrounds and sustains us" * Times Literary Supplement * "This vibrant, fact-filled science book makes the chemistry of air riveting" * Sunday Times Must Reads * "Told with Kean's trademark combination of goofy wisecracking and an exceptional knack for communicating the principles of science" * Wall Street Journal * "Fascinating stories, so insightful, informative, and disarmingly written. It gave this astronaut a new respect for the air around us all, and made me delightfully more aware of each breath I take." -- Col. Chris Hadfield, author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth "Brims with such fascinating tales of chemical history that it'll change the very way you think about breathing.... Kean crams the book full of wild yarns told with humorously dramatic flair.... The effect is oddly intimate, the way all good storytelling is -- you feel like you're sharing moments of geeky amusement with a particularly hip chemistry teacher" * San Francisco Chronicle * "The most fun to be had from nonfiction is a good science book, with a writer of craft who can capture both the excitement and the elegance of science, the incredible fact that this is really how it works. Sam Kean is such a writer and Caesar's Last Breath is such a book. An enormous pleasure to read." -- Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod

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