Covering a vast array of scientific fields and recent discoveries, this book tracks a remarkable substance in its liquid, solid, and gaseous states as it cycles through the seas, the atmosphere, land, icecaps and under the earth. Robert Kandel describes what we humans are doing to the water cycle and the climate and explains where we are heading.
No tangible substance means more to us than water, and in this scientific history, astrophysicist Kandel traces not only the cycles of water molecules on Earth, but their voyages through time and space as well. Since water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen-very old elements, cosmologically speaking-Kandel applies a Michener-like thoroughness to his subject in the first section of his book. Starting with the Big Bang, he methodically works his way along toward the origin of life. "No water, no life," he states succinctly, showing how crucial water is to the biochemical development of organisms. The second part of the book, dedicated to "Water in Today's World," covers weather, tides and currents, and the familiar rain-river-sea-cloud cycle that children learn in school. Kandel works to make the hard science exciting, but he really shines in the last third of the book, which is devoted to "hydropolitics." Water "could be the biggest problem of the 21st century," he writes, and he offers numerous examples (e.g., water conflict and management between Israel and its neighbors) to prove his point. Judging by the vulnerability of agrarian societies and the struggles of cities trying to support their growing populations, humans around the globe are having trouble finding, keeping and recycling water. While dense with facts and figures, Kandel's aquatic history is riveting, an exhaustive and complex examination of our most precious chemical compound. "Have a drink of water," says Kandel. You're sipping "the history of the Earth and of the universe." 21 illustrations (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.