Plants are a fundamental part of the biosphere and their evolution has directly affected animal life, and the Earth's climate. This Very Short Introduction provides a concise account of the nature of plants, their variety, their evolution, and their importance and uses, stressing the importance of conservation for the future.
Rivers have played an extraordinarily important role in creating the world in which we live. They create landscapes and provide water to people, plants and animals, nourishing both town and country. The flow of rivers has enthused poets and painters, explorers and pilgrims. Rivers have acted as cradles for civilization and agents of disaster; a river may be a barrier or a highway, it can bear trade and sediment, culture and conflict. A river may inspire or it may terrify. This Very Short Introduction is a celebration of rivers in all their diversity. Nick Middleton covers a wide and eclectic range of river-based themes, from physical geography to mythology, to industrial history and literary criticism. Worshipped and revered, respected and feared, rivers reflect both the natural and social history of our planet. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Describes the expansions of microbiology; it's methods, from traditional microscopy and laboratory culture to the latest genomic analysis.
Since the dawn of human civilization, forests have provided us with food, resources, and energy. The history of human development is also one of forest loss and transformation, and yet even in our increasingly urbanized societies we remain surprisingly dependent on forests for a wide range of goods and services. Moreover, forests still retain a remarkable hold on our environmental values. In an era of continuing tropical deforestation and temperate forest resurgence, and in the midst of uncertainties of climate and land use changes, it is more important than ever to understand what forests are, how they contribute to our livelihoods, and how they underpin our cultural histories and futures. In this Very Short Introduction Jaboury Ghazoul explores our contrasting interactions with forests, as well as their origins, dynamics, and the range of goods and services they provide to human society. Ghazoul concludes with an examination of the recent history of deforestation, transitions to reforestation, and the future outlook for forests particularly in the context of expected climate change. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
The variety of the mycological world is far greater than most people imagine. Tens of thousands of fungal species have been described and many more are known only from the abundance of their genes in soil and water. Fungi are hugely important as agents of wood decay in forests, and, as parasites, they have caused the deaths of millions of people by ravaging crops and reshaping our natural ecosystems. Fungi also perform a variety of essential functions in ecosystems, and are important to both agriculture and biotechnology. Their importance is now becoming greatly appreciated among scientists, though there is much still to be understood concerning their taxonomy and evolution. This Very Short Introduction highlights the variety and extraordinary natures of fungi, revealing the remarkable facts of fungal biology and the global significance of these enchanting organisms. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Arguments still rage about the implications of the evolutionary theory, and scepticism about Darwin's contribution to knowledge is widespread. This accessible study reasserts the importance of Darwin's work for the development of modern biology.
This entertaining Very Short Introduction reflects the enduring popularity of archaeology - a subject which appeals as a pastime, career, and academic discipline, encompasses the whole globe, and surveys 2.5 million years. From deserts to jungles, from deep caves to mountain tops, from pebble tools to satellite photographs, from excavation to abstract theory, archaeology interacts with nearly every other discipline in its attempts to reconstruct the past. In this new edition, Paul Bahn brings the text up to date, including information about new discoveries and interpretations in the field, and highlighting the impact of developments such as the potential use of DNA and stable isotopes in teeth, as well the effect technology and science are having on archaeological exploration. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Deserts make up a third of the planet's land surface, but if you picture a desert, what comes to mind? A wasteland? A drought? A place devoid of all life forms? Deserts are remarkable places. Typified by drought and extremes of temperature, they can be harsh and hostile; but many deserts are also spectacularly beautiful, and on occasion teem with life. Nick Middleton explores how each desert is unique: through fantastic life forms, extraordinary scenery, and ingenious human adaptations. He demonstrates a desert's immense natural beauty, its rich biodiversity, and uncovers a long history of successful human occupation. This Very Short Introduction tells you everything you ever wanted to know about these extraordinary places and captures their importance in the working of our planet. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Organic chemistry concerns the properties and synthesis of carbon-based molecules. Carbon atoms can concatenate into long chains and cyclic compounds, bonding with a variety of other elements, so the possible structures are almost limitless. Graham Patrick explores the world of organic chemistry and its wide applications.
"Looks at both the regional and global effects of mountains on climate and ecosystems. Considers the value of mountains to humanity, as centres of biological and cultural diversity, religious sanctuaries, sources of food, timber, and medicines, and major centres for tourism. Discusses the impact of climate change on mountains, and considers how this affects the people who rely on mountains for their livelihood or culture"--Publisher's description.
Teeth are amazing - the product of half a billion years of evolution. They provide fuel for the body by breaking apart other living things; and they must do it again and again over a lifetime without themselves being broken in the process. In this Very Short Introduction, Peter S. Ungar, an award-winning author and leading scientist, presents the story of teeth. Ungar outlines the key concepts, including insights into the origin of teeth and theirevolution. Considering why teeth are important, he describes how they are made, and how they work, including their fundamental importance in the fossil record. Ungar finishes with a review of mammal teeth, looking athow they evolved and how recent changes to our diet are now affecting dental health.
How many languages are there? Are new languages still being discovered? Why are so many languages disappearing? In this Very Short Introduction, eminent linguist Stephen Anderson addresses such questions as he illuminates the science behind languages. Considering a wide range of different languages and linguistic examples, Anderson provides the basic facts about the world's major families of spoken languages and their distribution around the globe. He explores the basis for linguistic classification and raises questions about how we identify a language. Considering signed languages as well as spoken, Anderson also examines the wider social issues of losing languages, and their impact on vanishing cultures and peoples.
Mathematics is playing an increasing important role in society and the sciences, enhancing our ability to use models and handle data. While pure mathematics is mostly interested in abstract structures, applied mathematics sits at the interface between this abstract world and the world in which we live. This area of mathematics takes its nourishment from society and science and, in turn, provides a unified way to understand problems arising in diverse fields. This Very Short Introduction presents a compact yet comprehensive view of the field of applied mathematics, and explores its relationships with (pure) mathematics, science, and engineering. Explaining the nature of applied mathematics, Alain Goriely discusses its early achievements in physics and engineering, and its development as a separate field after World War II. Using historical examples, current applications, and challenges, Goriely illustrates the particular role that mathematics plays in the modern sciences today and its far-reaching potential. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
A brief examination of the history and science of food chronicles four great transitions including those of cooking, agriculture, processing and preservation to consider the sources of culinary preferences, the disparity between malnutrition and overconsumption and the issues associated with obesity, sustainable agriculture and genetic modification. Original.
The importance of the oceans to life on Earth cannot be overstated. Liquid water covers more than 70% of our planet's surface and, in past geological time, has spread over 85%. Life on Earth began in the oceans over 3.5 billion years ago and remained there for the great majority of that time. Today the seas still provide 99% of habitable living space, the largest repository of biomass, and holds the greatest number of undiscovered species on the planet. Our oceans are vital for the regulation of climate, and with global warming and decreasing land area, they have become increasingly important as the source of food, energy in the form of oil and gas, and for their mineral wealth. Oceans also form a key part of the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements critical to life. Nutrients in upwelling areas are spread by ocean currents, and the plankton of the seas supports a wealth of wildlife. In this Very Short Introduction Dorrik Stow analyses these most important components of our blue planet and considers their relationship with, and exploitation by, humans. He shows how the oceans are an essential resource to our overpopulated world, and discusses why exploration and greater scientific understanding of the oceans, their chemistry, and their mineral wealth are now a high priority. Stow also explores what we know of how oceans originate, and evolve and change; the shape of the seafloor and nature of its cover; the physical processes that stir the waters and mix such a rich chemical broth; and the inseparable link between oceans and climate. As polar ice melts and sea-levels rise, countless millions who have made their homes on low-lying lands close to the sea are threatened. As scientific exploration of the seas gathers pace, the new knowledge gained of the ocean-Earth systems and their interaction with the human environment is vital to our understanding of how we can preserve these ultimately fragile environments. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
In this Very Short Introduction, Alan Taylor presents the current scholarly understanding of colonial America to a broader audience. He focuses on the transatlantic and a transcontinental perspective, examining the interplay of Europe, Africa, and the Americas through the flows of goods, people, plants, animals, capital, and ideas.
From a modest beginning in the form of a little shrew-like, nocturnal, insect eating ancestor that lived 200 million years ago, mammals evolved into the huge variety of different kinds of animals we see today. Many species are still small, and follow the lifestyle of the ancestor, but others have adapted to become large grazers and browsers, like the antelopes, cattle, rhinos, and elephants, or the lions, hyaenas, and wolves that prey upon them. Yet others evolved to be specialist termite eaters able to dig into the hardest mounds, or tunnel creating burrowers, and a few took to the skies as gliders and the bats. Many live partly in the water, such as otters, beavers, and hippos, while whales and dugongs remain permanently in the seas, incapable of ever emerging onto land. In this Very Short Introduction Tom Kemp explains how it is a tenfold increase in metabolic rate - endothermy or "warm-bloodedness" - that lies behind the high levels of activity, and the relatively huge brain associated with complex, adaptable behaviour that epitomizes mammals. He describes the remarkable fossil record, revealing how and when the mammals gained their characteristics, and the tortuous course of their subsequent evolution, during which many bizarre forms such as sabre-toothed cats, and 30-tonne, 6-m high browsers arose and disappeared. Describing the wonderful adaptations that mammals evolved to suit their varied modes of life, he also looks at those of the mainly arboreal primates that culminated ultimately in Homo sapiens. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
With the World desperate to find energy sources that do not emit carbon gasses, nuclear power is back on the agenda and in the news, following the increasing cost of fossil fuels and concerns about the security of their future supply. However, the term 'nuclear power' causes anxiety in many people and there is confusion concerning the nature and extent of the associated risks. Here, Maxwell Irvine presents a concise introduction to the development of nuclear physics leading up to the emergence of the nuclear power industry. He discusses the nature of nuclear energy and deals with various aspects of public concern, considering the risks of nuclear safety, the cost of its development, and waste disposal. Dispelling some of the widespread confusion about nuclear energy, Irvine considers the relevance of nuclear power, the potential of nuclear fusion, and encourages informed debate about its potential. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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