Symphony in C

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UPC: 9780393358629
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Author: Robert M. Hazen
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  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 13, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393358623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393358629
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches

An earth scientist reveals the dynamic biography of the most resonant―and most necessary―chemical element on Earth.

Carbon. It’s in the fibers in your hair, the timbers in your walls, the food that you eat, and the air that you breathe. It’s worth billions of dollars as a luxury and half a trillion as a necessity, but there are still mysteries about the element that can be both diamond and coal. Where does it come from, what does it do, and why, above all, does life need it? With poetic storytelling, Robert M. Hazen leads us on a global journey through the origin and evolution of life’s most essential and ubiquitous element.

8 pages of color illustrations


“Covering topics from carbon’s ancient origins to the threats that carbon compounds pose to our future climate, Hazen’s book is a fascinating read. Symphony in C chronicles cutting-edge science that’s helping researchers make better sense of the carbon-rich world around us.”
Science News

“From the Big Bang to coal, carbohydrates, and ultra-strong high-tech nanofibers, Robert M. Hazen provides an illuminating and enjoyable guide to the remarkable odyssey of carbon, the element of life. Enjoy the trip!”
Andrew Knoll, Fisher Professor of Natural History, Harvard University

“A valuable and welcome explanation of why we would do well to pay more attention to the sixth element―and of how much more remains to be discovered about its planetary role through time.”

“C is the element carbon. C is a musical note. Scientist-musician Hazen uses the element and the note to compose a symphonic masterpiece that reveals how the primitive life that began on our planet four billion years ago has evolved into Darwin’s ‘endless forms most beautiful.’”
David W. Deamer, author of Assembling Life

“Hazen’s virtuoso performance captures the wonder of the sixth element―from volcanic gases to al dente pasta to life’s very beginnings―while telling the wonderful stories about the people behind the discoveries.”
Terry Plank, Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor of Geochemistry, Columbia University

“This book is an incredibly rich story of carbon and its role in of life. Hazen has outdone himself in delivering an engaging, edifying, great read. If you don’t know why carbon is important in your life, or even if you think you do, you should put down whatever you’re reading and get this book.”
Paul G. Falkowski, author of Life’s Engines


About the Author

Robert M. Hazen is executive director of the Deep Carbon Observatory based at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory and Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Sciences at George Mason University. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.