How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind

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Princeton University Press, 2012 - Science - 718 pages
2 Reviews

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world's leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth's complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth's habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

Leading schools that have ordered, recommended for reading, or adopted this book for course use:

  • Arizona State University

  • Brooklyn College CUNY

  • Columbia University

  • Cornell University

  • ETH Zurich

  • Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Harvard University

  • Johns Hopkins University

  • Luther College

  • Northwestern University

  • Ohio State University

  • Oxford Brookes University

  • Pan American University

  • Rutgers University

  • State University of New York at Binghamton

  • Texas A&M University

  • Trinity College Dublin

  • University of Bristol

  • University of California-Los Angeles

  • University of Cambridge

  • University Of Chicago

  • University of Colorado at Boulder

  • University of Glasgow

  • University of Leicester

  • University of Maine, Farmington

  • University of Michigan

  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • University of North Georgia

  • University of Nottingham

  • University of Oregon

  • University of Oxford

  • University of Portsmouth

  • University of Southampton

  • University of Ulster

  • University of Victoria

  • University of Wyoming

  • Western Kentucky University

  • Yale University


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - K.G.Budge - LibraryThing

How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind Charles H. Langmuir and Wally Broecker This is only the second book I've read online; I still prefer paper and ink ... Read full review

Review: How To Build A Habitable Planet

User Review  - -uht! - Goodreads

This book has changed my perspective about everything I see, think, and do. It concisely and logically presents the theory (as of 1985) of how our atoms were formed and bonded from the time of the big ... Read full review


Earth and Life as Natural Systems
The Big Bang and Galaxy Formation
Synthesis of Elements in Stars
Formation of Organic and Inorganic Molecules
The Formation of Planets and Moons from a Solar Nebula
Quantifying the Timescale with Radionuclides
Segregation into Core Mantle Crust Ocean and Atmosphere
Moons Asteroids Comets and Impacts
The Origin of Life as a Planetary Process
The Roles of Evolution and Extinction in Creating the Diversity of Life
Coevolution of Lifeand Planet to Create a Planetary Fuel Cell
The Record of Oxidation of the Planetary Surface
The Importance of Catastrophes and the Question of Directionality
Causes and Consequences of Naturally Induced Climate Change
Access to Earths Treasure Chest Permits a Planetary Takeover
Human Civilization in a Planetary Context

Running Water Temperature Control and Sun Protection
Plate Tectonics
Mantle Convection and Its Relationship to the Surface
Solid Earth Liquid Ocean and Gaseous Atmosphere
Chapter 21 Are We Alone? The Question of Habitability in the Universe

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About the author (2012)

Charles H. Langmuir is the Higgins Professor of Geochemistry at Harvard University. Wally Broecker is the Newberry Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and the author of Fixing Climate and The Great Ocean Conveyor (Princeton), among other books. Both are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

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