Symphony in C

W.W. Norton & Company, June 2019

Principal Investigator and Executive Director of the Deep Carbon Observatory, Robert M. Hazen, has crafted a delightful exploration of carbon, entitled: Symphony in C: Carbon & the Evolution of (Almost) Everything. Hazen, both a scientist and musician, uses his knowledge of musical compositions as a muse to explain the complexities of carbon and why it is so important to life on Earth. Symphony in C in segmented into four movements, each of which explores carbon’s multi-faceted characteristics, as epitomized by the classical elements of the ancients—Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The first public release of the book occurred in June 2019. Subsequent editions will roll out over 2019, including a British edition (Harper Collins Publishers Limited) and Chinese edition (Phoenix Science Press. The book will also be distributed in Russia and was the main selection of the Library of Science book club catalog in June. 

Here's a look at some early reviews:

Beyond the science, Hazen brings the process of scientific investigation to life. Whether he’s describing the way researchers measure the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes, and the grave risks associated with such endeavors, or how animals first produced calcium carbonate shells for protection, Hazen conveys the delight he finds in the process of understanding the world around him. Even while demonstrating just how much humanity has learned about the “element of life,” his enthusiastic survey also shows the limits of existing knowledge and the potential for future discoveries in an exciting field. Publishers Weekly. 

An appealing popular-science account of carbon, the “giver of life.”.....A skillful account of the central element in our lives. Kirkus Reviews is Hazen’s enthusiasm, the string of shareable facts presented, and the introduction of so many interesting scientists that make this book such a fascinating read. Science

Hazen’s book is 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. Nature


Table of Contents



MOVEMENT I - EARTH: Carbon, the Element of Crystals

PRELUDE - Before Earth
EXPOSITION - Earth Emerges and Evolves
DEVELOPMENT - Deep Earth Carbon
CODA - Unanswered Questions

MOVEMENT II - AIR: Carbon, the Element of Cycles

ARIOSO - The Origin of Earth's Atmosphere
INTERMEZZO - The Deep Carbon Cycle
ARIOSO, DA CAPO - Atmospheric Change
CODA - The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable

MOVEMENT III - FIRE: Carbon, the Element of Stuff

INTRODUCTION - Material World
SCHERZO - Useful Stuff
TRIO - Nano Stuff
CODA - Music

MOVEMENT IV - WATER: Carbon, the Element of Life

INTRODUCTION - The Primeval Earth
EXPOSITION - Origins of Life
DEVELOPMENT - Life Evolving (Theme and Variations)
RECAPITULATION - The Human Carbon Cycle
FINALE - Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

About the Author

  • Robert Hazen
    Robert Hazen Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA
    Robert Hazen
    Robert Hazen
    Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA

    DCO’s Executive Director Robert Hazen is a mineralogist and astrobiologist. He is a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC, and professor of Earth Science at George Mason University. Hazen is author of more than 400 articles and 20 books on science, history, and music. His recent research focuses on the role of minerals in the origin of life, including such processes as mineral-catalyzed organic synthesis and the selective adsorption of organic molecules on mineral surfaces. He has also developed a new approach to mineralogy, called "mineral evolution," which explores the co-evolution of the geo- and biospheres. His work has been recognized by Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the Mineralogical Society of America. He was the 2016 recipient of the Roebling Medal—the highest award in mineralogy, and has received many other science research awards. The mineral hazenite was named in his honor.

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