Out Of Thin Air - Murdock 1 Zak Murdock BIOEE2070 29...

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Murdock 1 Zak Murdock BIOEE2070 29 October 2009 A Look at Out of Thin Air Earth, as one knows it today, has not always been in the same state. Throughout the history of the Earth, the atmosphere and the living creatures on the planet have evolved. The current atmosphere of the Earth today is significantly different from the atmosphere during other times in Earth’s history. Peter D. Ward, a biologist and Earth scientist, is the author of Out of Thin Air. Throughout his book he carefully traces the evolutionary path back in time, 540 million years. By tracing the evolutionary path back through time and carefully connecting the dots from birds to dinosaurs, Ward describes the unique form of breathing shared by these two distant relatives and demonstrates how this simple but remarkable characteristic provides the elusive explanation to a question that has thus far stumped scientists.    Ward’s extensive and intricate research has helped formulate his new theory which aids in explaining the physical make up of many other animals that are now living today. Studies as small as ranging from the skeletal structure of reptiles to the breathing mechanisms of minute sea creatures all add to indicating the changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen is the key component to life in the Earth’s atmosphere and is quoted by Ward as, “the giver and taker of life.” ( Ward xi ). It is this key component of Out of Thin Air in which Ward bases his findings on and for explaining the numerous
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Murdock 2 changes in the atmosphere which have driven evolution and ultimately led to the world as it is known today. Ward begins his interesting book by talking about the humans who have struggled to take in oxygen on top of Mount Everest only to see birds flying thousands of feet above. It is amazing feats such as this that led to Ward questioning birds’ superiority in thin air as well as the abilities of their dinosaur ancestors. How can birds survive and fly so efficiently in parts of the atmosphere where there is very little oxygen and surely all other creatures, mainly humans, would consequently suffocate and perish. Clearly, bird physiology is different in some profound way from that of mammals and reptiles. Therefore, what are the ancient roots of this difference and does it have anything to do with the apparent dinosaur origins of modern birds? These are indeed the questions in which Ward set out to answer. In order for Ward to get into the connection between birds and dinosaurs he had to give a great background of the history of the Earth, the atmosphere, and the animals. Ward begins Out of Thin Air with two introductory chapters. The first describes why animals need oxygen and the second discusses how researches have figured out the history of oxygen levels in the atmosphere through time. The focus of these introductory chapters is “on the new appearances and disappearances of various taxa and illustrating how specific adaptations among the various animal groups support the
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2010 for the course PHYSICS 213 taught by Professor Padamsee during the Spring '10 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Out Of Thin Air - Murdock 1 Zak Murdock BIOEE2070 29...

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