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210 × 148 × 16 mm
240 pages
100 illustrations, 80 in colour
01 Jun 2017

Clouds Nature and Culture Richard Hamblyn

Clouds have been objects of delight and fascination throughout human history; their fleeting magnificence and endless variety have inspired scientists and daydreamers alike. Clouds and the ever-changing patterns they create have long symbolized the restlessness and unpredictability of nature. Life without clouds is not physically possible – alongside their rain-bearing function, clouds act as a finely tuned planetary thermostat – but in addition it would be mentally and spiritually barren, deprived of the inspiring, life-affirming thought-bubbles that drift continuously overhead: ‘the ultimate art gallery above’, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

Richard Hamblyn explores the notable presence of clouds in literature and the arts (including music and sculpture) while outlining their growing scientific significance in the context of climate change. The book covers the history, science and art of clouds, including the controversial history of cloud modification. All the major cloud types are discussed and illustrated, including clouds on other planets, as well as the increasing number of man-made clouds that fill our changeable skies. Comprehensive yet compact, cogent and beautifully illustrated, this is the ultimate guide to clouds: from Hamlet’s ‘cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel’ to the world of cloud computing today.

‘Ambiguity about what clouds are – objects, phenomena, systems or processes? – has only helped them to develop a rich life in our imaginations . . . [Clouds] blends nature and culture in a lavishly illustrated account of the physics of clouds that gives equal attention to the “myths and metaphors”, their appearances in art and music, and even “future clouds’ — Times Higher Education

‘This book, one of many excellent titles in the Earth Series, is a mix of mythology, history, literature, art history and science. It introduces us to cloud seeding, cloud music and the special effects that made clouds movie stars (think The Wizard of Oz and Twister). Now you’ll be able to ‘read’ clouds in an entirely new way.’ — Reader's Digest, Australia

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Richard Hamblyn is a lecturer in the department of English, Theatre and Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. An award-winning environmental writer and historian, his previous books include The Invention of Clouds (2001), Terra: Tales of the Earth (2009), The Art of Science (2011), Extraordinary Weather (2012) and Clouds and Tsunami in the Earth series.