Sam Kean

Every inhales and exhale we take conveys a narrative that is at least as old as the planet itself. Kean’s enlightening tour of the history and physics of our environment covers a wide range of topics, including everything from spontaneous combustion and radioactive pigs to the closing moments of Julius Caesar’s life and some amazing performance art at the Moulin Rouge.

Sam Kean, author of Caesar’s Last Breath and a New York Times best-seller, takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, as it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. Caesar’s Last Breath tells the story of the air we breathe and the story of earth and our existence on it.

You are taking in the world’s entire history with each breath you take. Julius Caesar died on the Senate floor of knife wounds on the ides of March in the year 44 BC, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you’re probably inhaling some of it right now. Julius Caesar was assassinated. Some of the sextillions of molecules that are entering or leaving your lungs at this very moment may very well bear traces of Cleopatra’s perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, and even remnants of stardust from the creation of the universe. This is because your lungs constantly exchange molecules with the environment around you.