||Carbon is the chemical scaffolding of life and civilization; indeed, the great cycle by which carbon moves through organisms, ground, water, and atmosphere has long been a kind of global respiration system that helps keep Earth in balance. And yet, when we hear the word today, it is more often than not in a crisis context. Journalist Roston evokes this essential element, from the Big Bang to modern civilization. Charting the science of carbon--how it was formed, how it came to Earth--he chronicles the often surprising ways mankind has used it over centuries, and the growing catastrophe of the industrial era, leading our current attempt to wrestle the Earth's geochemical cycle back from the brink. Blending the latest science with original reporting, Roston makes us aware of the seminal impact carbon has, and has had, on our lives.--From publisher description. Prologue: The strange case of carbon -- Pt. 1 : The natural. Out of the frying pan : carbon after the Big Bang ; Dancers and the dance : the origins of life ; The flood : molecular fossils and the great greenhouse collapse ; Inherent brutality : predators, defenses, and the ocean carbon cycle ; The witness : CO2 and a tree of life ; Body heat : running on carbohydrates and hydrocarbons -- Pt. 2 : The unnatural. Greased lightning : carbon and the car ; The physical restraint on fantasy : the art in carbon science ; Faster than a speeding bullet : antiballistic carbon ; The bell jar : humans and the hundredfold acceleration of the carbon cycle ; Instructions not included : the potential of biological fuels ; The adventures ahead : life with carbon, civilization without?