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review 2017-08-19 16:13
The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart
The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms - Amy Stewart

The Earth Moved is an overly chatty book that takes a superficial look at the uses of earthworms.  I felt the author spent too much page space regurgitating what Darwin had to say about earthworms and going on about her worm bin and her garden.  There wasn't nearly as much information about earthworms as I had hoped, just generally the stuff one learns in junior high-school biology class and the odd factoid, and no diagrams.  I did however find the chapters on land reclamation and sewage treatment informative.

 

 

 

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review 2017-08-10 07:47
The Ends of the World by Peter Brannen
The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions - Peter Brannen

TITLE:  The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses

 

AUTHOR:  Peter Brannen

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  June 2017

 

FORMAT:  e-book

 

ISBN-13:  9780062364821

 

_________________________________________________

 

Peter Brannen explores the 5 great extinction events, and in the process offers the reader a glimpse of our future.  Everything from striking meteors, supervolcanoes, anoxic oceans, ice-ages, heat-waves, plate tectonics, supercontinents, too many trees, and the role of carbon dioxide are discussed.  This is ultimately a climate change book, with the author continually bashing the reader over the head with how destructive humans are.  The author manages to discuss the science aspects of the 5 great extinction events in a reasonably decent manner considering that this is a popular science book and doesn’t include many technical details.  However, the exaggerated “evil humans / climate change” diatribe inserted approximately every 4th paragraph is annoying and detracts from the extinction story of the earth.  He could have included those sections in a separate chapter or even at the end of each chapter if he felt that strongly about the matter.  In addition, when the author does include numbers, he often doesn’t tell us where he comes up with them and I find his maths a bit off.  The book includes photographs but it could have done with a geological timeline.  This isn’t a bad book; it is certainly interesting and reads like a mystery novel if you ignore the anthropogenic global warming hysterics.  I found this book to be an interesting and useful summary of the possible causes of the 5 great extinctions that this planet has experienced. 

 

NOTE:  The footnotes of the e-book don’t link up to the notes section. 

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS:

 

  • -The Goldilocks Planet: The 4 Billion Year Story of Earth’s Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams
  • -The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth’s History by David Beerling
  • -When Life nearly Died by Michael J Benton
  • -The Worst of Times by Paul B. Wignall
  • -Under a Green Sky by Peter D. Ward
  • -Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World by Nick Lane
  • -Extinction by Douglas H. Erwin

 

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review 2017-07-31 09:29
The Amoeba in the Room by Nicholas P. Money
The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes - Nicholas P. Money

TITLE:  The Amoeba in the Room - Lives of the Microbes

 

AUTHOR:  Nicholas P. Money

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2014

 

FORMAT:  Hardback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-19-966593-8

 

 

REVIEW:

 

The Amoeba in the Room is a lovely high-level overview and review of microbes (viruses, fungi, bacteria, archae, protists) and their importance in the biosphere. 

 

The author does include some scientific terminology, but nothing that is too complicated with a bit of grey-matter application.  Professor Money’s love of nature and microbes shines through in the text, with the addition of humorous and interesting ways of looking at the mundane.

 

“To approach a meaningful picture of marine biology, we need to put aside the things studied by zoologists.  A sushi bar to end all sushi bars will foster the necessary thought experiment.  Every morsel of marine muscle must be eaten in the last supper:  all the hagfish, lampreys, sharks, rays and bony fish are diced, rolled in sticky rice, wrapped in seaweed, kissed with soy sauce, and swallowed; the red meat from whales, dolphins, manatees, and walruses works well as sashimi and sea turtles make soup; all the oysters slip down with the assistance of cold white wine, all the squid are crunched calamaried; orange sea urchin gonads make a sloppy topping for sushi rolls and jellyfish can be fried.  Crabs ad lobsters are dispatched after boiling, along with the related sea spiders, barnacles, and fish lice.  This is a lot of food:  fish, great whales, and Antarctic krill alone weigh more than 1 000 million tons.  That leaves the sponges and comb jellies, penis worms and other worms, and exotics like mud dragons, but most the gustatory labor is over and the ocean is much clearer for it.  Now we can turn our full attention to the 90% of living things in the sea that cannot be seen without a microscope.”

 

 

The book is organized by environment, with chapters examining marine microbes, other water and soil microbes, airborne microbes, extreme-living microbes and those microbes that make the human body their home.  The author makes the case that the biological action of the earth is not in the visible fauna but in the microbes.  He also suggests that conservation should focus on habitats rather than a collection of animals.  Professor Money argues for nothing less than a revolution in our perception of the living world:  the animals and plants we see are just froth on a vast ocean of single-celled protists, bacteria, and viruses that constitute most of life on earth.

 

Professor Money’s book was an enjoyable and informative exploration of the astonishing extent of the microbial world and the vast swathes of biological diversity that are now becoming recognized using molecular methods.  

 

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDED MICROBIAL BOOKS:

 

  • -March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen by John L. Ingraham, Roberto Kolter

 

  • -The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health by David R. Montgomery, Anne Biklé

 

  • -I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

 

  • -Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane

 

  • -Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik, Monica Murphy

 

  • -The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn

 

  • -Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA by Maryn McKenna

 

  • -The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds by John Tyler Bonner

 

  • -Life's Engines: How Microbes made the Earth Habitable by Paul G. Falkowski

 

  • -Germs, Genes, & Civilization: How Epidemics Shaped Who We Are Today by David P. Clark

 

  • -Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life by David W. Wolfe

 

  • -Spillover: Emerging Diseases, Animal Hosts, and the Future of Human Health by David Quammen

 

  • -The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Michael Shnayerson, Mark J. Plotkin

 

  • -The New Killer Diseases: How the Alarming Evolution of Germs Threatens Us All by Elinor Levy, Mark Fischetti

 

  • -An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections by Ron Barrett, George Armelagos
  • Bacteria: The Benign, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Trudy M. Wassenaar

 

  • -Virolution by Frank Ryan

 

  • -Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

 

  • -This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society by Kathleen McAuliffe

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-07-29 15:20
The Worst of Times by Paul B. Wignall
The Worst of Times: How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions - Paul B. Wignall

TITLE:  The Worst of Times:  How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions

 

AUTHOR:  Paul B. Wignall

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2017 (Second printing, first paperback printing)

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-691-17602-4

 

 

REVIEW:

 

260 million years ago, life on Earth suffered several waves of catastrophic extinctions, with the worst extinction wiping out over 90% of species on the planet.   In this book, Professor Wignall investigates the worst 80 million years in Earth’s history, a time marked by two mass extinctions (the end Permian and the Triassic) and four lesser crises; and sheds light on the fateful role the supercontinent of  Pangea  might have played in causing these global catastrophes.   These global catastrophes all have two factors in common:  (1) they occurred when the world’s continents were united into the single continent of Pangea; and (2) they coincided with gigantic volcanic eruptions.  The period covered in this book begins in the middle of the Permian Period, spans the entire Triassic, and finishes in the Early Jurassic. 

 

This book examines what happened during the Permo-Jurassic extinctions of Pangea, evaluate what may have caused these catastrophes (more specifically, to ask, how volcanism could have done it?), and finally to understand whether the resilience of the biosphere has changed in 260 million years or whether it has just become luckier thanks to continental separation i.e. are supercontinents bad for life.

 

Wignall examines each of the extinction events in chronological order, with numerous illustrations/diagrams as necessary to help clarify the text.  One complaint other reviewers have written about is the scientific jargon used in this book, but I have no idea how the author was supposed to make a strong argument for his hypothesis without the relevant terminology.  However, I did not consider the use of scientific terms to be excessive or complicated - the author does not go into excruciating chemical detail; he states what happens and why in understandable terms. 

 

This is primarily a book about a time when Earth was very different, a time of supercontinents, super-oceans, and super-eruptions, and above all, an age of mass extinctions.  I found the writing to be clear and logical and the book to be thoroughly enjoyable and informative.

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-07-25 07:32
The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes by L.H. Spelman & T.Y Mashima (Eds)
Rhino with Glue-On Shoes, The: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and Their Patients - Lucy H Spelman,Ted Y Mashima

 

TITLE:  The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients 

 

AUTHOR: Lucy H. Spelman (Editor), Ted Y. Mashima (Editor)

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:   9780385341479

 

REVIEW:

 

This fascinating book offers a rare glimpse into the world of zoo and wild animals and the veterinarians who take care of them. The book contains a compilation of 28 stories written by the veterinarians involved in each case. Each story is fairly brief, which makes page-turning very easy. As with any compilation, the writing style and quality changes from one story to the next, but the various authors were able to bring us along on their adventures in an appealing way. The book also does a good job of tying together the clinical aspects of zoological medicine with the conservation and public health roles within the realm of wildlife health. Including such stories as a hippo with a tooth-ache, a giraffe with splints, an elephant in a snare, dolphin rescues, a rhino with sore feet, dung beetles with parasites, fish with the bends, and many more stories, this book manages to entertain and educate.

 

 

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