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review 2017-07-02 10:41
The Goldilocks Planet: The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams
The Goldilocks Planet: The 4 Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate - Mark Williams,Jan Zalasiewicz

TITLE:  The Goldilocks Planet:  The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate

 

AUTHOR:  Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2013

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-19-968350-5

 

 

 

The Goldilocks Planet:  The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate takes a look at the Earth's climate from the planet's formation to the current age and then takes a look at what our future climate might have in store for us. In short, the book contents are as described on the "box".

 

In this book, the authors reconstruct and describe how the Earth's climate has continuously altered over its 4.5 billion-year history.  The story can be read from clues preserved in the Earth's strata, in fossils, in ancient air samples, in mineral samples, extinction events etc.  The book describes how changes in the global and regional climate range from bitterly cold to sweltering hot, from arid to humid, and they have impacted enormously upon the planet's evolving animal and plant communities, and upon its physical landscapes of the Earth.  However, in spite of this, the Earth has remained consistently habitable for life for over three billion years - in stark contrast to its planetary neighbours.  Not too hot, not too cold; not too dry, not too wet, it is aptly known as 'the Goldilocks planet'.

This book is wonderfully written!  And so interesting!  Minimal personal anecdotes, not too much biographical detail (just enough to be interesting) and lots of lovely, juicy science - all explained to be easily understandable but not simplified to be completely useless.  The authors have also included numerous helpful diagrams and graphs.  I wouldn't call this a popular science book, but it isn't a text book either.  I wish more science books were written like this book.

 

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review 2017-06-29 15:30
Resurrecting the Shark by Susan Ewing
Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil - Susan Ewing

TITLE:  Resurrecting the Shark: A Scientific Obsession and the Mavericks Who Solved the Mystery of a 270-Million-Year-Old Fossil

AUTHOR:  Susan Ewing

 

Helicoprion was an unusual looking Paleozoic shark-type creature, with a circular saw of teeth centered in its lower jaw—a feature unseen in the shark world before or since.  For about ten million years this creature swam the shallow seas around the supercontinent Pangaea as the apex predator of its time.  Susan Ewing describes the journey of discovery of this fascinating creature, from the first fossil finds to the revolutionary insights into the appearance and eating habits of  Helicoprion and how the tooth whorl functioned.

This book was interesting, however all the scientific findings and information relating to Helicoprion was overwhelmed with excessive biographical detail of everybody (and their acquaintances) that had even vague connections with with the Helicoprion fossils.  In addition, the narrative was somewhat disjointed with explanatory sections being inserted into the biography sections.  The first half of the book was slow, with the story of Helicoprion picking up in the second half.  This is where most of the science, fossil analysis and results are discussed, with the description of the scientists' mystery solving escapades positively enlivening.

The book includes many pretty colour illustrations, however these are all dumped at the end of the book with no reference to their relevant place in the text and no indication in the text that there is a useful diagram that fits in that spot.  I don't know if this is applicable to the e-book only or also to the hardcover edition.  References are supplied in the end notes in that horrible format so common these days.

In short:  too much biography, too little science.

 

NOTE:  The book states that there are four augmented reality models, viewable with the "Resurrecting the Shark" app, available on Google Play.  However, this app is apparently not compatible with any of the android tablets/phones that various family members possess, at least one of which is brand new.

 

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review 2017-05-24 15:23
A Dog in the Cave: Coevolution and the Wolves Who Made Us Human - Kay Frydenborg

This is a beautifully written book that describes the current research on dog and human co-evolution.  "A Dog in a Cave" covers such interesting topics as paleontology, dog evolution, genetics and social behaviour and interactions of dogs, wolves and humans.  This book is meant for intelligent younger readers but can also be enjoyed by adults.  The author assumes her readers are intelligent and doesn't insult them by simplifying everything into baby language.  This book doesn't go into a great deal of scientific detail but is well-written and concepts superbly explained (better than most science writer/journalists for adults).  The block sections explaining important concepts are also a nice idea.  The colour photographs make this a lovely book to look at too.  This book includes a glossary, notes, selected bibliography, internet resources and an index for anyone wanting more information on specific topics.

This book would make a lovely gift for a dog-loving child, teenager or adult that isn't a zoologist.



Recommended related book:


Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World by Richard C. Francis

 

 

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review 2017-05-04 09:03
Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future by Peter D. Ward
Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future - Peter D. Ward

An interesting and informative book in which the author investigates the mystery of what caused the various great extinctions in the past, and how this relates to the current environmental situation today. This scientific mystery story involves everything from squabbling scientist, volcanoes, "evil" bacteria, poisonous gases and asteroids to oceanic convection currents and ice core data. The book was published in 2007. I'm not certain how outdated and thus accurate the data is in light of any new evidence. However, I found the book to be an interesting and entertaining reading experience, with food for thought and things to look up.

 

 

Other, Related Recommended Books:

 

  • The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed History by David Beerling
  • Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth's Ancient Atmosphere by Peter D. Ward
  • Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World by Nick Lane
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review 2017-03-28 15:30
When Life Nearly Died by Michael J Benton
When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time - Michael J. Benton

This is a nicely written book that investigates the Permian mass extinction event approximately 250 million years ago that wiped out 90% of all species on Planet Earth.  The author starts with the history of geology and paleontology, and describes the various historical means of approaching geological problems.  The author also takes a look at the Cretaceous mass extinction which killed the dinosaurs.  This is an up-to-date (2015) edition of the book that includes new information on what caused the Permian mass extinction and how life recovered afterwards.  There is a fair amount of technical terminology at the beginning of the book, but this doesn't detract from the beautiful writing and fascinating information.

 

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