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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

 

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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 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 2017-07-02 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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