Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

This is an excellent book, by a geologist (Robert M. Hazen) describing how the Earth has changed over time. And by Earth, he means earth, the stuff under your feet, and views the ecosystem as an extension of its dirt foundation. This book gives an invaluable perspective on the evolution of rocks, and organizes its chapters in a chronological color scheme: black, blue, gray, red, white and green earth. Hazen hits the sweet spot in his description of the field's development and controversies. I had no problem following his descriptions as someone outside the field. He'll describe an experiment or two, down to the apparatus, once or twice a chapter, but in simple and vivid language that I hope to emulate. Finally, Hazen himself has contributed several important ideas to the field, including mineral co-evolution, that it's not just that minerals shape organisms, but also that organisms shape minerals. This is a fascinating and solid idea, and my only comment is that I wish Hazen brought it out more. You don't usually end up wishing an author talked about his idea more, but here you do.

As a window into an under-described branch of science, I highly recommend this book.


unkleE said...

"it's not just that minerals shape organisms, but also that organisms shape minerals."

I used to work as an environmental manager and policy advisor, mostly relating to rivers and catchments (what you might call watersheds). One of the big challenges was finding ways to get wins for both the environment and the farmer/landuser. Soil erosion is a big problem in Australia because we have so little soil ion many places, and I was very interested to get to know a somewhat radical soil scientist who talked about how farmers could assist in making new soil, and the relationship between micro-organisms and soil health. Yes, I think we need to learn more about all this.

orpagan said...

Thanks for the heads up! I have seen the book, but I did not know exactly what was it about. It's on my list now! (:-)