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Ice Age: How a Change of Climate Made Us Human (Penguin Press Science) [Paperback]

John R. Gribbin , Mary Gribbin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Jan 2003 Penguin Press Science
On 24 June 1837, Louis Agassiz stunned the learned members of the Swiss Society of Natural Sciences by addressing them, in his role as President, not with an anticipated lecture on fossil fishes, but with a passionate presentation on the existence of ice ages. No one was convinced. He even dragged the reluctant members of the Society up into the mountains to see the evidence for themselves, pointing out the scars on the hard rocks left by glaciation (which some of those present tried to explain away as having been produced by the wheels of passing carriages). Extraordinarily, it would take a further 140 years before the ice age theory was fully proved and understood. John and Mary Gribbin tell the remarkable story of how we came to understand the phenomenon of ice ages, focusing on the key personalities obsessed with the search for answers. How frequently do ice ages occur? How do astronomical rhythms affect the Earth's climate? Have there always been two polar ice caps? Is it true that tiny changes in the heat balance of the Earth could plunge us back into full ice age conditions? With startling new material on how the last major Ice Epoch could have hastened human evolution, "Ice Age" explains why the Earth was once covered in ice - and how that made us human.


Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (30 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141007303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141007304
  • Product Dimensions: 17.9 x 11.1 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,509,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"So you think it's cold now? This readable little work will make you glad you are not a whole lot colder. John and Mary Gribbin's pithy book tells us we are lucky not to be living under the heavy mantle if ice and snow which permanently covered Scotland and the north of England 10,000 years ago" - The Daily Telegraph

About the Author

John Gribbin is the acclaimed author of many popular science books in Penguin, including The Little Book of Science (1999). Mary Gribbin is best known as a writer of science books for young readers. Together the Gribbins have written several science books, including Richard Feynman: A Life in Science (Penguin, 1998).

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief history of ice ages 27 Aug 2004
The information set out in this book is quite densely packed, even though the authors found space for some of the scientists' personal histories - those that added something relevant and interesting. It gets off to an excellent start by telling us that we're living in an ice age and the world has rarely been as cold as it is today. We're given a brief history of the what scientists knew (or thought they knew) about ice ages in the past, starting in the early 19th century, and what they know now - and why they *know* they know it and don't just think they know it. The scientific methods used are very neat and no doubt, very much more complicated than you would guess by reading the book, but they're explained in such a way that I felt I'd had no difficulty understanding as much as I needed to grasp the basics of how it all worked.
This is how it's organised:
Prologue: The Ice Age Now
Three chapters:
~ The Victorians' Ice Age
~ The Serbian's Ice Age
~ Deep Proof
Epilogue: Ice Ages and Us
Reference sources
There are documentaries about climate and climate change on the telly fairly frequently (most days if you watch the 'Discovery' programmes) and there are often items on the news programmes about changing weather patterns and the weather presenters regularly have some snippet to impart about how we're having more than the usual amount of rain or sun or high winds when you wouldn't normally expect them. Then there are all the weather and climate stories in the magazines and newspaper. So I sometimes get confused. There are so many indicators and some of them seem contradictory, like a bunch of ragged threads that you can't tie together properly. The planet seems to be warming up but some people say it isn't.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent popular science 5 July 2004
Concise, approachable, guide to the ice ages and the astronomical influences that cause them. Easy to understand for the layman (like me), it takes us through the main players in the discoveries of the ice ages and our place in that ongoing cycle.
Excellent primer in the recent breakthrough theories of the earths frozen history. Will be enjoyed by any non specialist who has a general interest in science.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How the Ice Ages were discovered 19 Jun 2004
Global warming is real, and this book succinctly explains how, when and why it has been happening during the past 10,000 years and the likely outcome if and when weather ever returns to normal.
But, to take a longterm view, there's been a cooling trend since the end of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Civilization, as we know it, began with global warming which started about 10,000 years ago. The emergence of modern humans began with a warm spell about 100,000 years ago. The big delay is due to an intervening Ice Age.
Though folks in Alberta, Alaska and Teec Nos Pos may not appreciate it for half of the year, we're now in the midst of a warm spell. If weather was normal, Minnesota might well be a "state of one massive ice sheet" instead of "the land of 10,000 lakes and 10 billion mosquitoes." Without global warming, the 'Day After Tomorrow' film would be real.
For better or worse, it doesn't address the current concern about human caused global warming. The emphasis is on how we came to know what we now know, a basic primer on weather plus some added background on past ice ages. The result is an excellent account of the procedures and values science as an intellectual process to discover how and why things work rather than providing a definitive and absolute answer to the unknown.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief history of ice ages 22 Aug 2004
There are documentaries about climate and climate change on the telly fairly frequently (every day if you watch the 'Discovery' programmes) and there are often items on the news programmes about changing weather patterns and the weather presenters regularly have some snippet to impart about how we're having more than the usual amount of rain or sun or high winds when you wouldn't normally expect them. Then there are all the weather and climate stories in the magazines and newspaper. So I sometimes get confused. There are so many indicators and some of them seem contradictory, like a bunch of ragged threads that you can't tie together properly. The planet seems to be warming up but some people say it isn't. Plenty of scientists say it certainly is and what's more, we, the humans are causing it. I'm so pleased that I bought this small, clearly written book. It's taken away the confusion and replaced it with a nice, tidy, coherent idea of how climate works. One thing I did understand before reading the book: climate and weather are very very complicated - so making it seem comprehensible to a non-technically-minded person like me, is no mean trick. Just 101 pages, written in plain English and I feel I have a much better understanding than I had only a few hours ago.
The book is divided into 6 parts:
Prologue: The Ice Age Now
Three chapters:
~ The Victorians' Ice Age
~ The Serbian's Ice Age
~ Deep Proof
Epilogue: Ice Ages and Us
Sources
The information is quite densely packed, even though the authors found space for some of the scientists' personal histories - those that added something relevant and interesting. It gets off to an excellent start by telling us that we're living in an ice age and the world has rarely been as cold as it is today.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
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