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Supercontinent: 10 Billion Years In The Life Of Our Planet [Kindle Edition]

Ted Nield
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"* 'The four dimensional complexities of our happy little planet - "earth's immeasurable surprise" - are made elegantly accessible by Ted Nield in this truly exceptional book. At least until the next major discovery it deserves to become the standard work, ideal for students of the subject, and hugely enjoyable to those for whom the world remains an unfathomable enigma' Simon Winchester"

Product Description

The shifting continents of the Earth are heading for inevitable collision: 250 million years from now, all the land masses on this planet will come together in a single, gigantic supercontinent which no human is ever likely to see. That future supercontinent will not be the first to form on Earth, nor will it be the last. Each cycle lasts half a billion years, making it the grandest of all the patterns in nature. It is scarcely a century since science first understood how Pangaea, the supercontinent which gave birth to dinosaurs, split apart, but scientists can now look back three-quarters of a billion years into the Earth's almost indecipherable past to reconstruct Pangaea's predecessor, and computer-model the shape of the Earth's far-distant future. Ted Nield's book tells the astounding story of how that science emerged (often in the face of fierce opposition), and how scientists today are using the most modern techniques to draw information out of the oldest rocks on Earth. It also reveals the remarkable human story of the Altantis-seeking visionaries and madmen who have been imagining lost or undiscovered continents for centuries. Ultimately all supercontinents exist only in the human imagination, but understanding the 'Supercontinent Cycle' represents nothing less than finally knowing how our planet works.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1466 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (9 Feb. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006ZMG74K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,735 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Grandest Quadrille 31 Mar. 2008
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
"Did the Earth move for you?", asks the voice beside you. Well, yes. Because that's what it does. All the time. The continent you live on used to be someplace else, and far away from where it is now. Your home ground has even been part of a greater landmass known as a "supercontinent" - and will be again. Hence, the title of this book. Ted Nield provides us with a fine account of how we came to learn about these movements. He has brought together the years of research tracking where the rocks have been and where they are likely to go. He likens the movement of continents to a dance of landforms - a "Grand Quadrille". A fine synopsis of the history of geology and its compelling figures - scholars who had to project what was known in their time back into a distant past.

Earth has been a busy place for the past four billion years, and it hasn't stopped to rest. We speak of the "firmness of the Earth", but that phrase is a sham. The key figure in this story is the great supercontinent of Pangaea that began breaking up 250 million years ago. Assembled from previous continents that had once joined and also separated, Pangaea's breakup into places we live on today have been traced in exquisite detail. The matching of rocks in places separated by wide seas provided the clues. In fact, as Nield relates, it was the vast Atlantic that bears the responsibility for Pangaea's fracturing to form the basis for the continents we know today. The author explains how the continents have been engaging in a Grand Quadrille and will continue to do so - for another five billion years, at least.

The progenitor of the idea of "drifting continents" was Alfred Wegener.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Firstly, apologies for the punning title for this review! Moving on..."Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of our Planet", the ambitiously-titled book written by eminent science writer Ted Nield, is a brave attempt to cover the history of what he refers to as "The grandest of all patterns in nature".

The book is written in that conversational style so familiar to readers of Richard Dawkins - "Popular Science" or "Pop-Sci", if you will. The whole book is chock full of the sort of crackling enthusiasm and knowing wit, science writers like Mr. Nield are so good at communicating (it comes as no surprise that he is the chair of the Association of British Science Writers). Suffice to say, it was a pleasure to read.

However, as has been probably indicated by the above score, there are a number of issues I found with the book that prevent it from being THE essential book on the subject:

Tone: people who buy Pop-Sci books generally buy them for two reasons - either they are casual readers with little or no exposure to the subject and are looking for a general introduction, or they are amateur enthusiasts, looking to sate their appetite for the subject but are not quite ready for the academic-grade tomes.

As highly readable and enjoyable "Supercontinent" is, it just doesn't quite hit the right, consistent tone to completely satisfy either potential readership. On the one hand, its not quite basic enough to be an introductory text for absolute beginners: it does implicitly assume some knowledge of fundamental geological concepts (plate tectonics, the layers of the earth, the process of vulcanism, deposition and metamorphism), which could potentially leave the novice a bit at sea.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book takes an interesting approach to "popular science-writing" by deliberately enmeshing the serious science it describes with discursive meanders into art, culture, history and other foibles of the one species that we know has lived on the uncaring, drifting continents of this planet and begun to understand them and their role in how we came to be here.

In doing so, I think it delivers an important message; that science is something that people do, and as an endeavour it's about understanding ourselves as well as how the rest of the Universe works. I certainly enjoyed learning more about plate tectonics, and the Earth's geological history over billions of years, as I expected to. But, I was delighted by the unexpected bonus of things like the link between Permian rock formations and Alice in Wonderland, and the explanation for US scientists' prolonged resistance to tectonic theory that Mr Nield offers. I was also impressed by his conjuring something of the vertigo I remember feeling when I first realised what talking about rocks being millions and billions of years old meant. For me, that's good science-writing.

I can understand that some people might prefer their science in a purer form; if you'll excuse my metaphor, this is more like a fancy cocktail, complete with curly straw, fruit, sparklers and an umbrella, than a shot of geology on the rocks.

I've read the Kindle edition, on a Kindle Keyboard 3G, and found it well-formatted... with the usual proviso that on its screen the maps/illustrations are disappointing, compared to print. I recommend it.

(However, I did not pay six quid for it! For every £GB over 2, in price, please deduct one star from my rating).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars ) Proof indeed of our transient time on this amazing planet. I now no...
A well written book. It kept my interest right to the end. Lots of fascinating facts to amaze/annoy your friends and relatives! Read more
Published 26 days ago by S. Tomlinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Geology Rocks!
Geology even more than most sciences, has to span more than one discipline. Here the earth's history has always been measured by fossils, but it is clear life has helped shape the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Martin Sladdin
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account largely aimed at the general reader
This is a fascinating account of the history of our planet and in particular how continental drift has led to the formation and break up of continents over the lifetime of our... Read more
Published 7 months ago by John Hopper
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving tale of the history of our planet
So it turns out that far from being anchored deep into terra-firma, we in this part if the world are moving relentlessly at a rate of 2cm a year in an easterly direction towards a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by elidon
4.0 out of 5 stars A lot about supercontinents - among other things
This book could have been written as a straight account of what is known about supercontinents, or alternatively as a historical account of how that knowledge was gradually built... Read more
Published 14 months ago by T. D. Welsh
5.0 out of 5 stars A big subject explained excellently
If you have an inquiring mind and are interested in the earth and origin of life this book is for you. Read more
Published 16 months ago by K A Kendrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the supercontinents ...
This book discusses much more than the supercontinents of its title. The nature of science, the ancient myths of the Tamils and the causes and responses to the Boxing Day... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Byron Geoffrey Farrow
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent stuff
This is a real page turner even though one might expect the subject matter to be dry as dust (or rocks). The book works as an adventure story. Read more
Published on 22 Jan. 2013 by T. J. Jarratt
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, entertaining and accessible.
This book sums up what we now know and what we used to think we knew about the origins of the continents, the oceans and life itself. Read more
Published on 18 Jan. 2013 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written...but a bit short
Not being an expert on the subject and more of a casual reader on geology, I found this book easy to read and very pleasant. Read more
Published on 6 July 2011 by Eric le rouge
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