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Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery
Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery
by J Imbrie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.80

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic, but dated, 14 Mar. 2010
In case you haven't heard, scientists are very confident that they understand why the ice ages occurred. This book gives a layman's explanation of the evidence showing that ice ages were tiggered by changes in the amount of sunlight from changes in the earth's orbit and axis of rotation. The orbital and rotation changes are caused by the gravity of the other planets and the Moon, so you can say that the ice ages are just footnotes to the work of Isaac Newton!

John Imbrie was one of the leading scientists in that quest (co-author Katherine is his daughter.) The story is told historically, starting with Milankovitch, a Serbian engineer, who did laborious hand calculations showing how much the sunlight in the glacial regions changed, and also when. The evidence that clinched the case was obtained from cores of sediment extracted from the seabed. Chapters 10-16 are the heart of the book where they explain the obstacles the scientists faced, how they overcame them, and the tricks they used to put all the pieces together. It really is a first rate scientic detective story.

The book's main limitation is that it stops about 1977. That's a pity, because Milankovitch's sunlight changes are only half the story. The other part is the role that CO2 and other greenhouse gases played in amplifying the changes due to sunlight. So the study of ice ages and greenhouse gases has all sorts of implications for global warming. Geologists say that the present is the key to the past, well the past may be the key to our present and future.


God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
by John Lennox
Edition: Paperback

31 of 77 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No, he doesn't, 11 Sept. 2009
Does Lennox show that "fine tuning" of the laws of the universe provides evidence of God. No, he mentions only a few arguments and many of them get only one(!) line. He quotes Davies as saying that if the ratio of the nuclear force to the electrical force were different by one part in 10 million billion no stars would form. Davies may have said that, but Davies is completely wrong, stars are rather robust entities. Does Lennox make any attempt to understand what is at stake or explain it to the reader? No, all this issue gets is one sentence. What actually happens is that stars form when gravity pulls interstellar clouds of hydrogen and helium together into a blob. The energy release from the matter falling into the star heats the core to the point where fusion reactions start. The heat from fusion keeps the core hot enough that the outward pressure of the plasma in the core balances the inward pressure of gravity. Change one of the forces acting on the star and it expands or contracts a bit, that's all. This is elementary science, are we supposed to believe that Lennox doesn't know it? Would it have made Lennox's book too long, if he had included what I have just said?

Lennox says that if the ratio of gravity to the electrical force were different by one part in 10,000 trillion trillion trillion then only small or large stars would form. Again wrong, and again no explanation. Then he quotes Penrose as saying that the odds against the present universe are so immense that there aren't enough atoms in the universe to write the number down. But he doesn't explain that Penrose's argument is entirely based on the Beckenstein-Hawking formula for the entropy of black holes, and even if the formula is right, it's relevence to the origin of the universe is speculative, as Penrose himself admits. (Lennox forgot to mention that.) If you look at the entropy we understand, i.e. the entropy of the matter in gas clouds, planets, and stars, the universe is highly probable. Is it hard for gas clouds to fall together to make stars?

Does Lennox show that the classic evidence for evolution is weak? No, like the other mathematicians who doubt evolution, he can't be bothered to learn about biology beyond the basic facts about DNA that everyone knows after reading a few pages. (A few pages is all Lennox spends on DNA).

Even though he is a mathematician, Lennox can't be bothered to check basic arithmetic. He quotes Davies as saying that one in 10,000 trillion trillion trillion is equivalent to hitting a coin on the other side of the universe, which is wrong by about a trillion. Lennox is lazy and biased, he can't be bothered to check even the simplest things, he just repeats stuff he's read that agrees with his views, and leaves out the contradictory parts.

Much of the book is just off topic blather. He spends several pages on how "brave" he is for doubting evolution, he even has a poem of self-praise! I was surprised that so weak a book has attracted enough attention to get 26 reader reviews. I guess his appeal is that he is openly religious, which is comforting to other religious people who are worried about science, but doesn't foam at the mouth like the American creationists, whose arguments he uncritically borrows.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2012 2:55 PM GMT


For the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design
For the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design
by Jill S Schneiderman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.95

1.0 out of 5 stars Where's the Geology?, 11 Sept. 2009
A HUGE disapointment. Creationists are always claiming that the Flood was responsible for the earth's vast beds of sedimentary rock, and therefore the earth could be young, whereas geologists say that the rocks were formed slowly and in very un-Flood-like ways. Geology provided the first, and in many ways still the best, evidence for an old earth formed by natural forces. This book barely touches on that debate. Even the simple old geological standbys about angular unconformaties showing the earth is old, or why the creationists are wrong about the Lewis overthrust, are not mentioned.

There is some discussion of FOSSILS, Prothero has about 15 pages quickly summarizing a number of trends in mammals (camels, horse, whales, and manatees) and another chapter, ironically titled "It's not about evidence", spends 6 pages on graptolites. But geology? The first chapter has 8 pages on it, but about all it says is the rocks are complex and the creationist don't believe us. Why WE should believe the geologists is hardly mentioned.

The rest of the book is a rehash of the things every other anti-creationism book talks about, creationist agendas, people have different perspectives on science and religion, none of it particularly well done. If you want a so-so introduction to anti-creationism "lite," which says almost nothing about geology, then this book is ok, although there are plenty others that are cheaper and better. Geologists must be very new to the creationism debate if they thought this derivative and unchallenging contribution would have any real merit. Why, oh why, didn't you guys write a real book about geology and creationism?


Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
by Donald R Prothero
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally an evolutionist who talks evidence, 1 Dec. 2007
I have read many books by supporters of evolution, many of the authors were distinguished scientists. But this one is by far the best because the author, who is an expert on fossils, really describes the evidence. He goes through may topics in detail, origins of dinosaurs, birds, and mammals. Probably the best part is when he focuses on the semi recent past (50 MY ago) when the various types of modern mammals appeared. The fossil record is at its best so there are lots of transitional forms or "missing links", which actually are NOT missing, which really demonstrate that evolution did occur. This is the book I have been waiting for for years. Bravo
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 6, 2010 1:31 PM GMT


Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds
Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds
by Luis M. Chiappe
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Pix, good read, complete coverage, expert author., 15 Jun. 2007
Most books on evolution don't talk about the evidence in enough detail that you can really understand it, let alone be convinced by it. This is a tragic waste since there really is good fossil evidence for evolution, but the experts just can't be bothered to talk about it. There have been 3 recent exceptions to this rule: T. S. Kemp's The Origin and Evolution of Mammals, Jennifer A. Clack's Gaining Ground (origin of amphibians from fish), and now this book, which is the only one really accessible by the general public. Bird fossils is a field which have really exploded recently, I read lot's of science mags and try to keep up, but this book has tons of stuff I hadn't even heard about. The title of the review really says it all, I just want to add that the old debate about whether birds started as gliding tree dwellers or as two legged runners that flapped to go faster, may have been finally settled. I won't give away the ending, though. Creationists will probably pay this book the supreme compliment of ignoring it completely, anyone with an open mind will be very impressed.


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