Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What else matters?, 7 April 2013
This review is from: How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind (Hardcover)
As the sub-title states this is "The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind". In fact it also goes further to discuss the future facing the planet, its ecosystems and humanity in particular. The subject material covered is comprehensive, encompassing several scientific disciplines including cosmology, nucleosynthesis, the Solar system, Earth structure, plate tectonics, geochemistry, the origin and evolution of life forms, the evolution of Earth's atmosphere, natural catastrophes and climate changes. The interdependence of the developments of the surface of the planet and of life on it is repeatedly emphasised, especially the recent influence of humans.

Readers lacking a scientific education might find parts of the text difficult; indeed the authors must have faced a problem in judging where to set the level of presentation. In this regard, I found the book to be a curate's egg, perhaps reflecting the dual authorship. Whilst I was able to "eat up" many of the chapters, others were hard going - not because the material was advanced, but as a result of the style of writing which in places appeared to have been hurried, lacking self-criticism and indeed sometimes careless. The authors seemed to make heavy weather of chemistry, insisting on treating the Earth-Life interaction as a fuel cell; one analogy too far for this reader. Similarly I found the central chapters on geology excessively verbose and laboured. By contrast the early material on cosmology and celestial bodies, as well as the five final chapters, made for stimulating reading.

The book suffers from a few serious errors of fact and many sloppy mistakes in the assembly of figures, tables or text which should have been corrected after careful proof reading.

Despite the adversely critical aspects of this review, I regret neither my purchase of the book nor my time spent reading it. The information within it should be made available to a wide readership.
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