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Supercontinent: 10 Billion Years In The Life Of Our Planet by [Nield, Ted]
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Supercontinent: 10 Billion Years In The Life Of Our Planet Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Length: 352 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

"A great read that should appeal to professional and amateur Earth scientists alike, as well as to anyone interested in the history of our planet" -- Science Reporter, Nina Morgan

"If you don't know much about the how the planet's crust works, Nield's book will teach you the basics ... He rocks" -- Telegraph, Helen Brown

"One of the best popularisations of geology since Richard Fortey's The Earth" -- Guardian, P. D. Smith

"The four dimensional complexities of our happy little planet ... are made elegantly accessible by Ted Nield in this truly exceptional book"
-- Simon Winchester

"The history of a break-up written deep in the Earth's heart" -- Independent, Peter Forbes

About the Author

Ted Nield holds a doctorate in geology and currently works for the Geology Society of London, where he is Editor of their monthly magazine Geoscientist. He is Chair of the British Association of Science Writers and Chair of the Outreach Programme of the International Year of the Earth, a UN-backed venture. He lives in London.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1701 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: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #181,035 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
"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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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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