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Customer Review

on 23 January 2011
Despite my ignoble scientific background (failed 'O' levels in biology, chemistry and physics - but a maths pass - third time around) I found David Fisher's book fascinating. The title, though playful, doesn't really hint that this book is essentially about how scientists have engaged with the problem of establishing how old our planet is. He combines an historical approach, usually via each of the Noble Gasses, with his own researches over the last fifty years. Many lively stories are told around the various peccadilloes of the good and the great.

There is plenty of science too - calculating the age/depletion rate of K/Ar, searching for the remains of meteorites and speculating on the development of the universe since the Big Bang. His ability to put over the concepts so that a lay person understands (well almost) are genuinely exciting - the concept is understood - even if my maths is a tad lacking!

One chapter should be read by all those who believe in intelligent design/creationism - particularly those scientists who believe - we are told by Christine O'Donnell there are hundreds! 'Interlude: Helium, Argon and creationism' describes the author's lively public debate with Henry M Morris, regarded as the founder of the modern creationist movement, with some interesting observations about the audience provided by his wife. Naturally the perception of the many fundamentalists/believers present was that he lost the debate because 'you can't argue with the Bible as the living word of God', but the author may have sown some seeds of knowledge and method.

David Fisher was nearing eighty, and recently retired, when he wrote this book - but the style is one of palpable excitement and seemingly of a far younger man.
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