Earth Science

Life | Chemistry | Physics | Environmental | Earth | Technology

Ice-AgesIce Ages
Solving the Mystery

Authors: John Imbrie & Katherine Palmer Imbrie
Topic: Earth Science

Description (
This is a tale of scientific discovery and the colorful people who participated [in the discovery of the ice ages]: Louis Agassiz, the young Swiss naturalist whose geological studies first convinced scientists that the earth has recently passed through an ice age; the Reverend William Buckland, an eccentric but respected Oxford professor who fought so hard against the ice-age theory before accepting it; James Croll, a Scots mechanic who educated himself as a scientist and first formulated the astronomic theory of ice ages; Milutin Milankovitch, the Serbian mathematician who gave the astronomic theory its firm quantitative foundation; and the many other astronomers, geochemists, geologists, paleontologists, and geophysicists who have been engaged for nearly a century and a half in the pressing search for a solution to the ice-age mystery.


Author: David Sobel
Topic: Earth Science, Navigation, Astronomy

Description (
Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that “the longitude problem” was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution. The scientific establishment of Europe-from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton-had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.

Map-Changed-WorldThe Map That Changed the World
William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

Author: Simon Winchester
Topic: Earth Science

Description (
In 1793, a canal digger named William Smith made a startling discovery. He found that by tracing the placement of fossils, which he uncovered in his excavations, one could follow layers of rocks as they dipped and rose and fell — clear across England and, indeed, clear across the world — making it possible, for the first time ever, to draw a chart of the hidden underside of the earth. Determined to expose what he realized was the landscape’s secret fourth dimension, Smith spent twenty-two years piecing together the fragments of this unseen universe to create an epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map. But instead of receiving accolades and honors, he ended up in debtors’ prison, the victim of plagiarism, and virtually homeless for ten years more. Finally, in 1831, this quiet genius — now known as the father of modern geology — received the Geological Society of London’s highest award and King William IV offered him a lifetime pension. The Map That Changed the World is a very human tale of endurance and achievement, of one man’s dedication in the face of ruin. With a keen eye and thoughtful detail, Simon Winchester unfolds the poignant sacrifice behind this world-changing discovery.

Devil-in-the-MountainDevil in the Mountain
A Search for the Origin of the Andes

Author: Simon Lamb
Topic: Earth Science

Description (
How do high mountain ranges form on the face of the Earth? This question has intrigued some of the greatest philosophers and scientists, going back as far as the ancient Greeks. Devil in the Mountain is the story of one scientist, author Simon Lamb, and his quest for the key to this great geological mystery. Lamb and a small team of geologists have spent much of the last decade exploring the rugged Bolivian Andes, the second highest mountain range on Earth–a region rocked by earthquakes and violent volcanic eruptions. Traveling through Bolivia’s back roads, the team has to cope with the extremes of the environment, and survive in a country on the verge of civil war. But the backdrop to all these adventures is the bigger story of the Earth and how geologists have gone about uncovering its secrets. We follow the tracks of the dinosaurs, who never saw the Andes but left their mark on the shores of a vast inland sea that covered this part of South America more than sixty-five million years ago, long before the mountains existed. And we learn how to find long lost rivers that once flowed through the landscape, how continents are twisted and torn apart, and where volcanoes come from.

The-Ice-FindersThe Ice Finders
How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age

Author: Edmund Bolles
Topic: Earth Science

Description (
The surprising story of three ambitious men and how their clash of egos, ignorance, and imaginations led to the discovery of the Ice Age. Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), extraordinary Swiss scientist and professor, conceived of the Ice Age and then spent decades trying to persuade other scientists he had not gone mad. Charles Lyell (17971875) was his centurys most influential geologist and a master politician among his fellow scientists. His scientific principles said an Ice Age was impossible, even after his eyes showed him it was real. Elisha Kent Kane (18201857), an adventurer trapped for two winters at the top of Greenland, wrote a poetic description of a harsh and frozen landscape. His reports portrayed previously unimaginable great ice and set the stage for the storys unexpected outcome.The discovery of the Ice Age is one of sciences greatest and least-known stories. Like James Watson’s The Double Helix and Dava Sobel’s Longitude, The Ice Finders shows that, for all their boasting about reason, scientists are driven by their passions and obsessions–human traits that actually advance the evolution of scientific discovery.

Global-WarmingThe Discovery of Global Warming (2003)

Author: Spencer Weart
Topic: Earth Science

Description (Book jacket)
In 2001 a panel representing virtually all the world’s governments and climate scientists announced that they had reached a consensus: the world was warming at a rate without precedent during at least the last ten millennia, and that warming was caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases from human activity. The consensus itself was at least a century in the making. The story of how scientists reached their conclusion—by way of unexpected twists and turns and in the face of formidable intellectual, financial, and political obstacles—is told for the first time in The Discovery of Global Warming. Spencer R. Weart lucidly explains the emerging science, introduces us to the major players, and shows us how the Earth’s irreducibly complicated climate system was mirrored by the global scientific community that studied it. Unlike familiar tales of Science Triumphant, this book portrays scientists working on bits and pieces of a topic so complex that they could never achieve full certainty—yet so important to human survival that provisional answers were essential. Weart unsparingly depicts the conflicts and mistakes, and how they sometimes led to fruitful results. His book reminds us that scientists do not work in isolation, but interact in crucial ways with the political system and with the general public. The book not only reveals the history of global warming, but also analyzes the nature of modern scientific work as it confronts the most difficult questions about the Earth’s future.

  • This book is also now available in a revised, expanded edition (2008).

Nemesis-AffairThe Nemesis Affair
A Story of the Death of Dinosaurs and the Ways of Science

Author: David Raup
Topic: Earth Science

Description (
Nemesis is the name given by scientists to a (theoretical) small companion star to our sun. Every 26 million years, Nemesis’s orbit brings it close enough to the sun to bombard our solar system with billions of comets. While most of the comets will float harmlessly beyond the outer planets, some passing through the sun’s Oort Cloud will be deflected by its gravitational force toward Earth. Such a “large-body impact,” the Nemesis theory holds, was responsible for the mass extinction that led to the demise of the dinosaurs. The next impact, millions of years from now, might very well extinguish humanity. In this lively, fascinating, and often disturbing book, updated and revised with the latest scientific evidence on terrestrial impacts, David M. Raup re-explores the controversies of the Nemesis theory from the trenches of the scientific community, and investigates the issues–both scientific and philosophical–of mass extinction.

Life | Chemistry | Physics | Environmental | Earth | Technology

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