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North Pole, South Pole: The Epic Quest to Solve the Great Mystery of Earth’s Magnetism

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  47 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Why do compass needles point north—but not quite north? What guides the migration of birds, whales, and fish across the world’s oceans? How is Earth able to sustain life under an onslaught of solar wind and cosmic radiation? For centuries, the world’s great scientists have grappled with these questions, all rooted in the same phenomenon—Earth’s magnetism.

Over 2,000 years a
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 11th 2011 by The Experiment (first published January 1st 2010)
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I really enjoy books about science, and particularly ones that give an historical perspective to our ongoing discovery of scientific knowledge.

On the subject of the Earth's magnetism, I have to say that I was almost totally ignorant. I know that the Earth has magnetic poles, but that was basically the extent of my knowledge, and I am ashamed to say that it had never occured to me to wonder why the Earth should be magnetic. I had no idea that the entire Earth is covered in a magnetic field that p
Steve Van Slyke
Mar 27, 2012 Steve Van Slyke rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Students of geomagnetism
Recommended to Steve by: Science News
Shelves: kindle, science, history
Although I knew most of the basic science regarding earth's magnetism from various other readings, this book tied everything together chronologically and in much more detail. In fact, after finishing it I added it to my History bookshelf as well as the Science shelf because it is so much about the various individuals that have contributed to our knowledge of magnetism since the beginning of the current epoch.

I struggled between whether to give it three or four stars. There are sections that were
George Ilsley
This reviewer knows precious little about geophysics, so will not be complaining, as others have, that this book was directed at a generalist audience. I will complain however about the back cover. I realize this is out of the control of the author, and the blame rests with the publisher, but it is a pet peeve of mine when the cover descriptions do not match the content of the book. Here the back cover questions how birds and other animals navigating by magnetism. . . the book does not deal with ...more
Kelly Barrett
This book was quite an interesting read for me. Generally, a subject like magnetism is split between various publications, classes, and other sources, and only pieces of the story are discovered. I enjoyed being able to follow the research of magnetism through time, and reading about the various scientists that contributed to our knowledge on the subject. It also took me back to the days of my historical geology in following the development of geology as a science. It is amazing how recent theor ...more
If you are curious about the origin of the magnetic field of the earth, this is a pretty good place to start. Turner goes through the history of discovery, the basic physical ideas involved, and our evolving understanding of what turns out to be an extraordinary complicated phenomenon. This is another place which demonstrates that as much as we know about the world, we actually know a lot less than I'd like to think. For instance, when exactly are the poles going to turn? What happens when the m ...more
I got almost nothing out of this book but I'm not quite sure it's the fault of the author. It took me around four months to finally finish because I started it right before summer classes started and read maybe a page or two before passing out each night, finally able to polish it off when classes were over. There are a lot of theories/terminology here that I didn't remember reading it in the piecemeal way that I did. It also required the ability to visualize experiments, theories, etc. and I am ...more
This book should be dedicated to all people who still believe that Climate Change is not real.
This book didn't quite live up to my expectations so I ended up skimming a good chunk of it. Overall, it just felt like reading a really long Wikipedia entry: comprehensive yet condensed list of facts. I personally would have appreciated more presence from the author such as in Brian Greene or Bill Bryson's writing. The later chapters were more engaging as those covered topics that were closer to the author's own research era. In the end this is more of a history book than a book about the under ...more
Very detailed explanation of the history of the attempts to describe the physical forces that create the Earth's magnetic field. Interesting parallel while reading is the detailed explanations of the tools and techniques developed to help in the effort. Recommend this for anyone interested in Geology, Geodesy, Geography and Cartography.
David R.
A workmanlike accounting of the history of the science of magnetism. The early chapters are interesting and insightful but unfortunately the last chapters are sometimes unintelligible.
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