Snowball Earth: The Story of a Maverick Scientist and His Theory of the Global Catastrophe That Spawned Life as We Know It
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Snowball Earth: The Story of a Maverick Scientist and His Theory of the Global Catastrophe That Spawned Life as We Know It

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  157 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Did the Earth once undergo a super ice age, one that froze the entire planet from the poles to the equator? In Snowball Earth, gifted writer Gabrielle Walker has crafted an intriguing global adventure story, following maverick scientist Paul Hoffman’s quest to prove a theory so audacious and profound that it is shaking the world of earth sciences to its core.

In lyrical pro...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 24th 2004 by Broadway Books (first published 2003)
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Steve Van Slyke
Feb 09, 2013 Steve Van Slyke rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steve by: Science & Inquiry Group
Shelves: geology, science
As is often the case, with me at least, the last book I've read leads me to the next one. In this case it was Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet about plate tectonics that led me to read this book. The former had a section about how it might have been the supercontinent of Rodinia, which is believed to have existed prior to 700 million years ago, that was the partial cause of the so-called Snowball Earth.

I was a little put off by the author's flowery, adjective and adver...more
BrokenTune [Disclaimer: My opinion is not paid for by Amazon.]
I had this book on my to-read shelf for years, after I read about another book by the same author. The other book is on my to-read shelf, too, but I am now not sure I want to start it - ever...

It's not that I hated the book but I just got bored with about a third way in. I am not a geologist and have no special interest in the details of how a theory was attempted, then disproved, then proved again over time - had hoped the story would be about the phenomenon of "snowball earth" rather than the...more
Quinox
A very good narrative of how a theory is developed over time and the functioning of the scientific community. Easy-read even for those who are not geology buffs. The research for the book takes the author to the ends of the earth and she meets the scientists hunting for proof that the earth at some points in history was completely covered with ice. It can be read as a rea cold case CSI story, with the crime commited billions of years ago. The author also paints a vivid pictures of some of the od...more
Nose in a book (Kate)
I picked up this book because Walker came highly recommended, not because of the subject matter. In fact, the one aspect of the book I had been interested in (the biology angle) was squeezed largely into one chapter. It turns out that this is a book about geology, which I have very little knowledge of or interest in, yet I found it hugely readable and genuinely enjoyable.

The idea is that sometime around 650 million years ago the Earth froze completely over, even at the equator, for a few million...more
Helen
Well, one paragraph from the description says it all: the Earth was once completely frozen, and starting from this point variety of complex life forms started.

Everything else is a story of what lead to this discovery, in tides. I'm not in the age of being interested in such things. If such book was marked as a early teens book, other readers could make informed choice. No luck.

If the book was named "Adventurous Lives of the Eccentrics", then, at least, reader would have been given a fair warnin...more
Angus Mcfarlane
The 'national geographic' tone to this book irritated me from the very beginning and I felt I'd made a mistake in taking it on. The main protagonists are referred to a first name basis and the extended narratives of the authors experience visiting various geological sites and tangential historical anecdotes (e.g. Huxley and Wilberforce) were generally distracting to me, although there was eventually enough substance to make the read worthwhile. At times the tense seems to merge between the past...more
bup
A really engaging book, but the most frustrating part is it didn't explain why the snowball period 590 million years ago (assuming it existed, which the book does a good job of convincing you) would have led to such a proliferation of complex life.

Yes, environmental stress leads to new species. But after the thesis given in the first chapter, that this was the catalyst that led single-celled life, which had been quite content for 2.5 billion years, to suddenly go multi-cellular and all specializ...more
Art
Good book about geology, and I'm a geologist so either I'm biased, or I'm a good judge. Maybe both. It discusses a controversial theory (hypothesis, really) that the earth was completely covered with ice for millions of years during the late Proterozoic, right before multicellular life burst upon the Earth. The author has spent time with many of the central investigators, Paul Hoffman in particular, and nicely shows their differing personalities, and how those affect their interactions and the d...more
Edward H. Busse, III
I really enjoyed this book. Boy...are the geologists, biologists, scientists and others who do the reseach on this event dedicated...they are all in on this issue. I never knew that the idea had been proffered that Earth has been completely covered in ice on more than one occasion. The science behind the ice covering is fascinating. Even more so, how life developed/exploded as the last Snowball disappeared. Dr. Walker does an excellent job of weaving the various scientists and their complex rela...more
Jessica
Paul Hoffman is amazing. I'm a grad student in the geology department at the University of Michigan, and PHoff came to give a speech this winter. I had him autograph a stromatolite from Australia. He also signed my friends cap carbonate. He wrote "The C in this rock came from the CO2 that melted the snowball Earth".

The book itself is great. My field of study has nothing to do with any of this stuff, so I appreciated being able to approach it from a less intense angle than the academic world ten...more
Kendra
I liked this book quite a bit and I think Gabrielle Walker is probably a new favorite science writer of mine. I've also read The Ocean of Air which was really wonderful. That one was a much quicker read than this one. I tried to really remember, focus on and understand the geology being discussed here. Maybe not a good book for a half-hearted science reader. I've seen some reviews that were critical of the focus being on both the scientists AND their work (as opposed to JUST on the work), but th...more
Angela Boord
While, as usual, I was a bit irked by the tendency of scientific authors to personify "Earth" and evolutionary processes (and plate techtonics, in this case) as a sort of substitute for God, this was an excellent story of how science is done -- how theories are made, how the personalities of the scientists involved affect the making of theories -- in addition to the science itself being fascinating. It's also a well-written book by a good story-teller.
Donna Jo Atwood
I obviously haven't been keeping up. I've missed this theory that at at least one point earth--ocean and all-- was covered with ice, including the equator.
I was reading a long and enjoying it and then I get to checking dates and ages of the people she talking about and I can't make them match up. First Paul is 23 in 1964, and then in 1999 he is 83. Then somebody is his student, and then he's age progressed. Hmm.
Weavre
This was a great romp through a fascinating geological controversy. Walker brings to life the scientists, with all their human foibles and brilliance, who conducted the research she presents. Step by step, vehement argument after vehement argument, she follows the development of the now-widely-accepted theory that our planet has, in the past, been a frozen alien world. This work is definitely a storytelling triumph.
John Kaufmann
This book explores the hypothesis that the earth nearly froze solid about 700 million years ago, which then triggered the explosion of life on earth. It is told from the perspective of one scientist uncovering clues and trying to make sense of them. In addition to broaching a bold new idea in clear, understandable language, it reads like a detective story. An easy read, considering its intellectual heft.
Becca
Very well written, definite hint of a New Scientist article. I was concerned it would be too people heavy for my tastes, but I really enjoyed. Plenty of geology in there without being too much like hard work.
Shelagh Plunkett
Such a joy to read a really well written and engaging science book. Offers alternative theories to global warming which may or may not hold up but are worth learning either way.
Jeane
This was a good read for non-fiction, it was very entertaining for the most part, but towards the end there were a few places where it lost me in the technical jargon.
Scott
Don't get too caught up in this promo about this being fiction! Many scientists today agree with the evidence pointing to this episode in the history of our planet.
S
Fascinating topic, poor treatment: lots of cliches and bad prose, no pictures - which is fairly unforgivable given the geological detail into which it delves.
Missy Park
I liked the book but boy did you have to think while reading it! It was a very interesting take on the world and how it all started.
Neal Kerrigan
Great look into the creation of a theory. Since I've read it his theory has pretty much been accepted.
Bree
Fascinating info on the history of our planet. Who knew we were once a big ice ball?
Paul
Another excellent science book by Walker
Jennifer Glass
Loved it!
Krista Rozanski
Krista Rozanski marked it as to-read
Jul 25, 2014
Kenneth
Kenneth marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2014
Rob M
Rob M marked it as to-read
Jul 16, 2014
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