This book--actually a collection of journal articles--is targeted at those who are serious about learning and practicing primitive technology for creaThis book--actually a collection of journal articles--is targeted at those who are serious about learning and practicing primitive technology for creating tools and weapons. If I were in that category I might have given it five stars, but as a casual reader just wanting to know a little bit more about how early man used what was available to him I felt 4 stars was generous considering the editing is not the best and some of the articles are a bit tangential to the topic.
Those serious about practicing the techniques described might want to avoid the Kindle version as even when zoomed in some of the photos and diagrams were fuzzy and hard to decipher.
But if you want to learn how primitive man created fire, evolved from the thrusting spear to the atlatl and bow, the specific materials used, etc., then this is a worthwhile read....more
I should first qualify my review by stating that I read it because my wife had a copy, not because I had intended to read it myself.
The most interestiI should first qualify my review by stating that I read it because my wife had a copy, not because I had intended to read it myself.
The most interesting parts were of course about the events of the crash, before and after. I was also interested in Sully's description of how the prestige of airline pilots has declined over the decades as traveling by air has become less of a novelty and more routine. As he said, airline pilots are now sometimes regarded as glorified bus drivers, except that bus drivers have pensions--airline pilots have lost theirs.
Although I understand that this was Sully's one opportunity to forever document the history of his family, and I don't criticize him for doing that, I have to admit that those were slow parts of the book for me and I found myself skimming through them.
I was hoping there might be a chapter on "Lessons Learned" on such things as bird strikes and water landings, but there wasn't. Perhaps this information is available somewhere else and I should search for it on the internet.
I thoroughly enjoyed his T. Rex and the Crater of Doom and thus was eager to read this as soon as it came out. I think I would have given it 5 stars iI thoroughly enjoyed his T. Rex and the Crater of Doom and thus was eager to read this as soon as it came out. I think I would have given it 5 stars if I hadn't already read as much as I have about the various subjects he covers. I think it's greatest appeal may be to those who haven't read a great deal about geology and science and want to know more about the history of Earth and how it relates to the evolution of life from bacteria to homo sapiens.
There seem to be a lot of people vying (posthumously) for the title of "Father of Geology": William Smith, James Hutton, Charles Lyell, Nicolas Steno,There seem to be a lot of people vying (posthumously) for the title of "Father of Geology": William Smith, James Hutton, Charles Lyell, Nicolas Steno, etc. Perhaps the author would have safer ground to defend if he had said Smith was the father of the branch of geology known as stratigraphy. The point of the book and the emphasis is not to debate that issue, but by throwing it out it does detract somewhat from the central story, that of a common man in uncommon times creating a new scientific method for making sense of the miles of sedimentary rock that hides beneath the grass in our collective pastures.
Rather than a history of stratigraphy, it is a truly human story of success, utter failure and ultimate redemption. The author alludes to one of his sources as being in the process of writing that 'other' book--the thorough history of the birth of the science of stratigraphy with Smith as a main if not central character. Still, the amount of information about the various strata of England and Wales in this work may be more than enough for the majority of readers.
First I must qualify my rating. If I were a geology professor or graduate student it is conceivable that I might give it another star or even two. ButFirst I must qualify my rating. If I were a geology professor or graduate student it is conceivable that I might give it another star or even two. But as someone who minored in geology back in the 'dim' ages and who reads a fair amount of geology related books and articles (e.g. Earth: An Intimate History), this was a bit too technical and stodgy for me. So perhaps some would say my rating is unfair. But I am rating it for readers like me.
It would have been relatively easy to make this book more accessible to a wider audience. An appendix of geologic terms and explanations of notational methods used would have helped immensely and wouldn't have slowed down the professional reader.
Some of the diagrams and illustrations are so reduced that it required a magnifying glass to read the text and interpret them.
Still, if one is already generally familiar with plate tectonics (as I was), and is willing to slog through some fairly hefty math, physics and chemistry in order to gain a deeper understanding of what's going on beneath our feet--or our swim fins--then this book is worth the trouble.
If anyone has a suggestion for a better work on advanced plate tectonics, please comment or send a PM....more
An overarching theme of the first half of the book is that Homo sapiens essentially left the Garden of Eden when they gave up the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and literally settled in to becoming farmers. Diets became less varied and less healthy. Diseases became easier to transmit in the larger, denser communities. War and conflict became more likely owing to real estate conflicts. Clearly the author feels we took the wrong path although he acknowledges that it was an unconscious decision since it was impossible for those early agriculturalists to see into the future. And later he writes that today we are in much the same position, not knowing where some of the "advances" we are making today in the fields of genetics, medicine, electronics and artificial intelligence will lead us.
Although the author is a historian and not a futurist he does spend considerable ink discussing possible future developments. For example, he states that some of the intelligentsia forecast that sapiens may become "a-mortal" by 2050. He uses a-mortal as opposed to immortal to indicate that sapiens would no longer be subject to death by age or disease, only by traumatic accident. I was disappointed that he did not say a word about how this might exacerbate the growing overpopulation problem, especially since he went to great lengths to describe how sapiens are causing the extinction of countless animal and plant species as well as severe cruelty to domestic animal species kept in crowded cages and pens. To me, overpopulation is the root cause of these and most of Earth's current problems, so I was disappointed that he never spoke of it.
A thread that winds through the pages is a high-level history of religions. I enjoyed that as much as any of it, particularly the section on Buddhism, which I find a difficult one to grasp, but his description helped.
If you're looking for an uplifting book about how far we've come as a species and our amazing potential for the future, this may not be it. He ends with "Unfortunately, the Sapiens regime on Earth has so far produced little that we can be proud of." And sadly, I agree.
I was hoping this book would explain what the various effects would be of removing dams like Glen Canyon. Alas, that was not the case.
The main problemI was hoping this book would explain what the various effects would be of removing dams like Glen Canyon. Alas, that was not the case.
The main problem I had with this book is that the author makes his case for why the Bureau of Reclamation should be abolished and why several dams should be removed, that is he cites what he believes are the benefits of such actions. However, he never talks about the other side of the ledger--what are the costs, what are the downsides?
The esteemed management consultant Peter Drucker was fond of saying, "If you have no case against, you have no case for." That perfectly applies to this book.
Surely if you cut off water subsidies to Big Agra food prices would not remain the same. Surely if you remove Glen Canyon dam in order to restore the Colorado River to it's natural state--and to fill up Lake Mead for the benefit of Las Vegas--there also have to be some negatives.
But the author doesn't go into those areas. And it's a small book. It could have been twice as long and gone into the costs as well as the benefits. This would have given it much more credibility.
Another point which lowered its credibility for me was his constant reference to the beneficiaries of past water policies as the Water Nobility. He defined the term briefly in the beginning but by the end of the book they were like the Boogey Man to me. Naming names along the way would have made it much more real for me.
This country is clearly headed for some tough times when it comes to water, and true statesmen are needed to tell us all how it is and what the hard decisions are that we need to make. Unfortunately, I didn't feel this book was a step in that direction. But I did give it three stars because at least I felt a little better informed....more
An enjoyable read about the men who were at center stage when natural philosophy became science and the age of specialization began. Generalists becamAn enjoyable read about the men who were at center stage when natural philosophy became science and the age of specialization began. Generalists became a dying breed and the future belonged to botanists, physicists, computer scientists, geologists, etc. Mores the pity?
I particularly enjoyed the knowledge that Charles Darwin was a young man during these men's ascendance and that he undoubtedly followed them and their works very closely. It is likely that they made it easier for him to finally present his paradigm shifting theory to the world.
I've waited too long to write a decent review, and that is one indication of how I felt about this book. Of the many Sam Harris books I have read, thiI've waited too long to write a decent review, and that is one indication of how I felt about this book. Of the many Sam Harris books I have read, this is by far my least favorite. I'm not sure why he wrote it. At times it seemed like a confessional.
But the main problem I had with it is that he does a poor job of selling the benefits of his road to spirituality. I'm sure Sam knows his audience. And because of that it was surprising to me that he did not put more effort into overcoming the resistance that he must have known would exist to this rather sharp departure from his usual, rational, logical arguments and proposals.
It saddens me to think that I might have been more inclined to try the things he suggests if only he had done a better job of delineating the benefits to the average person. Maybe that's the crux. Maybe this book is really not for the average person, but more for the person who is suffering mentally to a greater degree. If so, take my criticisms with that qualification.
One of the key points Lane makes about the world of science today is that it has become so fragmented and specialized that, for example, biologists often know little about geology, and vice versa for geologists. He hopes that science writers can help to fill the gaps by attempting to synthesize the disparate banks of knowledge that all relate to a common topic.
In a way, the book really two books. The first is about how early life supercharged the atmosphere with oxygen, and possibly saved the planet from a fate similar to Mars or Venus by creating the ozone layer. And then how oxygen caused the “explosion” of life forms much more complex than the bacteria which created the excess oxygen in the first place. Amid this is a fascinating discussion of LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and how today, even though we don't know what exactly it was, we can describe many attributes that it must have had.
And in the second “book” the topic is how this abundance of oxygen now affects life today, particularly its affects on humans, primarily through the action of free radicals, oxygen-based molecules with unpaired electrons. Anti-oxidant supplements, it turns out, may not confer their hyped benefits, and in some instances of mega dosing, may be harmful.
The discussion of oxygen's relation to ageing and age related diseases such as Alzheimer's and diabetes is both fascinating and scary. In conclusion Lane states: “...oxygen is not just the engine of evolution and life, but also the single most important cause of ageing and age-related disease.”
At times I was a little overwhelmed by the complexity of the biochemistry discussions, but those didn't last long. I hope to read this one again soon with the idea that more of it will sink in the second time around. Definitely a worthwhile read.
This book was not on my To-Read List but should have been. Instead, I picked it up for a buck at our library's used book sale.
For an amateur naturalisThis book was not on my To-Read List but should have been. Instead, I picked it up for a buck at our library's used book sale.
For an amateur naturalist and docent for 4th graders at a nature preserve this book perfectly addressed the main topics we try to get across to the kids: how important and delicate ecosystems are and how if you remove certain keystone species the whole habitat may collapse like the London Bridge.
Given that the book is now more than 20 years old, I am keen to read a more recent book on the same topic to see if Wilson's predictions have come true with respect to estimates of species yet undiscovered and unnamed and more importantly, of those that have gone extinct.
I wonder if kids of the future will see tigers, lions, wolves, elephants, gorrillas, etc. the same way we have seen dinosaurs, mammoths and saber-toothed tigers--only in cartoons and movies....more
At first I couldn't figure out why a book published in 2014 was so out of date; e.g., only about 100 exo-planets discovered thus far and none of themAt first I couldn't figure out why a book published in 2014 was so out of date; e.g., only about 100 exo-planets discovered thus far and none of them Earth-like, and only three solar system bodies worth exploring for possibility of life: Mars, Europa and Titan. What about Enceladus?
Then, after I had finished the book, I discovered that it was based on the TV program that was done in 2004. My fault I guess, but I didn't see anything in the book (Kindle version) to indicate that. Of course, had I read the GR page for it I might have figured it out.
This story of the evolution of the universe and our place in it is generally interesting but somewhat uneven at times, probably due to its being the product of two authors who apparently did not read each other's drafts before they produced the final version. Consequently there is a bit of redundancy. It is sprinkled with humor, which helps.
For someone with an interest in this topic I would suggest looking for something both older and more recent. In the case of the older, I have a specific recommendation:The Collapsing Universe by Isaac Asimov. Carl Sagan called Asimov "the Great Explainer" (high praise indeed). Asimov tells much the same story as the first half of this book but in the reverse order, and without the benefit of discoveries after its 1977 publication, such as inflation theory and the confirmation of dark matter and dark energy. It's a wonderful books that brings out details missing in this one.
Long's book provides the case for what I call "The Null Hypothesis" and what others call the "Crashed and Sank" hypothesis. It is essentially the default hypothesis that must be proven wrong by other theories.
Gillespie's book provides the background for the strongest case against the null hypothesis and it is called the "Nikumaroro Hypothesis" although I don't think Gillespie himself ever refers to it as such. In fact, Gillespie never really argues for it but rather lays out all the facts and data that might lead one to the conclusion that Earhart and Noonan managed to land safely on the reef flat of Nikumaroro Island 350 miles south of Howland Island, the original destination.
In this book by Tom King, an associate of Gillespie, the specific, detailed case in favor of the Niku hypothesis is laid out with summaries of all the research that has been done for the last twenty years, including all of the physical and anecdotal evidence that has been collected, which is considerable.
Although King clearly believes that the hypothesis is correct, he does a highly commendable job of raising all of the tough questions that the hypothesis fails to fully answer. And as I said in my reviews of the other two books, King ends by admitting that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." And thus, King, Gillespie and their research organization, TIGHAR, are planning yet another expedition in 2015 to Niku to search for the "smoking gun," which could be an unmistakable part of Earhart's Lockheed Electra, or bones with DNA that matched either hers or Noonan's. My wife and I will have the pleasure of being at Niku for a few days during their expedition.
I would highly recommend reading Gillespie's book and Long's as well before reading this one in order to give the reader the overall context of Earhart's World Flight. King's book assumes a degree of prior knowledge of the subject.
This is one of those instances where I should probably qualify my remarks by mentioning that I am not a scientist and my formal education in biology aThis is one of those instances where I should probably qualify my remarks by mentioning that I am not a scientist and my formal education in biology and chemistry is limited to my studies in high school.
About one fourth of the way into this book I came close to abandoning it because the author seemed to be belaboring his points and I couldn't see clearly where he was headed. But I stuck with it and am glad to have done so because, even though I am not convinced he is correct, he does manage to present a plausible, general theory of how life began on earth, or for that matter how it begins anywhere in the universe.
Pross marks out his territory by dividing the search for life's origin into two camps with different approaches. There is the historical approach, which attempts to determine the how, the actual events that may have transpired on prebiotic Earth 4 billion years ago, such as the famous Miller-Urey experiments. Pross dismisses these as needle-in-haystack efforts that have little chance of stumbling upon the correct answer given that very little is known about prebiotic conditions which could have varied widely in time and place.
In contrast, the ahistorical approach, which Pross favors, attempts to answer the general question of why life would evolve from inanimate matter. From that point forward he begins to lay out his answer to the question. In doing so he covers familiar ground, for example the ongoing debate as to which came first metabolism or replication and the question of why chirality or 'handedness' exists in life's basic molecules.
I won't spoil it for you by giving his answer here, but I will say that for me there was no great 'Aha!' moment. I appreciated the case that he built but in the end it did not seem to shed any great new light on the problem. He himself said that Darwin almost came up with the same answer 130 years ago.
Although Pross dismisses the historical approach and its various camps—the ventists, the pondists, the RNA World, the Clay World, the Lipid World, etc., I found the assessment of the these efforts much more interesting as they were laid out in Robert Hazen's book Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins. ...more