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The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  2,849 ratings  ·  444 reviews
As new groundbreaking research suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet's history, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen takes us on a wild ride through the planet's five mass extinctions and, in the process, offers us a glimpse of our increasingly dangerous future

Our world has ended five times: it has been br
ebook, 256 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Ecco
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Christine Nelson-mccomb No; some of the references are beyond the understanding of a 12 year old.

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Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
What I expected: a chronicle of major natural disasters through out known history, What I got: a very frightening tale of the 5 major massive mass extinction Earth has gone through since life (microbes) ever emerged in this rock we call home . The narrative of the book explains the causes of the massive extinctions and the effects it had on the survivors if there were any, it then tell us that we might be on the beginning stages of the massive 6th extinction which would come about because of our ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
For what this book is, it is good.

So what is it? An accessible rundown of the events of the five great extinction events of the Earth's past. Good for newcomers, decent for an update if it's been a few decades beyond your previous encounter with possible extinction causes... (remember the debates surrounding the Cambrian?)... and entertaining enough if what you mean by entertainment is the cognition of our eventual death as a species. :)

Okay, granted, a lot of the material is slightly glossed-ov
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was quite different form what I had expected. For one, the author doesn‘t go too much into detail when it comes to describing the different time periods. Rather, we get short descriptions followed by how the period ended - and most of that is speculation anyway.

We start almost at the Big Bang before we rush through the different periods and look at one mass extinction after the other from a geological as well as a paleontological point of view. I did like how the author ensured the rea
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Great science writing that reads like a mystery novel

I loved this book. It has everything I like about great science writing, including clear explanations of the science, personal anecdotes and a sense of humor. Even more, the way the story is structured, it reads like a mystery novel and among the suspects are volcanoes and asteroids. This made the book hard to put down. I also found that Peter Brannen seems to have paid a lot of attention to word choice and sentence structure and some of the
First, this is interesting and entertaining (albeit in a perverse way), with a friendly tone but unapologetic specificity, about the five catastrophic massive extinction events and how life on earth emerged again each time, in weird and bizarre forms and in processes that took millions of years. That is the point: extinctions happen and these are incomprehensibly vast time spans - a scale we cannot even fathom. While this is ultimately a book about climate change, the grand perspective of the en ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Geology is boring. The rocks don't move, they are rock colored, basically they are just good for throwing. At least that is what I thought until reading this. Brannen has done an unimaginably good job at bringing all things geology, paleo*, geochemistry and all the other subjects I avoid, to life. His ability to weave so many different ideas and science into a coherent book is awesome.

Not only was it a great science read, it was entertaining. You could feel Brannen's passion and excitement for t
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brannen's Ends of the World takes on the heady subject of Earth's mass extinctions - the epochs, the rise and fall, the animals and fossils, the shifts of plates and climates, and the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification... Both as it happened millions of years ago and how it is happening now in the Anthropocene. He chronologically traces through millions of years of history. I've read similar books (Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction comes to mind), but Brannen takes ...more
Do you ever give yourself a panic attack thinking about scale? I mean, like the vastness of time and space, and the fact that we humans, or even all (known) life, only exist for the merest fraction of a second, in a microscopic speck in a tiny solar system within a tiny galaxy in a tiny cluster of galaxies in a tiny corner of the (observable) universe. The scale of time and size just cannot be comprehended. It's too massive.

So sometimes I think about this, and humanity's place in this crazy hug
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A science journalist travels all over the world talking to paleontologists and geologists and visiting sights that illuminate the various ends of geological epochs in the deep history of Earth. By looking at he major mass extinctions on Earth through geologic time it also focuses on the individual events and their similarities. There's also a very strong discussion on where our current world climate situation is using these extinctions as a yard-stick. There's some brief discussion about the typ ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2019
The book has enjoyable stretches, but in total was really too boring to keep my interest. Strange, really, considering that I am interested in paleontology, love to watch documentaries about Earth‘s history—volcanos, movement of tectonic plates, various critters, etc.— and frequently read about climate change and sustainability topics.

Not sure if it‘s me or the book. I sometimes disliked the flip tone of the narrator. And the book was a little to centered on the US to really appeal to me. On th
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x2019-read
Ancient history fascinates me, and no, I'm not talking about human ancient history. I'm referring to the life of this planet. And it's been a seriously turbulent, nasty place periodically. Science journalist Peter Brannen takes us through several major developments on this planet. While this includes the slow development of life in all its many weird and wonderful forms over the millenia (okay, way bigger time chunks than millenia, since we're talking millions upon millions of years). But more i ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Thanks to 25 years of visits to Yellowstone, I have developed a fascination with geology. This is one of the best books I've read on the subject. It includes the most detailed descriptions of the eras of Earth I have read in a book, other than a textbook. Because Brannen includes his reactions to the things he learns as he visits important sites and interviews scientists, he's able to explain difficult concepts in a way that anyone can understand. I don't see why textbooks have to be so boring w ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Essential read for the Fall!
Mass extinction and the End.
Really uplifting if you ask me.

Read this astonishing and terrifying description of the end of the dinosaurs:

“The meteorite itself was so massive that it didn’t notice any atmosphere whatsoever,” said Rebolledo. “It was traveling 20 to 40 kilometers per second, 10 kilometers — probably 14 kilometers — wide, pushing the atmosphere and building such incredible pressure that the ocean in front of it just went away.”

These numbers are precise wit
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
covers the five major extinction events in Earths past the ongoing Sixth extinction brought on by Homo Sapiens, and future extinction events. Covers The Ordovician, The Devonian The Permian, The Triassic, The Cretaceous, the current Pleistocene event. Talks about the worlds that were destroyed clearing the way for new ages.
Maddie Gretzky
I came to this book because I was concerned about Climate Change, and hoping for some context. And boy, does Peter Brannon give it. Each chapter, as he explains the lead up to and then possible causes of the mass extinction, he takes time to show how it is similar (or not) to what we are doing to the planet today. And make no mistake, our actions over the past couple hundred years are immense and long lasting:

"People don't talk much about what happens after 2100. On the scale of a human lifetim
Sanjay Varma
Jul 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
I did not like the author's writing style, and found the material to be poorly organized. Good stuff can be found at the paragraph level, but the author rarely strings together two good paragraphs, and did not deliver any chapter that flowed well from start to finish.

I reserve particular criticism for the way that Brannen portrays scientists. He tends to present their theories first, and then introduce quotes from them at the end which make them sound a bit desperate like they're delivering a s
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Three and half stars.

(Sorry for my English)

Of course, the subject is very interesting.
However, this book reminds me too much a Nature or National Geographic TV series: many interviews, a bit of intrigue (which does not succeed), redundant explanations (in the series for the advertising cuts) and all these things. In other words, some superfluous pages.

For the rest, I consider that Peter Brannen's book deserves three and half stars because it has enriched my (poor) knowledge about our geologica
A curious comparison to The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, in my opinion. While Elizabeth Kolbert won a Pulitzer writing about humanity inevitably causing the next great extinction, Peter Brannen puts forward a very convincing evidence that renders this theory rather narcissistic. There is no doubt that humans will eventually cause permanent change to earth's biosphere, altering our own quality of life and causing numerous species to disappear. However, to equal this phenomenon to the p ...more
Ericka Clouther
This is the sort of book the fictional Ross Geller would have deeply enjoyed. A lot of this was covered in The Sixth Extinction more briefly and more rivetingly but if you want the ins and outs of prehistoric life (not dinosaurs, all the other life) then this is the book for you.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*3.5 stars*

Gleefully apocalyptic. The worse the mass extinction, the more detail you get about the Dantesque hellishness that occasionally visits the earth.

Of course, there is a point to this. Mainly that the earth was quite well warmed by carbon at each mass extinction. Although, we have nothing on the end-Permian yet.

Fun fact: when the dinosaur-killing asteroid hit, it was so big that one end of it was still higher than a 767's cruising height, when the other end first touched the ground. Exce
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5 that I’m rounding up.
Bonnie McDaniel
I've read some very good science books this year, and this is yet another. It discusses the six major mass extinctions in our planet's history (I always thought there were five, but Peter Brannen tosses in another one, the End-Pleistocene, which he pins on early humans). Of course, the granddaddy of mass extinctions is the End-Permian (252 million years ago), which is summed up in this cheerful paragraph:

To summarize: There was an ocean that was rapidly acidifying--one that, over huge swaths of
I love books about the various "ends" of the world in prehistory. I blame my childhood fascination with dinosaurs (one of the very first books I owned was called "Dial-A-Dinosaur" by Paul Sereno, which had two dials where you could find an illustration of dinosaurs and a page number for a description about them). There's something just so interesting about the lifeforms that were here before us, nearly all of which didn't survive into our "modern" world, and how they went extinct. There's still ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is unquestionably convinced that we humans are out to destroy life on earth as we know it. The earth has spent billions of years hiding carbon in pockets deep in the earth and we modern humans want to dig, drill, frack and otherwise remove all of that carbon so we can burn it and release it into the atmosphere and oceans and turn the earth into a pizza oven.... and there is nothing we can do to stop it.... except stop using carbon... oh dear

However the author also admits that many mil
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book so fast. I have a warm spot for this type of book and the extinctions while not new to me were really brought to life. The author has a gift the keep it both scientific and engaging.
Carol Storm
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fun book with lots of amazing dinosaur facts and eye-popping descriptions of spectacular geological disasters that happened hundreds of millions of years ago.

I really enjoyed this book but there were two things that really annoyed me. This bright young lad sees himself as a modern, secular, liberal guy -- he really looks down his nose at people who get all worked up about "centuries old religions." But strangely enough, whenever he starts dishing the dirt on those scary extinctions he sounds ju
Daniel Frank
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
While this book ostensibly isn't about climate change, it is by far the most important book about climate change I have ever read.

Learning about the earth's history of mass extinctions gives important perspective. After finishing this book, I now give more credence to importance of research on global catastrophic risks (see: )

Unfortunately, I thought the book was poorly written. The content is important and worth learning about. One could probably learn t
Trey Piepmeier
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an utterly fascinating book. Very well written and as much of a page turner as a book on geology and paleontology can be. It's really given me some sense of the vast scale of the time that life has been on earth. It's still beyond imagination, but I feel it more than I have before.

My only issue with this book is that there were a few moments where the author goes a bit bro. There were a few (fairly subtle, but still present) moments that put me off. A little male gender-blindness, a lit
Steven Peterson
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a well done telling of the story of Earth's five great extinctions. In each case, a large majority of species (including plants, land life, sea life, and life in flight) disappeared. In most cases, ironic given today's climate debate, carbon imbalance was the problem. And even the Cretaceous extinction, recently thought to have been brought about by an object from space crashing into the Yucatan area, may have interacted with contemporaneous volcanic eruptions in India.

The heart of
Justin Pickett
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
“On some specific day, at some specific hour, the last animal ever will die” (p. 282).

It is hard to imagine a better written or more thoroughly researched book on the Big five extinctions. Peter Brannen covers all sides of scientific debates (e.g., about Deccan traps and the extinction of the dinosaurs). And he includes a lot of detail—maybe too much detail. Even still, so much of what he covers is simply fascinating, from the planet’s first trees in the Devonian (now in NY, about an hour outsi
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