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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,142 Ratings  ·  208 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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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
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 w
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
Atila Iamarino
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Daqueles livros bem escritos que o autor vai dando dicas da conclusão e você fica todo orgulhoso de ter chego nela antes. Não pq é esperto, mas porque a linha de pensamento é bem clara.

Uma passada muito boa pelo que cada grande extinção do passado foi, quais evidências temos delas, o papel de cada fator (haja vulcões) e o que é controverso. O livro vai crescendo na explicação e apontando os paralelos que fará com o momento em que vivemos. Com direito a mega fatos surpreendentes e bem legais, co
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
Peter 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Are we amidst the world's sixt extinction? How will the world look like in 100 years time of now? Questions that are asked all around the world. Are uncontrollable wildfires, super storms and lethal heat waves coming our way? In this book, Peter Brannen sets the current ecological problems in context of the previous five mass extinctions and gives a gloomy outlook on what could happen in our future world

If we keep burning our fossil fuel reserves, there is something in store for us. Facing a pos
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I "liked" the top 4/5 star reviews that say it all. I will add that the book was catnip for me because 1) Science! and 2) Overview.

I am still praying for another asteroid though (or a Yellowstone explosion). The author tries had to get people out of this mindset but humans do not deserve this planet.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, overdrive, dnf
Organization felt really jumbled and there was a lot of repetition (or maybe different events kept getting described in the same way, I lost track). The killer for me was that I got very bored.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I knew from the first page that the book was going to be riddled with mistakes. On page one he called the Palisades Sill a basalt that flowed lava at the surface. The Palisades Sill is not a basalt, it is a diabase sill, making it an intrusive igneous rock, which crystallizes in place and was never at the surface as the word basalt implies. Yes it crystallized from a basaltic magma but not at the surface. I’m very surprised that the geologists he spoke to did not correct him on this.

Not sure I
Claudia Putnam
Well, that was certainly exciting!

After the rippling prose of Andrew Knoll's Life on a Younger Planet, and the astounded reverence of John McPhee's Basin and Range, Brannen's writing is a little too boppy and headlong for my taste. You can't just hurl yourself through 500 million years or so. It's kind of puppylike--I'm sure some people like that about him.

Nevertheless. A lot to learn here.

I did laugh out loud at the first 3 billion years of evolution so rapturously described by Knoll as the
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brannen is able to take complex events, break them down into understandable parts, and then describe how they interact; reconstructing the original event so that you understand it in all its complexity. He does this again and again, moving from the origin of the earth into the future constructing a view of earth's history that is breathtaking.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very harrowing. We have mostly missed the narrow window to avoid a very unpleasant fate.
This was one book that not only has a somewhat colorful and interesting cover but also a lengthy name that inspires those who may be quite interested in the subject. Otherwise if you aren't interested in the subject or even nonfiction writing in truth than I would most definitely steer clear of this book since it isn't one that is for beginners.

The author does a great job in actually breaking down the book into the different mass extinctions and giving the year that it has been recorded at. As
Easton Smith
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a horror: the sixth extinction. To think that we, humans, have essentially recreated the sort of poisonous conditions that have, in the past, wiped out nearly every living being on this planet.
What a relief: that if we do manage to wipe ourselves out, at least something will survive, and the world will repopulate with all kinds of beings we could never imagine.

Those were my opposing moods throughout reading this decently-written popular science book. Geological time helps me to have persp
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Most of us have no conception of the age of our planet, or how long it took for there to be any life at all. We tend to think of all the dinosaurs as living at the same time. It’s a shock when Brannen points out that Tyrannosaurus Rex is closer to us in time than it is to Stegosaurus.
Brannen’s topic is the five previous major extinctions that have occurred on earth; we may be living through the sixth. Some took millions of years; others, like the extinction of the dinosaurs and virtually all lif
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent survey of the five major extinction events that nearly wiped out all life on the planet. Though the style was a bit too gee-whiz for my taste, it did help lighten up what would be to some, a pretty grim story of asteroid strikes, vulcanism that makes Mt. St. Helens seem like a firecracker, and the deaths of gazillions. He does a great job of making the complex interplay of geology, biology, chemistry and--at least for one extinction event--astrophysics, accessible to the lay ...more
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“While the Texas oil economy relies on the truth of geology, many of its inhabitants remain stubbornly resistant to its charms.” 2 likes
“When you put a log on the fire, the light and heat you see is, in a literal sense, the decades of sunshine that tree basked in over its lifetime.” 1 likes
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