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The Earth has been evolving for the past five billion years, the result of the dynamic interplay of astronomical, physical, and chemical forces that range from the vast to the barely perceptible. Now, in Stepping Stones, Stephen Drury illuminates the processes that have formed the Earth, creating the atmosphere, the oceans, the continents, and life itself.
Looking at the astonishing leaps and near catastrophes that have occurred along the way--intermingled with inexorable but slow change--the book interweaves the evidence from geology, physics, biology, and chemistry, to tell an extraordinary story . We discover how the Earth works--the interaction of geothermal and solar energy, the role of the atmosphere, and the impact of tides and rotation. We learn how matter originated in processes in the stars and how it is assembled in planetary systems, and we discover how the Earth came to have a Moon through a giant collision--and its consequences for the evolution of Earth and life. Drury discusses the origin of atmosphere and water by volcanic activity, the paradox of the cold young Sun and the essential role of carbon dioxide in avoiding an ice-bound planet, and he evaluates theories for the origin of life in light of the chemistry of the early Earth. He describes the supercontinents Rodinia and Gondwanaland, the icehouse and greenhouse worlds of the last billion years, the Cambrian explosion of life forms, and finally human origins and evolution.
An original and stimulating account of the history of our home planet, Stepping Stones does for the Earth what Carl Sagan did for the cosmos--it offers general readers an illuminating tour of a fascinating and little-known area of science.
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From Kirkus Reviews:
Stephen Drury teaches in the Department of Earth Sciences in The Open University. The author of Images of the Earth: A Guide to Remote Sensing, he lives in the United Kingdom.
For all its detailed ramblings, a breezily erudite exploration of how our planet works (or at least the current thinking thereon, which, like Earth itself, undergoes periodic cataclysmic changes), from British geologist Drury (Open Univ.). He fashions here a sumptuous brocade of earth science, one that works many threads into its complex finish. Start with quantum theory, as everything is in flux, changing, giving and taking energy, on the move; otherwise, ``even if such a state existed, we would not know, simply because there would be no signal of any kind.'' Understand that you will need a smattering of organic and inorganic chemistry to entertain notions of lifes origin, when information-rich molecules assembled themselves and began to reproduce. And as chaos and long odds have played so critical a role in Earth's progressconvulsive punctuations out of the blue, like meteors, or from deep within, like flood basaltsDrury suggests that an open mind is a necessity for entertaining dangerous and exciting ideas, like the complexity-theory model on the origins of life. His unfurling of theories is sensible, if rapid, and mostly painless. Theres a reason why he introduces the Stefan-Boltzmann law, which states that the baroque architecture of biological molecules hangs on a scaffold of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen, and that clay may have mediated the building of proto-RNA. The reason is that understanding, as Drury sees it, is a mad and quite beautiful jig of fielding knotty ideas thrown at you with increasing velocity from many fronts, and seeing if and how they fit in the big picture. And winningly, he displays an activist's urge to share his knowledge, particularly in those venues where political and economic repression squelches learning and threatens the stability of our environmental processes. A geological text of the accessibly rarified sortranging, undogmatic, divertingwith a light-handed infusion of ethics thrown into the bargain. (12 photos, 103 illustrations) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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