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Irish Astronomical Journal

Stephen Drury

Stepping Stones

With today's worry about climate change and other environmental problems it is vital for people to have some background knowledge of the workings of the earth and its environment. Stepping Stones by Stephen Drury has the potential to fulfil this requirement, providing a grand overview of the history of the earth. It starts with the Earth's formation, and takes the reader through the origins and motions of continents as well as the evolution of life. All the while Drury looks at the effects of these changes on the climate, explaining how methods such as isotope ratios give us pretty detailed knowledge of what was happening hundreds of millions of years ago. I have to say though that I feel the book fails in its task.

The reason for this is Drury's style of writing. It's not too technical, so it should be accessible to a wide readership, but I still found it to be almost unreadable. It seems like he just wrote things down as he thought of them, with little attempt to structure his thoughts - too many sentences change direction half way through. The style does improve a bit as the book progresses, so if you can wade through the muddled bits then you might find a lot to interest you. However, I think that Drury has missed an opportunity with this book. info
Hardcover 432 pages  
ISBN: 0198502710
Salesrank: 6499344
Published: 1999 Oxford University Press
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Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 0198508077
Salesrank: 6900186
Weight:1.32 lbs
Published: 2001 Oxford University Press
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Hardcover 430 pages  
ISBN: 0198502710
Salesrank: 4242578
Weight:2.08 lbs
Published: 1999 Oxford University Press
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Product Description
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.