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Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened Paperback – December 26, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0230551947 ISBN-10: 0230551947

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230551947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230551947
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, geologist Turney provides an absorbing look into the ways humans reckon time both in their daily lives and in their view of the past. Bringing together science and history in a populist, intellectual adventure, Turney takes on an eclectic roster of world-class mysteries, from the identity of King Arthur and the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin to the age of the cosmos. Turney presents his arcane topics-such as the effect of earth's orbital irregularities on the construction of the pyramids-with the ease and affability of your favorite college professor, and narrates the history of these mysteries with a keen sense of drama. Although each of the chapters seems at first glance to be distinct from the rest (the calendar, comets, ice ages, megafauna, the Missing Link, and dinosaurs among them), the work is actually a single investigation broken into many parts, whose underlying unity emerges gradually. Though Turney means for the book to provide a refutation of Creationism (which he feels has no place in scientific discourse or education), he limits his engagement with the issue to the introduction and epilogue, wisely letting his subject matter speak for itself. This book will appeal to a wide audience, particularly those who got a kick out of Blink or Freakonomics.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"If you like detective stories, you'll love this book. It should satisfy the hungriest of infovores."--New Scientist
"absorbing...will appeal to a wide audience, particularly those who got a kick out of Blink or Freakonomics." --Publishers Weekly
"A fabulous, entertainingly written account of the amazing science
behind calendars, dates and dating objects. Essential reading for anyone
interested in prehistory." Professor Tim Flannery, Director of the South Australian Museum
"A rollicking run through the story of telling the time - lively and well-researched, with many fascinating stories." Professor Michael Benton, author of When Life Nearly Died
"This delightful introduction successfully fuses history, prehistory and earth science. It captures the imagination from its first page, and then takes the reader on a fun and fact-filled world tour through the past."-- Professor Tim White, University of California at Berkeley
"What I like best about the book: It's a scientist clearly explaining what he does for a living and why it is important, at a level that any literate person can understand. Not an easy accomplishment." --scienceblogs.com/pharyngula
"5/5: a book that tackles [these] issues is welcome indeed--that it succeeds so brilliantly is a wonderful surprise." --Peter Andrews of the Natural History Museum, BBC Focus Magazine
"Well researched and covers a lot of ground in a splendidly personal style. Highly recommended" --Quaternary Australasia
 
 

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on December 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
In this series of evocative essays, Turney explains how our continually changing concept and use of time affects how we view the world and ourselves. Using a sprightly prose style, he opens with a description of various calendar systems developed by the ancients. It was difficult for them to reconcile the irregularities of lunar month, solar year and constantly changing heavens. Egypt, Babylon and Rome all struggled to maintain some control over the calendar. Many forms of adjustment were implemented but precision was difficult, if not impossible. The device of the "Leap Year" to adjust for the lack of precision was the best humans could do until the invention of the atomic clock.

The atom, with many versions and intricacies, has proven an effective tool in time-keeping. From measuring split seconds to granting us some insight on circumstances billions of years ago, "atomic clocks" in their various forms have provided many solutions to long unresolved problems. Turney's chapter on the Shroud of Turin is but one example of a practical application. Its status as a forgery went undetected for centuries until radiometric measurements revealed its true age.

A grander sweep of time, yet one with significant implications for today's world are the chapters on the eruption of Santorini in the Mediterranean and what led to the Ice Ages. Thera has been described as the cause of the elimination of the Minoan Empire. Based on Crete four thousand years ago, the Minoans operated an intricate network of trade routes in the region and were a highly sophisticated and successful people. Yet, they disappeared almost instantly around thirty-five hundred years ago. The author examines the evidence that Santorini might have been responsible.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David C. Brayton VINE VOICE on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After the first two chapters, this book get really interesting. The first two chapters are about how the different calendars used throughout history are synchronized and whether King Arthur actually existed. Not much science there.

But once we get into science (as opposed to history) things get interesting. For example, the chapter on the Shroud of Turin was great and the way tree rings can be used to date things is fascinating.

Unfortunately, there is very little science here. Instead, this book talks about the stories surrounding various scientific controversies.

I was much more interested in learning about the technical details of things like potassium argon dating, thermoluminesence, and electron spin resonance. But I wasn't gonna get that. Here's the disclaimer from the author when he starts talking about isotopes: "Unfortunately, to understand the [age of the Earth], it's going to be necessary to cross to the other side. I'll try and keep [references to isotopes] to the absolute minimum."

Unfortunately? "The Other Side"? Jimminy Cricket! I learned about isotopes in seventh grade, for crying out loud. I wish someone would write about science as if I actually made it through high school. I want to know about why these methods work, their limitations and when they should be used.

And I think I have the right to be disappointed. The book is subtitled: The Science of When Things Happened." Overall, though, it is quite interesting.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on October 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Bones, Rocks and Stars" is an engaging and wide-ranging romp through "the science of when things happened." Each chapter covers a single topic, such as how the calendar evolved, when King Arthur would have lived (if he existed), when the Santorini volcano erupted in the Mediterranean, when the Shroud of Turin was forged (pulling no punches there), when (and why) the earth experiences ice ages, and when (exactly) the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid impact. Turney's style is approachable, so even carbon 14 dating, the precession of the equinoxes, Milankovitch cycles and other challenging topics are clearly explained.

If you enjoy enlightening and surprising books like Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" and "Blink," Cordelia Fines' "A Mind of Its Own" and Michael Leavitt's "Freakonomics," you may find this little book to be an eye opening and entertaining look at how scientists have figured out when things happened.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
How does dating affect authenticity in identifying relics and linking historical facts? Eleven chapters each focus on a famous dating controversy, examining the procedures of dating, common methods used to date everything from tree rings to astronomical bodies, and common problems which involve dating. Discrepancies in evidence, forgeries, and misinterpretations are all covered in BONES, ROCKS AND STARS: THE SCIENCE OF WHEN THINGS HAPPENED, an essential pick for college-level collections strong in scientific inquiry.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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Format: Paperback
In eleven thrilling chapters, the author discusses various methods by which items and events from the (extremely distant to not-so-distant) past can be dated. The limitations and uncertainties associated with each method are also touched upon. Each chapter presents a different topic, all real-life cases and some of which the author has actively participated in. The author has been very successful in conveying to the reader the methods by which science works and the excitement involved in scientific discovery. The writing style is clear, friendly, authoritative and very accessible. In fact, as a physicist, I probably would have explained the physics of a few things a bit differently and given more details; but then, this may have been at a cost - a loss in momentum and excitement for the general reader. So, clearly, this is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone, especially those interested in the scientific method.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Chris Turney is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales. Working in both the Antarctic and Arctic, Chris is extending historic records of change in the polar regions back to 130,000 years ago to help better understand the future. Described by the UK Saturday Times as the 'new David Livingstone', he is passionate about communicating science from the field and laboratory.

Chris is the author of numerous books, scientific papers and magazine articles. His most recent book is called '1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica'. 1912 has received rave reviews and tells the largely unknown scientific endeavours of the five scientific expeditions in Antarctica one hundred years ago. He shows how the endeavours of 1912 marked the dawn of a new age in understanding of the natural world, and how lessons from a century ago might reawaken the public's passion for scientific discovery and exploration. Inspired by this remarkable period, Chris led the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 (www.spiritofmawson.com).
In 2007 Chris was awarded the Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal for outstanding young Quaternary scientists, and in 2009 he received the Geological Society of London's Bigsby Medal for services to geology. To do something positive about climate change, he helped set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape (http://carbonscape.com/) which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.

Chris is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Geological Society of London, and the Royal Geographical Society.

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