- Series: Studies in Polar Research
- Paperback: 364 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (March 29, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 110740391X
- ISBN-13: 978-1107403918
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,300,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Meteorites, Ice, and Antarctica: A Personal Account (Studies in Polar Research) Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Antarctica is a meteorite-hunter's dream: its cold, dry climate preserves the space rocks, which are swept along in glacial flows and then accumulate in becalmed areas of the ice cap. In this enthusiastic but arcane treatise, geologist and planetary scientist Cassidy, leader of many polar meteorite-hunting expeditions, has much to say about this intriguing feature of the world's most desolate continent. Meteorites contain vital evidence about the geology and history of their original celestial bodies; from the clues they provide, Cassidy deduces the composition of the primordial nebula from which the solar system condensed, reconstructs the cataclysmic meteoroid bombardment that shaped the early moon and assesses the possibility of ancient life on Mars. Meteorites do have a tale to tell; unfortunately, it's told here through an avalanche of technical information, with plenty of tables, graphs, statistical analyses and lengthy taxonomies of mineralogical types. Cassidy tries to liven things up with first-hand reminiscences, but anecdotes about logistics and weather on Antarctic expeditions, polite appreciations of departed colleagues and accounts of his bureaucratic wrangles with funding agencies and rival scientists eager to get a piece of the space rocks do not add up to a gripping narrative. Cassidy explains the science clearly, but only die-hard rock hounds will have the patience to wade through what amounts to an undergraduate text in planetary geology. B&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Cassidy aims to write for the 'intellectually curious general reader.' With this book he has succeeded spectacularly. It is an absorbing account of a project that started from a sudden inspiration in 1973 and has evolved into a scientific program of international importance. Noboby else could have told this story, which is beautifully written and spiced with a warm, low-key sense of humor. This is a most welcome addition to the mass of literature on Antarctica and on meteorites, and it will be enjoyed by generational readers and scientists of all ages." Geotimes
"The story of how thousands of meteorite specimens came to lie in the world's scientific collections through diligent recovery efforts in the Antarctic is a compelling one, one that warranted telling. And Cassidy, arguably the initiator of this grand enterprise, is the best person to tell it." Science
"For the casual reader, Cassidy provides an exciting picture of what it's like to be a meteorite hunter on the world's cruelest continent...But Cassidy's book is also full of authoritative science." Natural History
"It's the stunning simplicity that makes this book fascinating, and gives the reader the feeling of being there--in the icy tent, on the crunching snow, under the howling gales--with men of science actually doing something the layman can understand." Washington Times
"Mr.Cassidy's relaxed anecdotal view of Antartic hardships and his wry humor about his collegues....reveal a profound love for his profession, and the skill of a writer of clear, refreshing, unpretentious prose....Mr.Cassidy's credit that by the time he lays the heavy science on us-the discussions of the various types of meteorites, their origins and their meaning-we are already on board for the adventure." Sunday Times
Top customer reviews
This book is about the author and his life’s work as a geologist; difficult and interesting work in small, slow steps that happened to create the world’s pre-eminent research meteorite collection. At one level, the author gives a highly readable account of his adventures and of the natural curiosities found in Antarctica. On another level, the author asks and tries to answer the question of whether or not the results have been worth the effort; a question that researchers who receive institutional and governmental funding are regularly faced with. In between, the author tells us of the discovery that some of the Antarctic ice fields “were infested with meteorites.” In his own words, “This book is about what some of us did about that discovery, how we did it, what we thought while we were doing it, and what the effects have been on planetary research.” The book is well- written and edited, and adequately illustrated.
By the way, the editorial review by Publisher’s Weekly got it wrong. This is definitely not an “undergraduate text in planetary geology” and stating that the book is “an avalanche of technical information, with plenty of tables, graphs, statistical analyses and lengthy taxonomies of mineralogical types” is simply a mischaracterization of sparsely- illustrated, laymen’s level, discussions of both meteorites and glacial ice. And to say that “reminiscences…, anecdotes…, and polite appreciations of departed colleagues…, do not add up to a gripping narrative” is a grippingly true but inappropriate criticism. For most readers, the author’s well- told and deliberately- understated reminiscences and anecdotes will be the most interesting parts of the book; in fact, the author has clearly resisted the ego- boosting temptation to glamorize or dramatize his adventures.
This book is one in a series of publications by Cambridge University Press which, all together, cover the major aspects of modern meteoritics, i.e., the scientific study of meteorites. In the last two decades Cambridge University Press has published seven important works on meteorites, as well as a dozen other works on related topics including solar system- and planetary- sciences. The Cambridge books on meteorites include:
2014 Atlas of Meteorites, by Grady, Pratesi, and Moggi Chechi.
2007 Meteorites: A Petrologic, Chemical, and Isotopic Synthesis, by Robert Hutchison.
2003 Meteorites, Ice, and Antarctica, by Cassidy, William, A.
2002 Meteors in the Earth’s Atmosphere, by Murad and Williams.
2001 Meteorites: Their Impact on Science and History, by Zanda, Rotaru, and Hewins.
2000 Catalogue of Meteorites, by Monica M. Grady.
1999 Meteorites and Their Parent Planets, 2nd ed, by Harry Y. McSween.
The Cambridge series includes a descriptive inventory of every known meteorite (2000 Catalogue); a synthesis of the current research on the properties of meteorites (2007 Meteorites); a detailed summary of modern meteorite classification (2014 Atlas) accompanied by petrographic micrographs of every type of meteorite in thin section; a well- illustrated and comprehensive layman’s guide to meteorites and meteoric phenomena (2001 Meteorites- an English translation of a 1996 Paris Natural History Museum book); a compendium of technical articles on the influx of extraterrestrial material into earth’s atmosphere (2002 Meteors); and a comprehensive interpretive analysis of meteorites (1999 Meteorites) regarding the formation of the solar system, planets, and asteroids, and the ’geological’ origins and orbital dynamics of the meteorites themselves.
This book, Meteorites, Ice, and Antarctica, by William Cassidy, is a unique and interesting departure from the rest of the Cambridge meteorite series because it showcases our humanity and curiosity in addition to the meteorites and the science. This is not your typical book on meteorites or, for that matter, on Antarctica, or on glacial ice . Cassidy does not attempt to provide any of the topical coverages or descriptive detail that the other meteorite books in the Cambridge series have already provided. Cassidy, now retired, was a professor of geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh who , after a moment of inspiration in 1973, created the United States Antarctic Search for Meteorites project (ANSMET), assembled field teams, funding coalitions, curation and research committees, ran the program for two decades, did some of the research, passed the program on to others, and wrote a personal account of the whole experience. The book is the author's low- key and often humorous personal account of what he found interesting along the way. Woven into the narrative in approximately equal measure are observations on life and work in Antarctica, the nature and mysteries of glacial ice, and the wealth of cosmic information that international researchers have obtained from studying the greatest collection of meteorites in the world, thus the title (in reverse order). In the balance, though, the scientific focus of the book is clearly on meteorites and meteorite science and Cassidy repeatedly gives simple, patient explanations of how scientific thought goes from observations to theories, from data to the state of things in the still- unvisited planets and asteroid belt.
Unless you’ve read about it, you might not know that the ANSMET meteorite collection, with more than 20,000 specimens, is the largest in the world. Every ANSMET meteorite is preserved and held in trust by NASA and is available for study by any qualified scientist in the world. The meteorites are not for sale and not available to the collector market. The rich and vast amount of new scientific information that we now have from 35 years of ANSMET meteorite studies could never have been obtained except under these rules. It would be forgivable if we thought that this was to be expected from a government program but, given the aggressive competition between museums and institutions to build their own meteorite collections at the time the program began, it is almost inconceivable to realize that this program was created for- and is being operated for- the benefit of all mankind. The reason for this is due to the leadership of William Cassidy and to his personal world view. In my opinion, in addition to the stories and the science, this book gives us an interesting window on how he managed his professional life. I would summarize it in this way: know your science, believe in the value of a good idea, tell the truth, be a team player, be quick to learn from your mistakes, be generous with your recognition of others, and finish what you start. He is held in very high regard by his co-workers in meteoritics and sounds like he would have been a good guy to work for, and certainly a role model of what we can take away from the book and add to our own lives.
There are a few reasons not to buy this book; it depends on what you’re looking for. Compared to other choices, I do not recommend this book as an introduction to meteorites, meteorite collecting, meteorite identification, or planetary science, although elements of each are in here; nor as an introduction to either Antarctica or glaciology, although both are here as well. Regarding ANSMET in particular, the book is not a recitation of the program’s history and methodologies, nor a catalogue of Antarctica meteorites, nor a synthesis of recent findings, nor a science textbook, and, although every necessary illustration is included, it lacks pretty pictures. If you are looking for all of that, rather than the program founder’s personal account, look for the newly- published “35 Seasons of Antarctic Meteorites” which was written by Cassidy’s co-workers and successors in the ANSMET program and published by AGU/Wiley.
Should you buy this book? If you want an insider’s view of how institutional science works, or insight on how some scientists think and how great leaders behave; if you enjoy stories of adventure and well- reasoned explanations of how scientists interpret our cosmic neighborhood from meteorites, then this book will provide about a two week’s worth of leisurely evening reading that you might enjoy. I obtained a pristine copy of the book, marked as a publisher’s remainder, for $11.49 in August, 2013, so there is no reason to pass up this book based on affordability.
The reviewer, Robert A. Crewdson, holds degrees in geology and geophysics and has an interest in meteorites and the history of science.
Talk about translating meteorite science into terms of human experience! Under, "THE SOCIOLOGY OF CHONDRITES [A broad class of meteorites]", we gain easy access when Cassidy smilingly speaks of "mixed neighborhoods" and the "melting pot" effect. But a few words do no justice to Cassidy's wonderful analogy. One must read it and smile while learning.
Cassidy neither talks down to his audience nor resorts to jargon just to sound 'scientific'. As a reviewer having read almost every meteorite book published in the English language (with help of the NASA-Goddard library), this one emerges as my favorite because of the clarity of presentation and even its 'salt' of good humor.
The entire book is permeated with an air of open honesty and objectivity. When anyone, including the author, has an unproven idea about, e.g., the origin of certain meteorite parent bodies, it clearly is labeled as such. Readers are encouraged in the valuable lesson of thinking for themselves, and with such evoked pondering, Cassidy applies one of the best learning tools.
So it is that this book is enthusiastically recommended, whether you be an intelligent novice just wanting to learn about meteorites and the origin of our solar system, a wayward wanderer who has glimpsed the majesty of a 'falling star' and wondered how it might be to relieve loose bowels in the Antarctic wind, or whether you are one of Cassidy's fellow scientists desiring to share the adventures of a colleague.
This book is learning at its most pleasurable, an adventure into life as a scientist at the terrestrial climatic extreme, a view into the politics of financing scientific adventures, and, furthermore, just one doggoned wonderful reading experience!