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The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth's Deep History Hardcover – November 5, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Zalasiewicz, a Lecturer in Geology at the University of Leicester, uses the pebble as his muse, traveling backwards in time to explain how it came into existence. As Zelasiewicz writes, "In some ways the pebble is like one of the newer computer chips, tightly packed with more information than one could ever surmise from gazing on its smooth surface." The pebble's journey into existence is fascinating, but the real magic trick here is how immensely readable Zalasiewicz's book is. It's packed with scientific fact, down to the atomic structure of the elements found in the pebble, but still comprehensible to the layman. Zalasiewicz also deploys his dry sense of humor, noting, for example, that "the underground realm is pervasively fluid-soaked... regrettably dinosaur-free" (no matter what science fiction may claim). No one who reads this book will ever kick a pebble down the road or pocket one from the beach in the same careless way ever again. Photos. (Dec.)

Review


"The whole book is as much contemplative and poetic as it is scientific." --Wired Magazine, GeekDad


"Refreshing and unintimidating labor of love from a field-experienced scientist - a work that could even capture the imaginations of some uninitiated students." --The Washington Times


"Does it work as a popular science book? The answer is a remarkable and resounding yes...The great strength of the book is in the writing, which is at times beautiful, always engaging, and well-paced. There is no sense that the book ever stalls - so often a problem in popular science writing - and the author manages to express his own love and fascination for the discipline." --The Landslide Blog, a blog of the American Geophysical Union


"Impressively skilful narrative...Geology has a gifted new popular science writer." --New Scientist


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Printing edition (November 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199569703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199569700
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,702,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
You pick up a rock and it's just a rock. Jan Zalasiewicz picks up a rock and sees a history of the whole Earth. That's because Zalasiewicz is a geologist, so rocks have more meaning to him than they do to most of us. He has imparted some of his specialized meaning in _The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey Into Earth's Deep History_ (Oxford University Press), one of the most accessible works of geology for the layman available. William Blake rhapsodized on the possibility that one could "see a world in a grain of sand," but of course he was speaking of the mystical and poetical. He probably would not have gotten much inspiration from Zalasiewicz's scientific view, but there is inspiration aplenty here for those who want to look at demonstrations of human cleverness. It is quite wonderful that we can make sense of how the Earth came to be and can understand how certain rocks came to have the characteristics they do, since it requires tracing back billions of years. Zalasiewicz does the tracing back, indeed, to the Big Bang and the eventual formation of the Earth right up until the pebble he describes is brought out to be picked up on the beach. The scope of the story is thrilling, and if you can't picture every step he describes in every chapter (few of us can imagine adequately, for instance, time extending back for such periods), there will always be more astonishments in the next one.

"A pebble of gray slate from a Welsh beach - perhaps from somewhere like Aberystwyth, or Clarach, or Borth on the west Wales coast." Why pick such a source? Simply because Zalasiewicz has had a "career devoted to untangling the intricacies of Welsh slate," a rock he says is underappreciated and "has often had, alas, the reputation of being wet, grey, and monotonous.
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Format: Hardcover
****
"It is an ordinary pebble. It's one of millions that washes backwards and forwards on the shoreline or piles up on riverbanks or lines your garden path. Yet that pebble, like its myriad kin, is a capsule of stories. There are countless stories packed within that pebble, more tightly than sardines in the most ergonomic tins." --Jan Zalasiewicz

I was reminded of Carl Sagan's saying, "We are star stuff," and the pebble is most qualified to be included in 'We'. Where life was essentially nonexistent, yet the pebble does preserve signs of life. Even though the pebble itself is an eroded version, out of its parent magma, in a Welsh cliff side. The same chemical compounds contained within it trace the origins of our planet Earth, our solar system, the milky way galaxy and the universe. Although the records contained within the pebble are often incomplete, they still allow us to feel the pulses caused by the planetary change, "In some ways the pebble is like one of the new computer chips, tightly packed with more information than one could ever surmise from gazing on its smooth surface," Zalasiewicz apologetically explains.

"The Planet in a Pebble" is what the title conveys: an attempt to extract the Earth's story from a small rock, in this case a smoothed, blue-gray pebble, streaked with white, found along the Welsh coast where the author has spent much of his career. A competent geologists knows that even the smallest rock carries within innumerable threads of inscriptions revealing the history of planet Earth. Like the strings of tiny fossils embedded in the rock, core competence in physics, chemistry, and biology instruct history run through "The Planet in a Pebble.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent text, but the kindle edition does not reproduce the color plates. I would not buy the kindle edition until it has the plates
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an imaginative book. The author re-creates the geologic evolution of the Earth by examining more and more features of a small pebble. I found every part of it engaging both for the geology and the creativity of the author.
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By Oolith on December 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Whilst it is well known that Blake saw a World in a grain of sand, here we are presented with the whole Universe in a pebble. The way in which so many fundamental geo-scientific themes are skilfully and accessibly linked to a single pebble from a Welsh beach is inspired. Whether you are a trained geologist or lay-reader, I promise that you will learn something here. Fantastic!
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