Geological pace…

How the earth works
by Michael E. Wysession

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Very elementary. If you are new to the topic or need a basic refresher about geology, Earth‘s history, physics, plate tectonics, volcanoes, etc., this is a good primer.

From the book blurb:

“How the Earth Works takes you on an astonishing journey through time and space. In 48 lectures, you will look at what went into making our planet – from the big bang, to the formation of the solar system, to the subsequent evolution of Earth.“
… charting the geologic forces that churn beneath our feet to push the continents and seafloor around… Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are byproducts of our planet’s ceaseless activity, and you will focus on specific examples of each… how humans have transformed watersheds, leveled mountains, changed the balance of gases in the atmosphere, and caused the extinction of enough species to hasten the end of the 65-million-year-old Cenozoic era…“

The lectures start off with „Geology’s Impact on History“, „Geologic History—Dating the Earth“, „Earth’s Structure—Journey to Earth’s Center“. The we start to delve into some basic principles. 

Lectures 6 & 7 „Making Matter—The Big Bang and Big Bangs“ and „Creating Earth—Recipe for a Planet“ were pretty fun chapters. I think this is something I want to explore more in the future, aka how do planets and solar systems form? 

Recommended reading by Wysession:
– Hawking, A Brief History of Time. — I tried this when it was published and didn’t get far. Got a hardback version, now I just have to find the time.
– Tyson, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries. — Tyson has a style I like, at least from watching him on screen. Tempted.
– Calvino, Cosmicomics
– Ferris, The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe Report

„The Rock Cycle—Matter in Motion“, „Minerals—The Building Blocks of Rocks“ and „Crystallization—The Rock Cycle Starts“ were pretty dry, but probably a necessary foundation for another fun lecture: Lecture 12 „Volcanoes—Lava and Ash“.

Lecture 15 „Plate Tectonics—Why Continents Move“ — this was probably the best explanation about the mechanics of plate tectonics that I have ever heard. Wysession is good a breaking it down with practical examples on any topic. Here one probably needs a video to watch him with his metal sheets, ice cubes in water etc., instead of just listening to the explanations.

Lecture 16 to 19 told me more about plate tectonics though than I ever wanted to know and I almost DNFd several times. I listened to most of lecture 20, „Continents Collide and Mountains are Made“, and started on lecture 21, „Intraplate Volcanoes“, before finally deciding to call it a day. 10.5 hours done, another 13-odd hours to go… the lecture format made this pretty dull and boring a lot of the time, although there were the above mentioned highlights as well. Maybe I will pick this up again at some point and make it to some more fun chapters, but for now I am done.


3 thoughts on “Geological pace…

    1. I really enjoyed some parts of it. The lecture format just lacks build-up of any kind, it just keeps on and on. It might be well suited to regular commuting.


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