Any book called ‘Planet Earth Owners’ Workshop Manual’ will have a long time-line to cover as described by its sub-title ‘From 4.5 billion Years Ago To The Present’. It also has a sub-sub-title ‘The Practical Guide To The Origin, Evolution And Future Of Earth’. In other words, where our planet came from and where it’s going. Mankind, in its history, barely register as a pin-prick and yet we’ve also done the most changes to it and you need to pay particular attention to the closing chapters.
To get the complete picture, author David Baker has gone back to the Big Bang and the development of the galaxies and finally to our own Solar System all powered by a lot of photos and pictures. Some of which are unexpected eye-openers, like seeing not only the relative sizes of all the planets but also that of their moons to each other. With the planets, when they are compared to the Sun, even the mighty Jupiter and Saturn are merely pebbles. Our Moon is not the largest satellite as three of Jupiter’s and one of Saturn’s are bigger and such illustrations make more lasting images than just saying so. Likewise that the Moon’s far side is a lot more denser with a thicker crust than the light side that faces us. Something I wasn’t aware of was that even the Asteroid Belt has a few gaps in it. Then again, whoever thought it was that stable? After all, Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, based on compostion, are thought to be ex-asteroids.
In Earth’s molten state, only the lighter metals stayed on the surface which is why we mine for the rest. Uranium isn’t as passive as it looks as there have been noted sixteen natural chain reactions underground in Africa eons ago. There are many pictures of the various elements although some give the impression that they are in black and white, although most are actually silvery coloured, very few have any colour at all, although none of these are shown. There are only 6 major elements on the Earth and the rest are in very minute quantities in comparison.
Seeing how the Earth’s continental drift developed did stop and make me think from a Science Fiction perspective in that if you use a time machine, the land masses aren’t going to be quite where you expect them to be. Even Antarctica was once near the equator. The volcanic reaction that broke and moved the continents around actually had the oceans acting as coolant to keep the temperature down. A useful bit of knowledge if you’re planet-building and everything having its place. Indeed, describing the surface of the Earth as being on an ocean of rock isn’t that far from reality. Seeing comparisons to Mars where there are no oceans shown here and you quickly realise why eruptions were so large there.
It’s hardly surprising that much of this book covers geology with a smidgen of chemistry than biology. After all, if you want to look after the Earth you do need an understanding of its composition and the changes that we’ve done to it in the past couple hundred years. When you compare the two time factors, mankind has been most destructive. There are plenty of images and explanations here to support this. Even showing the change in weather conditions and the developing global warming should give you a shudder. I do wonder if those politicians who could change things would ever stop to read a book such as this would start to take things more seriously for the generations to come and not see it as something that isn’t on their watch.
Something that I was less aware of was the difference in concentration of salt water around the world. We tend to see oceans as being moving water but only to a degree, as these different stretches of water don’t really blend into each other and the salt concentrations varying depends on evaporation rates. What I found very interesting is how some areas of the oceans can suddenly swell with several hundred mile waves from thermoclines because it does explain how some large ships have been lost in the past. Something I’m sure most of you wouldn’t know is that spring tides have nothing to do with the season but how the oceans are drawn or spring towards the Moon. Then you have to include wind conditions and weather prediction takes a different ball game to understand. When you see the diagrams of how the hurricanes are increasing in intensity as they batter the USA, you should be able to understand Baker’s argument that we must renew our efforts to reduce global warming. We are the current curators of this planet and we are clearly failing to look after it in the way it was before we got it.
This book is an intensely interesting book the more you dig (sic) into it and learn more about our planet. The entire ecology depends on a lot of things working together. Damage to one part will have serious implications for the rest. Baker does not preach about resolution, he just shows what happens if we don’t. This book deserves to be read by you all.
(pub: Haynes. 221 page illustrated indexed large hardback. Price: £22.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85733-810-5)
check out website: www.haynes.co.uk