The Ends of the World
As new groundbreaking research suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet's history, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen takes us on a wild ride through the planet's five mass extinctions and, in the process, offers us a glimpse of our increasingly dangerous futureOur world has ended five times: it has been broiled, frozen, poison-gassed, smothered, and pelted by asteroids. In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen dives into deep time, exploring Earth’s past dead ends, and in the process, offers us a glimpse of our possible future.Many scientists now believe that the climate shifts of the twenty-first century have analogs in these five extinctions. Using the visible clues these devastations have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside “scenes of the crime,” from South Africa to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record—which is rife with creatures like dragonflies the size of sea gulls and guillotine-mouthed fish—and introduces us to the researchers on the front lines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the crime scenes of the Earth’s biggest whodunits.Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave, and casts our future in a completely new light.

The Ends of the World Details

TitleThe Ends of the World
Author
ReleaseJun 13th, 2017
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062364821
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, History, Environment, Nature, Geology

The Ends of the World Review

  • Carlos
    January 1, 1970
    What I expected: a chronicle of major natural disasters through out known history, What I got: a very frightening tale of the 5 major massive mass extinction Earth has gone through since life (microbes) ever emerged in this rock we call home . The narrative of the book explains the causes of the massive extinctions and the effects it had on the survivors if there were any, it then tell us that we might be on the beginning stages of the massive 6th extinction which would come about because of our What I expected: a chronicle of major natural disasters through out known history, What I got: a very frightening tale of the 5 major massive mass extinction Earth has gone through since life (microbes) ever emerged in this rock we call home . The narrative of the book explains the causes of the massive extinctions and the effects it had on the survivors if there were any, it then tell us that we might be on the beginning stages of the massive 6th extinction which would come about because of our disregard for earth and our ravenous appetite for fossil fuels. If that sounds like something you would enjoy I recommend you read it but don’t expect for a positive ending ....because everything that is coming climate wise is not good at all , not good at all...let the book expand on it ....
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    This book was quite different form what I had expected. For one, the author doesn‘t go too much into detail when it comes to describing the different time periods. Rather, we get short descriptions followed by how the period ended - and most of that is speculation anyway.We start almost at the Big Bang before we rush through the different periods and look at one mass extinction after the other from a geological as well as a paleontological point of view. I did like how the author ensured the rea This book was quite different form what I had expected. For one, the author doesn‘t go too much into detail when it comes to describing the different time periods. Rather, we get short descriptions followed by how the period ended - and most of that is speculation anyway.We start almost at the Big Bang before we rush through the different periods and look at one mass extinction after the other from a geological as well as a paleontological point of view. I did like how the author ensured the readers were aware of just how little time humanity has been on the planet when compared to the history of our planet.Then we follow the author to several sites where important fossils have been found, where he talked to enthusiasts as well as scientists, thus also walking through time with him and therefore watching the land mass separating as well as the appearance and disappearance of algea, trees, molluscs, dinosaurs, humans and more.One scientist‘s sentiment stood out to me: He said that, basically, we humans are what the trees were in the Devonian - our very existence triggering a mass extinction (the trees killed off the prehistoric fish). That, too, is just a theory - and will sadly give ammunition to those saying we shouldn‘t even try to do anything against climate change - but think about it: What if it‘s true and our very evolution leaves no other outcome? Personally, I disagree, because how we evolve also plays a part and we are not „just“ trees but have evolved so much, technologically, that we can change the outcome if only we are dedicated enough. However, I had never heard that theory before so it got me thinking.Anyway, the author went on quite the tour throughout the US and talked to a number of very important scientists of their respective fields. He also talked to scientists in other places (such as Siberia) and gave us their accounts of voyages and discoveries that triggered some of the most recent theories. The question he seems to be trying to answer is if the next mass extinction (ours) is just around the corner.Another thing that struck a chord with me due to what I‘ve been reading this month was the story of the Humboldt squid. I knew of the squid and how it was the only (or one of very few) profiting from rising sea temperatures, populations exploding - after having read about Alexander von Humboldt, it is very ironic that a squid named after the very scientist warning of the warming seas and advocating environmentalism is becoming a pest caused by human-induced global warming.Thus, the book had a few passages that made me contemplate several aspects of Earth‘s history, evolution, mass extinctions and global warming. However, those were few and far in between. Moreover, the writing was nothing spectacular and I often thought the author was skimming too much, barely scratching the surface, instead of going in deeper (he could have). He simply ticked off what could have been, followed every time by the admission that we don‘t know. I kept asking the same question: yeah, ok ... so?If you take it as a very light book, giving you a few pointers on the different eras and what died out at their respective end, what was left to us from those respective eras (such as gas or coal or oil) and what damage humanity has already caused in its short time on the planet, it works well enough. However, a beginner might need a few more details while a more advanced reader will definitely want more substance to the musings presented here. In short: if this book was juice, it would be watered down too much.Interestingly, my next book is The 6th Extinction and I‘m already very curious if Elizabeth Kolbert is more poignant about the theory she presents.
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  • Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    For what this book is, it is good.So what is it? An accessible rundown of the events of the five great extinction events of the Earth's past. Good for newcomers, decent for an update if it's been a few decades beyond your previous encounter with possible extinction causes... (remember the debates surrounding the Cambrian?)... and entertaining enough if what you mean by entertainment is the cognition of our eventual death as a species. :)Okay, granted, a lot of the material is slightly glossed-ov For what this book is, it is good.So what is it? An accessible rundown of the events of the five great extinction events of the Earth's past. Good for newcomers, decent for an update if it's been a few decades beyond your previous encounter with possible extinction causes... (remember the debates surrounding the Cambrian?)... and entertaining enough if what you mean by entertainment is the cognition of our eventual death as a species. :)Okay, granted, a lot of the material is slightly glossed-over in favor of narrative brevity and facts and causes are somewhat light... but the book knows its audience... and it's audience isn't glamorous or snazzed up with buzz-words... or is it? Oh... wait... "emergent" comes up a bit. Ah, well, no book is perfect.Makes me kinda want to re-read Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything or Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History if you want to get REALLY scared.But, again, for what it is, Brannon's book does a decent readable job. I just kinda wish I had more descriptions of the life that is now long gone. *sigh*
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    Great science writing that reads like a mystery novelI loved this book. It has everything I like about great science writing, including clear explanations of the science, personal anecdotes and a sense of humor. Even more, the way the story is structured, it reads like a mystery novel and among the suspects are volcanoes and asteroids. This made the book hard to put down. I also found that Peter Brannen seems to have paid a lot of attention to word choice and sentence structure and some of the w Great science writing that reads like a mystery novelI loved this book. It has everything I like about great science writing, including clear explanations of the science, personal anecdotes and a sense of humor. Even more, the way the story is structured, it reads like a mystery novel and among the suspects are volcanoes and asteroids. This made the book hard to put down. I also found that Peter Brannen seems to have paid a lot of attention to word choice and sentence structure and some of the writing had a poetic quality to it. I would even reread certain passages because they were so well written. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in science.Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Edelweiss+ for review purposes.
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  • Holly
    January 1, 1970
    First, this is interesting and entertaining (albeit in a perverse way), with a friendly tone but unapologetic specificity, about the five catastrophic massive extinction events and how life on earth emerged again each time, in weird and bizarre forms and in processes that took millions of years. That is the point: extinctions happen and these are incomprehensibly vast time spans - a scale we cannot even fathom. While this is ultimately a book about climate change, the grand perspective of the en First, this is interesting and entertaining (albeit in a perverse way), with a friendly tone but unapologetic specificity, about the five catastrophic massive extinction events and how life on earth emerged again each time, in weird and bizarre forms and in processes that took millions of years. That is the point: extinctions happen and these are incomprehensibly vast time spans - a scale we cannot even fathom. While this is ultimately a book about climate change, the grand perspective of the entire book gave me a way to really grasp how short a time modern humans have been on Earth and how long these things truly take. Our time span is of utter insignificance. The dinosaurs were the apex species of this planet for almost 200 million years - they were the real winners and the losers.And while it is such hubris to think we matter so much (anthropic principles and person-centered religious ideologies, etc.), it is at the same time such folly to think we humans have no effect on the Earth. Brannen emphasizes the observation of many scientists that the seeming goal/project/purpose of humanity on earth is to extract all the carbon out of the ground and ignite it as fast as we possibly can. That's sobering and true when one thinks about it. Just a stat: the oceans are 30% more acidic than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution (!). And this "project" of ours has never happened before in such a short, intense span of years - the changes usually happen on vast timescales of millions of years, while we are doing it 2 or 3 hundred years. Alas, every projection, even the most conservative, indicates that the world as we know it is going to collapse. Because everything is connected and the systems will fail to support our life on earth. For this age, anyway. I did not know that a massive supercontinent like Pangaea actually changes how climate works, or that as the continents split and collided it caused massive changes in carbon, Co2, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., or that the Chicxulub asteroid impact may not have been the sole factor in ending the Mesozoic (the Deccan basalt floods probably contributed), ... and I had never heard of "hypercane" (a continent-sized typhoon with 500 mph winds which could happen if the oceans get warm enough...). There are lots of wonderfully-nerdy geological and paleontological facts and terms like these in this book that I will try to recall at pub-quizzes (e.g. that the new name for the "K-T boundary" as we called it when I was in college is the Cretaceous–Paleogene or "K–Pg boundary"), but the broadening of my perspective is what I'm reflecting on right now.
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  • Atila Iamarino
    January 1, 1970
    Daqueles livros bem escritos que o autor vai dando dicas da conclusão e você fica todo orgulhoso de ter chego nela antes. Não pq é esperto, mas porque a linha de pensamento é bem clara. Uma passada muito boa pelo que cada grande extinção do passado foi, quais evidências temos delas, o papel de cada fator (haja vulcões) e o que é controverso. O livro vai crescendo na explicação e apontando os paralelos que fará com o momento em que vivemos. Com direito a mega fatos surpreendentes e bem legais, co Daqueles livros bem escritos que o autor vai dando dicas da conclusão e você fica todo orgulhoso de ter chego nela antes. Não pq é esperto, mas porque a linha de pensamento é bem clara. Uma passada muito boa pelo que cada grande extinção do passado foi, quais evidências temos delas, o papel de cada fator (haja vulcões) e o que é controverso. O livro vai crescendo na explicação e apontando os paralelos que fará com o momento em que vivemos. Com direito a mega fatos surpreendentes e bem legais, como hiper furacões, terremotos de escala 12 (sim, mais do que a crosta terrestre pode gerar), bichos se ferrando e tudo mais.Termina com uma discussão bem sensata das mudanças que estamos causando, das extinções de animais (que ele não consegue equiparar às do passado) às mudanças climáticas e a variação de CO2 induzida. Gostei bastante.
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  • Lindsay
    January 1, 1970
    A science journalist travels all over the world talking to paleontologists and geologists and visiting sights that illuminate the various ends of geological epochs in the deep history of Earth. By looking at he major mass extinctions on Earth through geologic time it also focuses on the individual events and their similarities. There's also a very strong discussion on where our current world climate situation is using these extinctions as a yard-stick. There's some brief discussion about the typ A science journalist travels all over the world talking to paleontologists and geologists and visiting sights that illuminate the various ends of geological epochs in the deep history of Earth. By looking at he major mass extinctions on Earth through geologic time it also focuses on the individual events and their similarities. There's also a very strong discussion on where our current world climate situation is using these extinctions as a yard-stick. There's some brief discussion about the types of life that vanished at each event and what life continued, including some speculation on why, but the focus is on the geology.I found it fascinating, a tad depressing, but with elements of hope. In terms of the current levels of climate change, as the author says, mass extinctions are where you're worried about the survival of cows and mice, not polar bears and rhinos. We're not quite there yet. But it's a warning that's worth heeding regardless.
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  • Lata
    January 1, 1970
    Ancient history fascinates me, and no, I'm not talking about human ancient history. I'm referring to the life of this planet. And it's been a seriously turbulent, nasty place periodically. Science journalist Peter Brannen takes us through several major developments on this planet. While this includes the slow development of life in all its many weird and wonderful forms over the millenia (okay, way bigger time chunks than millenia, since we're talking millions upon millions of years). But more i Ancient history fascinates me, and no, I'm not talking about human ancient history. I'm referring to the life of this planet. And it's been a seriously turbulent, nasty place periodically. Science journalist Peter Brannen takes us through several major developments on this planet. While this includes the slow development of life in all its many weird and wonderful forms over the millenia (okay, way bigger time chunks than millenia, since we're talking millions upon millions of years). But more importantly, how close this planet has come to erasing the life that lives on its thin, watery and rocky skin. Brannen takes us through possible causes of mass extinctions and their effects, from the Ordovician to the one that gets the best press, the end-Cretaceous (or, the dinosaur smushing one).While I often found Brannen's writing informative and interesting, I also found his writing style tended to verge on the hyperbolic and bombastic. That's not to say that what he was describing didn't deserve some bombast. It's hard to wrap one's head around the numbers of years into the distant past he was describing, and the sheer numbers of creatures of all sizes and sorts that have been eliminated on this planet. Not to mention that it's hard not to see that we're creating own serious problems, based on how little regard we have for the only place in this entire universe that we can currently live.I wouldn't say this book is the definitive light science book on mass extinctions, but I did find the book engaging (and liked how it jibed with the facts that I'd already learned in courses).
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  • Cathy (cathepsut)
    January 1, 1970
    The book has enjoyable stretches, but in total was really too boring to keep my interest. Strange, really, considering that I am interested in paleontology, love to watch documentaries about Earth‘s history—volcanos, movement of tectonic plates, various critters, etc.— and frequently read about climate change and sustainability topics. Not sure if it‘s me or the book. I sometimes disliked the flip tone of the narrator. And the book was a little to centered on the US to really appeal to me. On th The book has enjoyable stretches, but in total was really too boring to keep my interest. Strange, really, considering that I am interested in paleontology, love to watch documentaries about Earth‘s history—volcanos, movement of tectonic plates, various critters, etc.— and frequently read about climate change and sustainability topics. Not sure if it‘s me or the book. I sometimes disliked the flip tone of the narrator. And the book was a little to centered on the US to really appeal to me. On the other hand I learned something about the geological history of the North American continent.I think one issue I have is that it‘s not clear to me what the book wants to be. A kind of travelogue with anecdotal stories about geological and paleontological history or rather light pop-science, priming us on the reasons and consequences of climate change. Neither works well enough.At times informative and lightly entertaining, sometimes humourous, depressing and boring for long stretches. The required doomsday scenario at the end with a pinch of hope.About the author: http://peterbrannen.com/about
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  • Hank
    January 1, 1970
    Geology is boring. The rocks don't move, they are rock colored basically they are just good for throwing. At least that is what I thought until reading this. Brannen has done an unimaginably good job at bringing all things geology, paleo*, geochemistry and all the other subjects I avoid to life. His ability to weave so many different ideas and science into a coherent book is awesome.Not only was it a great science read, it was entertaining. You could feel Brannen's passion and excitement for the Geology is boring. The rocks don't move, they are rock colored basically they are just good for throwing. At least that is what I thought until reading this. Brannen has done an unimaginably good job at bringing all things geology, paleo*, geochemistry and all the other subjects I avoid to life. His ability to weave so many different ideas and science into a coherent book is awesome.Not only was it a great science read, it was entertaining. You could feel Brannen's passion and excitement for the subject as well as all of the scientists he interviewed. So many different personalities and ideas all blended to make a good story. The only down side is how dire the warnings are and how solid a case he makes for a really bad situation coming our way. It can be tough to stay positive with all of the evidence.Climate deniers, don't bother reading it. If you aren't convinced by now no amount of rational science will sway you. Anyone else, this is a very entertaining read about past extinctions due to climate or otherwise.
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  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to 25 years of visits to Yellowstone, I have developed a fascination with geology. This is one of the best books I've read on the subject. It includes the most detailed descriptions of the eras of Earth I have read in a book, other than a textbook. Because Brannen includes his reactions to the things he learns as he visits important sites and interviews scientists, he's able to explain difficult concepts in a way that anyone can understand. I don't see why textbooks have to be so boring w Thanks to 25 years of visits to Yellowstone, I have developed a fascination with geology. This is one of the best books I've read on the subject. It includes the most detailed descriptions of the eras of Earth I have read in a book, other than a textbook. Because Brannen includes his reactions to the things he learns as he visits important sites and interviews scientists, he's able to explain difficult concepts in a way that anyone can understand. I don't see why textbooks have to be so boring when a writer like Brannen can impart the same information in an interesting way.
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  • Peter Mcloughlin
    January 1, 1970
    covers the five major extinction events in Earths past the ongoing Sixth extinction brought on by Homo Sapiens, and future extinction events. Covers The Ordovician, The Devonian The Permian, The Triassic, The Cretaceous, the current Pleistocene event. Talks about the worlds that were destroyed clearing the way for new ages.
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  • Maddie Gretzky
    January 1, 1970
    I came to this book because I was concerned about Climate Change, and hoping for some context. And boy, does Peter Brannon give it. Each chapter, as he explains the lead up to and then possible causes of the mass extinction, he takes time to show how it is similar (or not) to what we are doing to the planet today. And make no mistake, our actions over the past couple hundred years are immense and long lasting: "People don't talk much about what happens after 2100. On the scale of a human lifetim I came to this book because I was concerned about Climate Change, and hoping for some context. And boy, does Peter Brannon give it. Each chapter, as he explains the lead up to and then possible causes of the mass extinction, he takes time to show how it is similar (or not) to what we are doing to the planet today. And make no mistake, our actions over the past couple hundred years are immense and long lasting: "People don't talk much about what happens after 2100. On the scale of a human lifetime, the affairs of the next century remain hazy and remote fictions. But since the scope of this book is geological, the year 2100 is an insignificant mile marker, and the passage of centuries and insignificant blur, unresolvable in the fossil record. For tens of thousands of years beyond 2100, the earth will remain much warmer and totally unlike what it has been for millions of years." If you're looking for a well-written, well-researched book to help you understand geology, this is an excellent choice. As an award-winning science journalist, Peter Brannon has the writing chops to convey complicated ideas clearly and poetically. He also makes sure to be clear about the many areas of earth's past where we just don't know what happened, laying out the various theories and arguments in a way that was easy to understand, while ultimately letting the reader judge competing evidence for themselves. Also, and this is perhaps critical in a book about multiple apocalypses, he's funny! As a Bostonian (former) myself, I appreciated his references to New England areas, but didn't feel confused by his references to places I haven't been. On occasion, he would suggest googling something for a visual, which was always worth the search. And the photos in the middle of the book were very helpful in envisioning such alien continental arrangements. Most of all, this book was humbling. I came to it after reading Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, a massive book that deals only with the 14,000 years or so of human history. This book spans millions of years, and makes it clear that life survives almost everything, even though humans may not. There are no calls to action at the end of this book, and most likely climate change deniers are not among its audience (though anyone denying climate change would benefit majorly from perusing this text!) anyway. But it does end with a surprisingly universal thought: there is likely other life in the universe; it's too vast and complex for life not to exist. But perhaps we, on Earth, have been stupidly lucky to have developed complex societies: to have geologists to study the past, journalists to write about them, bookstores in order to buy the resultant book, and smartphones to write reviews like this one on. Perhaps the life elsewhere in the universe will not get to that point. Whether it will or not, it is up to us to try to preserve the planet we've got, for if we fail- if humanity dies out even if life, microbial though it may be, goes on- what was the point of it all? It is up to us not to betray that great shining future humanity has been working for for centuries, up to us not to sell it for cheap coal and oil. Isn't that future worth making some changes now, to try to avert further damage? I think so.
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  • Sanjay Varma
    January 1, 1970
    I did not like the author's writing style, and found the material to be poorly organized. Good stuff can be found at the paragraph level, but the author rarely strings together two good paragraphs, and did not deliver any chapter that flowed well from start to finish. I reserve particular criticism for the way that Brannen portrays scientists. He tends to present their theories first, and then introduce quotes from them at the end which make them sound a bit desperate like they're delivering a s I did not like the author's writing style, and found the material to be poorly organized. Good stuff can be found at the paragraph level, but the author rarely strings together two good paragraphs, and did not deliver any chapter that flowed well from start to finish. I reserve particular criticism for the way that Brannen portrays scientists. He tends to present their theories first, and then introduce quotes from them at the end which make them sound a bit desperate like they're delivering a sales pitch instead of a cogent argument. There is something about the quotes from these scientists that reminded me of the way spiritual gurus speak in "The Celestine Prophecy."
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  • Satyajeet
    January 1, 1970
    Essential read for the Fall!Mass extinction and the End.Really uplifting if you ask me.Read this astonishing and terrifying description of the end of the dinosaurs:“The meteorite itself was so massive that it didn’t notice any atmosphere whatsoever,” said Rebolledo. “It was traveling 20 to 40 kilometers per second, 10 kilometers — probably 14 kilometers — wide, pushing the atmosphere and building such incredible pressure that the ocean in front of it just went away.”These numbers are precise wit Essential read for the Fall!Mass extinction and the End.Really uplifting if you ask me.Read this astonishing and terrifying description of the end of the dinosaurs:“The meteorite itself was so massive that it didn’t notice any atmosphere whatsoever,” said Rebolledo. “It was traveling 20 to 40 kilometers per second, 10 kilometers — probably 14 kilometers — wide, pushing the atmosphere and building such incredible pressure that the ocean in front of it just went away.”These numbers are precise without usefully conveying the scale of the calamity. What they mean is that a rock larger than Mount Everest hit planet Earth traveling twenty times faster than a bullet. This is so fast that it would have traversed the distance from the cruising altitude of a 747 to the ground in 0.3 seconds. The asteroid itself was so large that, even at the moment of impact, the top of it might have still towered more than a mile above the cruising altitude of a 747. In its nearly instantaneous descent, it compressed the air below it so violently that it briefly became several times hotter than the surface of the sun.“The pressure of the atmosphere in front of the asteroid started excavating the crater before it even got there,” Rebolledo said. “Them when the meteorite touched ground zero, it was totally intact. It was so massive that the atmosphere didn’t even make a scratch on it.”Unlike the typical Hollywood CGI depictions of asteroid impacts, where an extraterrestrial charcoal briquette gently smolders across the sky, in the Yucatan it would have been a pleasant day one second and the world was already over by the next. As the asteroid collided with the earth, in the sky above it where there should have been air, the rock had punched a hole of outer space vacuum in the atmosphere. As the heavens rushed in to close this hole, enormous volumes of earth were expelled into orbit and beyond — all within a second or two of impact.
“So there’s probably little bits of dinosaur bone up on the moon,” I asked.“Yeah, probably.” As I said, uplifting.
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  • Carlex
    January 1, 1970
    Three and half stars. (Sorry for my English) Of course, the subject is very interesting.However, this book reminds me too much a Nature or National Geographic TV series: many interviews, a bit of intrigue (which does not succeed), redundant explanations (in the series for the advertising cuts) and all these things. In other words, some superfluous pages.For the rest, I consider that Peter Brannen's book deserves three and half stars because it has enriched my (poor) knowledge about our geologica Three and half stars. (Sorry for my English) Of course, the subject is very interesting.However, this book reminds me too much a Nature or National Geographic TV series: many interviews, a bit of intrigue (which does not succeed), redundant explanations (in the series for the advertising cuts) and all these things. In other words, some superfluous pages.For the rest, I consider that Peter Brannen's book deserves three and half stars because it has enriched my (poor) knowledge about our geological past and has given me a good overview of the history, present and future of our planet.I have edited my review: the last chapter of the book has a very interesting topic: the thin line -the set of complex factors- that make a planet habitable or not.
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    A curious comparison to The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, in my opinion. While Elizabeth Kolbert won a Pulitzer writing about humanity inevitably causing the next great extinction, Peter Brannen puts forward a very convincing evidence that renders this theory rather narcissistic. There is no doubt that humans will eventually cause permanent change to earth's biosphere, altering our own quality of life and causing numerous species to disappear. However, to equal this phenomenon to the p A curious comparison to The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, in my opinion. While Elizabeth Kolbert won a Pulitzer writing about humanity inevitably causing the next great extinction, Peter Brannen puts forward a very convincing evidence that renders this theory rather narcissistic. There is no doubt that humans will eventually cause permanent change to earth's biosphere, altering our own quality of life and causing numerous species to disappear. However, to equal this phenomenon to the past five disruptive events is comparing apples to oranges. Read it and expand your understanding of the subject beyond the black-and-white, simplified agenda that award committees prefer to endorse.
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  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    *3.5 stars*Gleefully apocalyptic. The worse the mass extinction, the more detail you get about the Dantesque hellishness that occasionally visits the earth.Of course, there is a point to this. Mainly that the earth was quite well warmed by carbon at each mass extinction. Although, we have nothing on the end-Permian yet.Fun fact: when the dinosaur-killing asteroid hit, it was so big that one end of it was still higher than a 767's cruising height, when the other end first touched the ground. Exce *3.5 stars*Gleefully apocalyptic. The worse the mass extinction, the more detail you get about the Dantesque hellishness that occasionally visits the earth.Of course, there is a point to this. Mainly that the earth was quite well warmed by carbon at each mass extinction. Although, we have nothing on the end-Permian yet.Fun fact: when the dinosaur-killing asteroid hit, it was so big that one end of it was still higher than a 767's cruising height, when the other end first touched the ground. Except, it didn't really touch because it was travelling so fast it has shovelled the atmosphere and all air and a great deal of earth out of the way before finally breaking through the earth's mantle.
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  • Bonnie McDaniel
    January 1, 1970
    I've read some very good science books this year, and this is yet another. It discusses the six major mass extinctions in our planet's history (I always thought there were five, but Peter Brannen tosses in another one, the End-Pleistocene, which he pins on early humans). Of course, the granddaddy of mass extinctions is the End-Permian (252 million years ago), which is summed up in this cheerful paragraph:To summarize: There was an ocean that was rapidly acidifying--one that, over huge swaths of I've read some very good science books this year, and this is yet another. It discusses the six major mass extinctions in our planet's history (I always thought there were five, but Peter Brannen tosses in another one, the End-Pleistocene, which he pins on early humans). Of course, the granddaddy of mass extinctions is the End-Permian (252 million years ago), which is summed up in this cheerful paragraph:To summarize: There was an ocean that was rapidly acidifying--one that, over huge swaths of the planet, was as hot as a Jacuzzi and completely bereft of oxygen. There were sickly tides suffused with so much carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide that either poison would have sufficed as a killer in its own right. There was a Russian landscape detonating and being smothered in lava several miles deep. There was a fog of neurotoxins and lethal smog streaming from these volcanoes and, high above, an ozone layer blasted apart by halocarbons, inviting a bath of lethal radiation at the planet's surface. There was forest-destroying acid rain and a landscape so barren that rivers had stopped winding. There were carbon dioxide levels so high, and global warming so intense, that much of the earth had become too hot even for insects. And now there were Kump's unearthly mega-hurricanes, made of poison swamp gas, that would have towered into the heavens and obliterated whole continents.The Kump mentioned here then compares these conditions to the modern day:"Well, at the rate at which we're injecting CO2 into the atmosphere today, according to our best estimates, is ten times faster than it was during the End-Permian." Books like this are very important. They point out the brutal truth: If humans continue on our fossil-fuel-burning suicidal march, we will probably destroy ourselves and much of life on Earth as well. The planet itself will survive, and life will return, albeit in a radically new fashion, as has happened after each of the previous mass extinctions. But civilization will be gone, and so will Homo sapiens. All because of a few decades of deliberate blindness and unmatched greed, and for what?This is an interesting, well-written book, but it is not a happy one. Too much here strikes way too close to home. I don't know if it's even possible, now, to stop what's coming, but I commend this author, and others, for writing books like this, which use the past to illuminate the present.
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  • Lissa
    January 1, 1970
    I love books about the various "ends" of the world in prehistory. I blame my childhood fascination with dinosaurs (one of the very first books I owned was called "Dial-A-Dinosaur" by Paul Sereno, which had two dials where you could find an illustration of dinosaurs and a page number for a description about them). There's something just so interesting about the lifeforms that were here before us, nearly all of which didn't survive into our "modern" world, and how they went extinct. There's still I love books about the various "ends" of the world in prehistory. I blame my childhood fascination with dinosaurs (one of the very first books I owned was called "Dial-A-Dinosaur" by Paul Sereno, which had two dials where you could find an illustration of dinosaurs and a page number for a description about them). There's something just so interesting about the lifeforms that were here before us, nearly all of which didn't survive into our "modern" world, and how they went extinct. There's still a lot that we don't know about these extinctions, but the author does a pretty good job at trying to piece together the various common theories about what went down and when. The reason I'm giving this book only three stars is more because of the author's writing style. Although the chapters are divided into the various mass extinctions, they tend to meander quite a bit. I would have preferred a more linear presentation of the information, but it reads more like a travelogue than something that is supposed to impart knowledge.The author does try to tie the mass extinctions of the past with what is going on today (global warming, increased CO2 in the atmosphere, etc), with mixed possibilities. On the one hand, a great deal of evidence supports that what we are doing is unsustainable in the long run and will have vast consequences for future generations, as well as the Earth for millions of years. Other scientists theorize, however, that we haven't quite reached the tipping point yet and that there is still time to reverse the damage that we are doing. The ending, I felt, was poorly done, and the author basically says that all will end well without giving evidence for that. Altogether, I would conditionally recommend this to people who are interested in the five mass extinctions of earth, but I wouldn't go into the book with high hopes.
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  • Leslie
    January 1, 1970
    The author is unquestionably convinced that we humans are out to destroy life on earth as we know it. The earth has spent billions of years hiding carbon in pockets deep in the earth and we modern humans want to dig, drill, frack and otherwise remove all of that carbon so we can burn it and release it into the atmosphere and oceans and turn the earth into a pizza oven.... and there is nothing we can do to stop it.... except stop using carbon... oh dearHowever the author also admits that many mil The author is unquestionably convinced that we humans are out to destroy life on earth as we know it. The earth has spent billions of years hiding carbon in pockets deep in the earth and we modern humans want to dig, drill, frack and otherwise remove all of that carbon so we can burn it and release it into the atmosphere and oceans and turn the earth into a pizza oven.... and there is nothing we can do to stop it.... except stop using carbon... oh dearHowever the author also admits that many millennia ago when the first trees evolved they needed nutrients trapped below in rocks so they developed roots which broke up rocks and released various elements that eventually ended up in the streams and rivers and oceans and killed all the animals in the oceans by denying them oxygen... which is terrible I mean we need to build a time machine and go back 5000000000 years and save those pre-fishies... except if we do that we won't ever be here because if it wasn't for these very specific disasters we weak humans would have never been able to inhabit this big blue marble. Now I am not a scientist or a philosopher but it seems to me that these extinctions happened for a reason and if we are headed for a 6th extinction the only thing that makes it different is that we are seemingly arrogant enough to think we can change the future of a planet that has been around for billions of years merely to save ourselves. If the earth decides to shake us off it is because it has something very different planned.
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  • Robyn
    January 1, 1970
    3,5 that I’m rounding up.
  • Carol Storm
    January 1, 1970
    Fun book with lots of amazing dinosaur facts and eye-popping descriptions of spectacular geological disasters that happened hundreds of millions of years ago. I really enjoyed this book but there were two things that really annoyed me. This bright young lad sees himself as a modern, secular, liberal guy -- he really looks down his nose at people who get all worked up about "centuries old religions." But strangely enough, whenever he starts dishing the dirt on those scary extinctions he sounds ju Fun book with lots of amazing dinosaur facts and eye-popping descriptions of spectacular geological disasters that happened hundreds of millions of years ago. I really enjoyed this book but there were two things that really annoyed me. This bright young lad sees himself as a modern, secular, liberal guy -- he really looks down his nose at people who get all worked up about "centuries old religions." But strangely enough, whenever he starts dishing the dirt on those scary extinctions he sounds just like a backwoods preacher whooping up hellfire! "Did all the trilobites die screaming? What about the happy, fun loving annelids? Just like us, they enjoyed their lifestyle of carbon emissions, and never thought about tomorrow. Suddenly, those sinful trilobites were bathing in a lake of fire of their own design -- just like everyone who voted for Trump is gonna fry, brothers and sisters, fry on a griddle of corporate greed! Can I get an amen for all the trilobites who voted for Trump?"The other problem was less hysterical but just as annoying. This is one of those books where the author interviews dozens of scientists, all over the country, which is fine. But he always has to stick in a few sentences at the beginning just to let you know that, hey, this person is one of us -- he's one of the cool kids. "Biff Loman has been studying trilobites for twenty years. I caught up with Biff outside the science lab, where he was playing frisbee with his dog while wearing a classic WHO t-shirt with a pirate's bandanna on his head and faded vintage jeans." Yeah, okay. Just once I would have liked to see him interview a scientist who, you know, wasn't cool. "I caught up with Dr. Carrington in his foul-smelling, one-bedroom apartment, which is all he can afford on an academic's salary. He was eating day-old pizza, drinking warm beer out of the can and masturbating to a decades old episode of STAR TREK!"I think I could have bought all the global-warming hysteria a lot more readily if it didn't always come from the cool kids. You know what I mean?
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  • Shannan
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book so fast. I have a warm spot for this type of book and the extinctions while not new to me were really brought to life. The author has a gift the keep it both scientific and engaging.
  • Daniel Frank
    January 1, 1970
    While this book ostensibly isn't about climate change, it is by far the most important book about climate change I have ever read.Learning about the earth's history of mass extinctions gives important perspective. After finishing this book, I now give more credence to importance of research on global catastrophic risks (see: https://www.openphilanthropy.org/rese... )Unfortunately, I thought the book was poorly written. The content is important and worth learning about. One could probably learn t While this book ostensibly isn't about climate change, it is by far the most important book about climate change I have ever read.Learning about the earth's history of mass extinctions gives important perspective. After finishing this book, I now give more credence to importance of research on global catastrophic risks (see: https://www.openphilanthropy.org/rese... )Unfortunately, I thought the book was poorly written. The content is important and worth learning about. One could probably learn the relevant points by spending 30 minutes googling the topic.
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  • Trey Piepmeier
    January 1, 1970
    This was an utterly fascinating book. Very well written and as much of a page turner as a book on geology and paleontology can be. It's really given me some sense of the vast scale of the time that life has been on earth. It's still beyond imagination, but I feel it more than I have before.My only issue with this book is that there were a few moments where the author goes a bit bro. There were a few (fairly subtle, but still present) moments that put me off. A little male gender-blindness, a lit This was an utterly fascinating book. Very well written and as much of a page turner as a book on geology and paleontology can be. It's really given me some sense of the vast scale of the time that life has been on earth. It's still beyond imagination, but I feel it more than I have before.My only issue with this book is that there were a few moments where the author goes a bit bro. There were a few (fairly subtle, but still present) moments that put me off. A little male gender-blindness, a little punching down.
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  • Steven Peterson
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a well done telling of the story of Earth's five great extinctions. In each case, a large majority of species (including plants, land life, sea life, and life in flight) disappeared. In most cases, ironic given today's climate debate, carbon imbalance was the problem. And even the Cretaceous extinction, recently thought to have been brought about by an object from space crashing into the Yucatan area, may have interacted with contemporaneous volcanic eruptions in India.The heart of This book is a well done telling of the story of Earth's five great extinctions. In each case, a large majority of species (including plants, land life, sea life, and life in flight) disappeared. In most cases, ironic given today's climate debate, carbon imbalance was the problem. And even the Cretaceous extinction, recently thought to have been brought about by an object from space crashing into the Yucatan area, may have interacted with contemporaneous volcanic eruptions in India.The heart of this book is a detailed examination of life in various periods. The climax of each was an extinction event. These are the five: End-Ordovician, Late Devonian, End-Permian, End-Triassic, and End-Cretaceous. Each period is well described, as we see dominant forms evolve as well as all manner of life. Then, the climax of an extinction event that could destroy 90% of all life.Then, the author describes the slow recovery of life and new forms coming into dominance. The most recent extinction event, of course, resulted in the death of most dinosaurs (birds are dinosaurs, theropods related to T. Rex and raptors, so we have today a bridge of life back to the age of the dinosaurs). This is the end event most familiar to most of us.The book ends with speculation about a sixth extinction event, with discussion of the possibility that humans may be a part of the picture, with increased carbon being produced, destruction of natural habitats, etc. This is obviously a speculative chapter, but one that helps place the tale of five prior extinctions into an interesting frame.All in all, a fine work.
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  • Bou
    January 1, 1970
    Are we amidst the world's sixt extinction? How will the world look like in 100 years time of now? Questions that are asked all around the world. Are uncontrollable wildfires, super storms and lethal heat waves coming our way? In this book, Peter Brannen sets the current ecological problems in context of the previous five mass extinctions and gives a gloomy outlook on what could happen in our future worldIf we keep burning our fossil fuel reserves, there is something in store for us. Facing a pos Are we amidst the world's sixt extinction? How will the world look like in 100 years time of now? Questions that are asked all around the world. Are uncontrollable wildfires, super storms and lethal heat waves coming our way? In this book, Peter Brannen sets the current ecological problems in context of the previous five mass extinctions and gives a gloomy outlook on what could happen in our future worldIf we keep burning our fossil fuel reserves, there is something in store for us. Facing a possible 18 degrees rise and sea levels elevated with hundreds of feet, this means the end of the world as we know it today. No ice caps, no New York.Peter examines the current ecological problems of the world and sets it in context of the previous mass extinctions and enlarges the timescale from 100 years to million of years. Laced with personal experiences and interview with respected palaeontologists from around the world, Peter tells is what is in store for us, what we can expect for our human society and what is different in the so-called man-made sixth extinction event, compared to the previous ones. All in all with one difference, this time human mankind is the source and will need to acknowledge our destructive role we play on our planet.
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  • Tim Weed
    January 1, 1970
    A stunning, perspective-altering book, and beautifully written too. I find this kind of vast perspective on time—geological time, upon which we humans are now making our mark, to our own great risk and detriment—fascinating and on some level deeply reassuring. Highly recommended book, even if paleontology isn't usually your kind of thing!
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    I "liked" the top 4/5 star reviews that say it all. I will add that the book was catnip for me because 1) Science! and 2) Overview.I am still praying for another asteroid though (or a Yellowstone explosion). The author tries had to get people out of this mindset but humans do not deserve this planet.
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