Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Titles

1) Blatner, David. Spectrums: Our Mind-boggling Universe from Infinitesimal to Infinity. 2012. Walker & Company. Hardbound: 183 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: In Spectrums, David Blatner blends narrative and illustration to illuminate the variety of spectrums that affect our lives every day: numbers, size, light, sound, heat, and time. There is actually very little in this universe that we can feel, touch, see, hear, or possibly even comprehend. It's not an easy task to stretch the mind to encompass both billions of years and billionths of seconds; the distance to Jupiter and the size of a proton; the tiny waves of visible light and gargantuan but invisible gamma rays; or the freezing point of Helium and the heat generated by the blast of an atom bomb.               
     Exploring these far-reaching spectrums gives us fascinating perspective on our small but not insignificant place in the universe. With easy-to-read, engaging, and insightful observations, illustrated by a wealth of photographs and diagrams, Blatner helps us "grok"-understand intuitively-six spectrums we encounter constantly, making our daily lives richer and more meaningful through greater appreciation of the bizarre and beautiful world in which we live.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting introduction to the world of physics.

2) Kuhl, Gabriele et al.. Visions of a Vanished World: The Extraordinary Fossils of the Hunsruck Slate. 2012. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 128 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: About four hundred million years ago earthquake activity and possibly major storms caused sudden movements of large quantities of muddy sediment along the seafloor. Animal communities in the path of these sediment-laden flows were instantly engulfed, the inhabitants "frozen" in the last moment of their lives. Amazingly, many of the creatures lost in this ancient catastrophe were almost perfectly preserved through the eons, fossilized in a thick series of muds now known as the Hunsrück Slate west of the Rhine Valley in western Germany. Excavations there have yielded the most diverse and surpassingly beautiful collection of marine fossils of the Devonian period ever discovered.
    This book pays tribute to the exquisite fossils of the Hunsrück Slate. Large full-color photographic plates display fossil sponges, brachiopods, clams, starfish, sea lilies, trilobites, worms, sea spiders, sea stars, crustaceans, corals, and many other species. An accessible commentary recounts the discovery of the fossils and explains how the slate was formed, how the animals are preserved, the significance of the fossils, and the controversies that surround them. A special presentation in every way, this book makes an exceptional contribution to the fascinating history of life on Earth.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest Devonian Period fossils.

3) Knell, Simon J.. The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal. 2012. Indiana University Press. Hardbound: 413 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.

SUMMARY: Stephen Jay Gould borrowed from Winston Churchill when he described the conodont animal as a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” This animal confounded science for more than a century. Some thought it a slug, others a fish, a worm, a plant, even a primitive ancestor of ourselves. The list of possibilities grew and yet an answer to the riddle never seemed any nearer. Would the animal that left behind these miniscule fossils known as conodonts ever be identified? Three times the animal was “found,” but each was quite a different animal. Were any of them really the one? Simon J. Knell takes the reader on a journey through 150 years of scientific thinking, imagining, and arguing. Slowly the animal begins to reveal traces of itself: its lifestyle, its remarkable evolution, its witnessing of great catastrophes, its movements over the surface of the planet, and finally its anatomy. Today the conodont animal remains perhaps the most disputed creature in the zoological world.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in conodont paleontology.

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