Sunday, October 31, 2021

Books: Volcanoes, Mammals, Himalayas

 New arrivals on my book shelf.

Fire and Ice: Volcanoes of the Solar System. Earth has them. So does the Moon and Mars. While eruptions on these three is molten silicate magma, there is plenty of variety in the rest of the Solar System. Io has sulphur rich emissions which drape the surface with a coating of  sulphur. Pluto has eruptions of nitrogen, methane, and ammonia that solidifies to form icy rock. Tidal forces unleased by Saturn on its moon Enceladus ruptures the moon's surface and triggers eruptions of fluids that fall back as snow and also contribute to the formation of Saturn's rings. Volcanologist Natalie Starkey delves into our current understanding of volcanoes of the Solar System and what we can learn from them about planetary evolution. Fascinating topic!


Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Evolution and Origins. Untold because most authors begin where the Dinosaurs end. The starting point is  usually at 66 million years ago, when a meteorite changed the world in an instant, reorganizing and vacating ecosystems into which mammalian lineages radiated. The story told by Elsa Panciroli goes way back, when Synapsids, the branch that led to mammals diverged from the common ancestor of mammals and reptiles. Repeat three times before going to sleep every night. Mammals did not evolve from Reptiles. These two groups shared a common ancestor in the Carboniferous about 300 million years ago. More and more fossils  are revealing that these early mammalian lineages were quite diverse, and not mere stunted underlings to the more popularly known Dinosaurs. For a lucid audio discussion of this book, listen to Elsa Panciroli on Paleocast Podcast- Beasts Before Us

 Himalaya: A Human History. My friend Emmanuel Theophilus is sure to like this one. I am thoroughly enjoying it. I didn't know much about ancient Tibet and Nepal, and what a rich history these two regions have! Ed Douglas tells these stories with panache and verve. And with a light touch. Lost empires,  ancient trade routes, master craftsman, art, architecture, spiritual masters, crafty power brokers, bloody military campaigns, missionaries, adventurers, botanists, colonialism, and recent geopolitics.  It really is an enthralling narrative of the epic history of this mighty mountainous region. I'll use the word 'remote' more carefully hence in my conversations about the Himalaya. This one is for you Theo!  

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