As my 39th birthday approaches, I wrestle more and more with time. Impending death focuses the mind, right? Well, it’s not as bad as all that, really, but like an invasive species, I find myself appreciating time’s aesthetic while wanting to spray it with dimensional herbicide.
With my own angst over a linear and finite lifespan as backdrop, I recently received Chris Turney’s Bones, Rocks, and Stars in the mail. Subtitled The Science of When Things Happened, Turney sets out to explain the difficulties of pinning down when as a scientific fact. The ensuing conversation covers the politics of calendars, tree rings and ice cores as important (and disappearing) records, earth’s penchant for galactic near misses, and finally the dangers of creationism.
The book is well written, geared for the general public, and, at 167 pages in its trade paperback form, easily consumed. Turney does an excellent job of tying the problems of scientific measurement, public ignorance, and poor public policy together. I enjoyed the blending of science with history and a bit of literary spin at the beginning of each chapter. I find that I agree with Pharyngula that the book culminates in the only place such a discussion can, namely the religious disruption of vital science.
This book would make a great Xmas gift (used, of course) for the citizen scientist in your life. I recommend it highly.