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iuuiEarth Materials: Introduction to Mineralogy and Petrology

At over 500 pages, in large US quarto format and full of colour photographs, figures and graphs this is an epic book! The crystallography, mineral and rocks identification sections are particularly well served by the illustrations and photographs that bring difficult concepts to life.

The reader is guided through the basics of geology, rock-forming minerals and rock identification before diving into the more detailed aspects of geology, such as crystallography, microscopy and mineralogy. There are very useful chapters on igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock-forming minerals all with useful photographs and figures. Unfortunately, (and like every other ‘rocks and minerals’ book I have seen), the photographs all seem to be of museum quality specimens which I have never had the good fortune to see except in museums! I do wish that alongside a picture of the ‘perfect’ specimen authors would include two or three photographs showing what the rock or mineral looks like in an exposure after 10,000 years of weathering, and what the rock / mineral looks like after four weeks in a core box after careful handling by a driller and contracting geologist!

The final few chapters briefly discuss economic minerals, resource potential of geological materials, including geothermal energy, hazard assessment and minerals that have a detrimental effect on human health and welfare. There is a thorough glossary and several indexes for specific minerals and rocks as well as a general index. There is also a useful chart for the estimation of mineral abundance in a hand specimen or microscope viewer.

Each chapter ends with a concise summary of what has (or should have) been learned, offers review questions and carries useful information about online resources as well as suggestions for further reading. My only problem with this book is not in fact the book, but the offer on the back cover suggesting that answers to review questions, PowerPoint slides and jpegs of the figures are available on-line from the publishers. At the time of writing these resources were not available to non-academic staff.

Although this is an excellent book it is definitely not a ‘field guide’! The book is substantial in both content and size and as such is more suited as study reference in the site office, student laboratory or practitioner’s desk - or dare I say the more enlightened ‘coffee table’?

Published by Cambridge University Press 2012. ISBN 978-0521145213 (Sbk) List price: £40.00

Reviewed by Tom Berry

The Evolution of Fossil Ecosystems


Exceptionally preserved fossil assemblages are perhaps one of the most exciting areas of palaeontology and understanding their intricate details is certainly a key part of any degree programme. Fortunately the second edition of this excellent book makes this task easy, enjoyable and accessible to everyone from the budding academic to the curious amateur.

At just under 300 pages the book is not overlong but succeeds in communicating the key aspects of the lagerstätten it describes in an easy to digest manner. Starting with the Edicara Biota the authors track the evolution of life on Earth through geological time with detailed descriptions of famous sites such as the Burgess Shale and German Plattenkalks. This chronological approach allows the book to highlight the significance of laggerstätte to understanding evolution and directly contrast different eras of evolution in Earth’s history. By the final chapter we have visited 20 sites of exceptional preservation and importance spanning almost all of geological time.

Each chapter follows a standard layout, which comprises of a short background on the time period covered and any significant events that the site has preserved. This is followed by a history of the discovery and exploration of the sites, followed by detailed descriptions of the taphonomy and taxonomy. The authors achieve an excellent balance of text and images on the page and use well-drafted sketches and carefully selected photographs to convey the key findings of each location. Some chapters are better prepared than others however; I felt that the Burgess Shale chapter was a little dry, whereas the chapter dealing with the Hunsrück Slate is much more visually impressive. Each chapter then closes with a comparison of the site to other sites from the same period and suggested museum and site visits, which make it a handy guide for those planning a paleontological pilgrimage to any of these exceptional assemblages.

In conclusion this is a well constructed and succinct text whose easy-to-absorb style can benefit anyone with an interest in learning more about the fossil record. I would highly recommend it, particularly to undergraduate students and anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the history of life on Earth.

Reviewed by Daniel Austin

Published by Academic Press (Elsevier), 2012 (2nd Edn) ISBN-13: 978-1840761603 (sbk) List Price: £29.95

Remagnetization and Chemical Alteration of Sedimentary Rocks.


The book contains case studies and review articles focusing on remagnetization, chemical remagnetization mechanisms, and magnetic changes associated with chemical alteration by hydrocarbons.

Remagnetization or ‘secondary magnetization’ is common in sedimentary rocks and is widespread. It can be caused by a diagenetic or thermal event, which can be dated using palaeomagnetic techniques. This has applications in hydrocarbon exploration. A better understanding of remagnetization could also improve our ability to uncover primary magnetizations. However, this book concentrates mostly on secondary mnagnetic imprint and magnetic changes caused by chemical alterations associated with hydrocarbons. There is some comment on the history of remagnetization studies.

Many chemical remagnetization processes have been proposed, including those caused by a number of fluids (e.g. orogenic, basinal and hydrocarbon). Other diagenetic processes may also have an effect (e.g. clay diagenesis and maturation of organic matter). Tectonic events are, of course, also implicated. There are several mechanisms for remagnetization, for example mineralising fluids resulting in the precipitation of magnetic minerals such as magnetite, pyrrhotite, and others such as goethite.

The various authors give brief consideration to early and late diagenetic events that are encrypted in how magnetic assemblages change through the sedimentary sequence. There is some evidence for a relationship between hydrocarbons and authigenic magnetite and/or pyrrhotite. The book also suggests that a relationship exists between magnetic minerals and the alteration of oil due to biodegradation, though this process is not fully understood.

The minerals haematite and iron pyrites are also mentioned, as is the palaeomagnetism of South America (where paucity of data severely hinders the understanding of the Gondwanan palaeogeography). The apparent polar wander path is currently well –defined and is mentioned here for the Cambrian-Edicaran time (570-500 Ma).

There is some discussion of the magnetic properties of drill cuttings from an exploratory well and their relationship to hydrocarbon presence or migration and petrophysical properties.

A few of the later articles look at specific geographic areas (e.g. Texas, Pennsylvania, Canada, Columbia and the Himalayas) as well as particular rock types (e.g. shale, breccia, oil sand, and carbonate).

This book is hardback and is, as usual for an SP, well printed and bound. It contains many diagrams (some in colour), figures, photographs and tables, distributed through 15 papers by various authors, with extensive references after each. The book is quite expensive (less so to Fellows!), but nonetheless constitutes excellent value, even at full price.

Reviewed by Steve Rowlatt


Published by The Geological Society of London Special Publication 371 (Hbk) 2012 ISBN 978-1-86239-351-6 ISSN 0305-8719 290pp. List Price: £90

Physical Principles of Remote Sensing

iuThis softback book is written in an easy-to-read style and contains many informative diagrams, excellent plates (many in colour), useful satellite images, helpful review sections throughout, and questions. There is some physics and mathematics supporting the text, but this should be quite accessible to most general geological readers. Additional material is given at

The book is suitable for readers at any level, but especially undergraduates and researchers in remote sensing, geography, cartography, surveying, meteorology, Earth sciences and environmental sciences, as well as physics, mathematics and engineering. It should prove especially useful to anyone working in remote sensing generally, and is excellent value at £40.

The author concentrates on observation of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere from above using electromagnetic radiation. The origins of remote sensing lie further back in history than you may imagine - in the 4th century BC, in fact, with Aristotle’s Camera Obscura, (although the author suggests it may have been even earlier!).

Some important developments were made in the 17th and 19th centuries, of particular note being work by Herschel, Hertz and Maxwell. Aerial photography followed, using aeroplanes primarily developed for military purposes. Scanning came later, as did observations from space. Although many past developments had military uses, recent ones (such as the development of Google Earth) have brought remote sensing within the reach of the general public at last.

The author treats both ‘passive’ and ‘active’ remote sensing systems. The first records natural radiation, while the second involves sending a signal to the surface and detecting a response. Active systems are considered to include both ranging and scattering techniques, although it should be borne in mind that the distinction is not entirely rigorous. Laser altimetry and LiDAR are considered where Earth’s surface topography is to be measured. Data collected in these ways then have to be processed using a range of techniques. The author also treats many of the areas to which remote sensing is applied: e.g. agriculture, archaeology, glaciology, urban mapping, geomorphology etc.

Absorption, scattering and emission are all treated in depth. This is important because, for example, fog, cloud, rain, snow and atmospheric turbulence all have effects on radiation which, once understood, can in themselves prove useful. Photography and wide-scale digital images are useful in mapping, while thermal imagery is used to gauge sea surface temperatures - an important measure in climate studies.

The bulk of the book deals with observations of the Earth while the final chapters deal with methods and techniques for processing and storing the images.

Reviewed by Steve Rowlatt

Published by: Cambridge University Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-521-18116-7 (sbk) 441pp. List price: £40

Destiny or Chance Revisited


It seems that barely a week goes by without the discovery of new planets around a distant star. Discussion of these exoplanets is often framed in terms of searching for ‘another Earth’. This book, a comprehensive review of our knowledge of planet formation, argues that this search will probably end in failure. The story of how we ended up with a planet that is covered in water, has plate tectonics and supports life is so full of chance events that it is likely to be an extremely rare occurrence.

Stuart Ross Taylor is a distinguished academic and well placed to give an overview of current knowledge. He starts with the Big Bang and the wider universe to understand how elements are formed and moves on to the many chance ways gases, ice and dust within a solar nebula become arranged into planets. A review of current knowledge of exoplanets benefits from an experienced viewpoint - the limitations of the techniques used to find planets are described as well as the exciting discoveries. Reports of ‘Earth-like’ planets should be taken with a pinch of salt - even a planet with an Earth-like mass and orbit is likely to be very different from Earth in most other ways.

The tale of how our own star ended up surrounded by a menagerie of planets, moons, comets, Centaurs, Trojans, Hungarias and other exotica, has many twists and turns. As the Sun burst into life, the surrounding nebula was swept by the solar wind. Gas was swept out beyond the ‘snow line’ where some was captured by Saturn and Jupiter leaving the inner Solar System depleted in ‘volatile elements’ such as hydrogen, lead and potassium. Our own Earth and moon were formed by a random collision event between small planetesimals. A little later, the outer planets rearranged themselves, causing a ‘Late Heavy Bombardment’, making the early Earth a hellish place. We should be grateful for this - icy fragments from beyond the snow line brought water back to the Earth, to lubricate plate tectonics and support life. Venus (which might appear ‘Earth-like’ to alien astronomers) is relatively dry, and so extremely different in many ways.

Like a planet, this book gives the impression of having formed by the accretion of fragments over time. Persuasive arguments for the role of chance in creating this Earth and us on it are based on a deep knowledge of the relevant science. The outer chapters, forays into history and philosophy, lack these underpinnings and feel much less substantial. The writing is often excellent - clear and interesting, but varies in quality and can be repetitive. An understanding of the place our planet holds in the cosmos is something any Earth scientist should have. Ignore its outer crust and concentrate on its core.

Reviewed by Simon Wellings

Published by: Cambridge University Press, 2012 ISBN: 978-1-107-01675-0. 292 pp List price: £19.99

Petrophysics of Oil and Gas Reservoirs


The preface defines petrophysics (rock physics) 'as a branch of applied geology relating to the study of reservoir and caprock properties and their interactions with fluids (gases, hydrocarbons and aqueous solutions) based on fundamental methods of physics, chemistry and mathematics'. Thus this book ought to be of interest to both practising and student petroleum engineers and petroleum geologists.

However, the book has much competition since every professional service company has its own technical literature for use in converting field measurements to technical values. The undergraduate already has recommended books to augment lecture notes. Academic researchers need research literature. So what has this book got special to oust or augment the current favourites?

Its three Chapters and three Appendices are all written as separate entities. The Introduction (Chapter One) is a brief synopsis of sedimentary rocks followed by geographical, geological and sedimentary backgrounds of the South Caspian Basin and Azerbaijan area, and then brief discussions of aspects of rocks, including the importance of carbonate rocks for oil reservoirs (65% of remaining oil is within carbonate rocks). Chapter Two, 'Characterisation of hydrocarbon reservoirs' briefly discusses petrophysical parameters including porosity, permeability, compressibility, surface area and elastic properties, then introductions on relevant electrical and radioactive properties which are needed for well logging. There are many formulae with coefficients often from Russian sources. Chapter Three focuses on seismic parameters essential for seismic logging and seismic geophysics.

Appendix A is a historical review of milestone developments in petrophysics and well-logging; however, shaly sands are dismissed in one page. This chapter is an interesting read, but would not really help any practising engineer or student to analyse data. Appendix B is entitled 'Mechanics of fluid flow'. I could not see how this fitted into the scheme of the book, although a footnote states that it is included 'because of its importance to geophysicists'. It feels like a set of lecture notes. Appendix C is a Glossary, most of whose terms appear in appropriate dictionaries. The book finishes with a fairly extensive Bibliography, with many Russian references, but not that many recent.

In summary, I am still wondering who would use this book in place of what they currently use - certainly not the practising engineer as they would use the service company literature, or the student as they have more comprehensive texts at lower prices.

Reviewed by Richard Dawe


Published by: Wiley/Scrivener 2012; 374pp ISBN-13: 978-1118344477. List Price: £130.00.