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Geoscientist Online

Minerals: A Very Short Introduction

tdyjuMineralogy is a vast and complex topic ranging in scope from highly advanced synchrotron radiation research to firing pottery and everything in between; more recently there is a greater focus on the link between minerals and life. To compress this vast deposit of knowledge into a 130 page, pocket sized book is no mean feat.

Vaughan starts off with a brief human history of mineral use and builds into a basic introduction to composition and crystal structures. The tricky topic of symmetry in crystal structure is approached in a simple, logical fashion which makes it easy to understand; essential in an introductory book and executed brilliantly in this concise version.

Certain mineral analysis techniques (such as thin section and scanning electron microscopy) produce beautiful images and those used in this section are well chosen. The author has clearly appreciated the limitations of a book with black & white figures, selecting images that enhance the information within the text, while aesthetically pleasing in themselves.

If you’ve ever wondered why the surface of our planet hosts such a plethora of different rocks and minerals then you’ll need to understand some basic processes of plate tectonics and the structure of the Earth. Vaughan effortlessly covers the structure of our planet with a good mixture of theory, experiment and science history; a theme found throughout the book of explaining how we came to our current understanding. He also brings together concepts introduced earlier to convey more complex ideas.

The section on life and its relationship with minerals hints at what a huge and exciting topic this is. The debate over how life started is looked at here and is a great taster that gives the reader the incentive to investigate the literature further, into an ancient world of black smokers and replicating clays.

With an ever increasing world population, what future do our mineral resources allow us? Do we have enough? Where are they? From nuclear waste cleanup and water purification to smartphones and diamond drills, minerals permeate every part of the modern lifestyle and Vaughan gives a very balanced and interesting discussion of the potential future of mineral exploitation.

A very basic understanding of chemistry, while not essential, would be useful when reading this as it would be impossible to write such a short introduction on minerals without assuming some knowledge of basic chemistry. Overall an excellent choice for those curious to dig deeper into the mineral world.

Reviewed by Jonathan Scafidi

MINERALS: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION by DAVID J VAUGHAN, 2014. Published by: Oxford University Press 140pp (pbk) ISBN: 9780199682843 List Price: £7.99. W: