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aeryLucky Planet

sygyuThis is Waltham’s first excursion into popular science, and the topic could not be more ambitious, profound or important. What circumstances conspire to give rise to a functioning biosphere, a comparatively stable surface temperature (OK, there were a few major ice house and hot-house Earth events in between), and intelligent life?

What is our best guess at the number of habitable worlds in the known universe (or multiverse, if you take that view)? How has the greenhouse effect been moderated throughout much of Earth’s history, and what are the relative roles of continental weathering capturing atmospheric CO2 versus the rise of eukaryotes and complex life?

The prologue lays the thesis bare to see: consider Earth, a habitable haven of life, and its ill-fated imaginary twin, Nemesis. After an auspicious start, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and dragons breathed fire on Nemesis, their parallel paths diverged. For a number of reasons, which we learn much later in the book, the death of the biosphere on Nemesis was predicated by her moon being much too large. Our moon is just right, so the book argues, and this ‘goldilocks’ view lies simmering beneath the surface throughout almost all of its chapters, emerging more fully in the last.

For a number of very sober reasons, the author distances himself from the Gaia view, while remaining very respectful to all who try to address the serious question of why we are here. Waltham points out that a number of key ingredients to life on Earth - notably a comparatively stable Earth-Moon pairing- are simply out of the influence of Earth-borne and Earth-inhabiting life. The book is never so technical as to be unintelligible to those who are not astrobiologists, but may be a little hard to grasp for those not very conversant with the Earth sciences, astronomy or physics.

It’s a great read overall, and I shall never look at the incorrectly illuminated half moon in my niece’s Peppa Pig book in quite the same way again. I will leave it to the Fellowship to find out why.

Reviewed by Daniel LeHeron

LUCKY PLANET: WHY EARTH IS EXCEPTIONAL - AND WHAT THAT MEANS FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE by DAVID WALTHAM 2014. ISBN: 978-1848316560 224pp. Published by: Icon Books. List Price: £14.99 W: W:

adfEarth's Deep History

Three things annoy Martin Rudwick about the way the history of Earth science is portrayed. He hates the caricature that pits science against religion and he scorns monoglot provincialism. He also disdains hero-worship. So, I hope he forgives my 21 year-old self for making the pilgrimage to London in 1977 to hear him speak at The Geological Society, and ask him to autograph my copy of Living and Fossil Brachiopods.

Then, Rudwick had only lately switched from palaeontology to history of science, where he has forged a second, even more distinguished career. As this was also an enthusiasm of mine, I have continued to read him with an enthusiasm that remains undimmed after this, his latest book.

In 2005 and 2008 Rudwick published two magisterial tomes, entitled Bursting the Limits of Time and Worlds Before Adam. These volumes burst the limits of my briefcase and contributed greatly to my upper-body strength as well as my understanding; but although Rudwick’s elegant prose is never hard work, such monumental scale is daunting.

It is therefore welcome that the arguments developed in these mighty works have now been condensed (and expanded to bring us up to date) into this more portable account of the human appreciation of time. His premise, shared with Stephen Jay Gould, is that humanity’s discovery of Earth’s immense age is an unsung ‘dethronement’, to use Sigmund Freud’s image of the way science progressively removes human beings from the centres.

By the 18th Century, western culture had long accepted that the Earth had begun a few millennia earlier (possibly 4004BC, following Archbishop Ussher - a serious chronologist who did not deserve his post-Darwinian ridicule, Rudwick points out), and that humans had always been part of it. Rudwick’s account of how natural philosophers across Europe came to realise the Earth’s antiquity reveals that, far from being stifled by Judaeo-Christian thought, they were profoundly aided by adopting the methods and thought of traditional, Christian, historical and antiquarian scholars.

Reading nature as innately historical had profound consequences. For Darwin, species were not perfect, finished objects in neat taxonomic boxes, but represented the cut ends of a tangled skein of historical threads, linking all to the origin of life. This view of species derived from his geologist’s instinct that all things embody a historical narrative.

Our species’ relegation to time’s fringes surely merits, as a scientific revolution, proper respect. I didn’t need convincing. This wonderful book will leave many more in no doubt.

Reviewed by Ted Nield

EARTH’S DEEP HISTORY – HOW IT WAS DISCOVERED AND WHY IT MATTERS by MARTIN RUDWICK November 2014 Published by: Chicago UP. ISBN 9780226203935 (cloth) 392pp. List Price: £21.00  Chicago University Press

rsdClimate Change Adaptation in Practice

Following the recent publication by the IPCC of their assessment of climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, this is a topical publication. Based on the results of the project Climate Change: Impacts, Costs and Adaptation in the Baltic Sea Region (BaltCICA), much of the book centres around case studies from this geographical region that includes Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Norway and Estonia.

The first chapter, Communicating Climate Change Adaptation, briefly highlights the importance of communication between scientists and other stakeholders; however most of the chapter is devoted to introducing the book and making some general comments about the BaltCICA project. Given the broad range of stakeholders that may utilise this book, the discussion of communication could have been extended and a glossary of acronyms and key words included at this stage. This would have aided the cross-disciplinary communication emphasised as being important.

The bulk of the book (seventeen out of the remaining twenty one chapters) is devoted to the Baltic case studies. These chapters cover a diverse range of topics including participatory approaches, sea level change, coastal protection, urban planning, flood adaptation, groundwater resources, mussel farming and tourism. A range of social and physical science tools are also used within these chapters. The diversity of topics and tools means that this book has the potential to be of interest to a much wider audience than those working in the Baltic. Many of the case studies are written in such a way that it is feasible for scientists, planners and policy makers already working in this field to extract key lessons and apply them in other locations.

At the end of the book, there are four chapters devoted to locations beyond Northern Europe, looking at case studies in Spain, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Asia-Pacific region. These are a welcome addition to the text, bringing a range of insights from cultures and levels of economic development that are very different to those in the previous case studies. The overall balance and utility of the book would have been improved by including more of these, together with a strong concluding chapter contrasting the approaches being taken.  

This text is accessible and interesting, with a suite of well-constructed full colour diagrams. Available as a hardback and an e-book, this book is best suited to those who are already working in or studying climate change adaptation in a developed context.

Reviewed by Joel C. Gill

CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION IN PRACTICE: FROM STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT TO IMPLEMENTATION Edited by: PHILIPP SCHMIDT-THOMÉ and JOHANNES KLEIN, Published by: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd 2013 ISBN 978-0-470-97700-2 (Hbk), xi+327pp List price: £80,

adfForaminifera and their Applications

There is a periodic need for fields as mature and vibrant as foraminiferal micropalaeontology to take stock of their progress.  This job usually falls to one dedicated person with the enthusiasm and funds to scour the recent literature and synthesise their findings succinctly.  In this instance, that individual is Bob Wynn Jones, who spent three decades working in the oil industry until retiring from BG Group PLC.  Throughout his career, Bob maintained an active interest in academic research, writing over a hundred publications.  In Foraminifera and their Applications he has drawn on his experience to review developments in foraminiferal micropalaeontology since J. R. Haynes’ (1981) Foraminifera.

The scope of Bob’s latest book is wide and invigorating.  He commences with a chapter on past research, including an interesting sidebar on the far-sighted Henry Bowman Brady (1835–1891), author of the Report on the Foraminifera Dredged by the HMS Challenger and the first to suggest an abyssal palaeoenvironment for the Oligocene Oceanic Formation of Barbados.  A short, useful chapter on sample acquisition and processing is followed by 60 pages on foraminiferal biology and taxonomy.  This is replete with drawings of selected genera that indicate the wide variety of foraminiferal morphologies.  

Ecology and palaeoecology are covered in two chapters (51 pages), while biostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy are covered separately.  There follows an extensive chapter on applications in petroleum geology and short but useful chapters on applications in mineral geology, engineering geology, environmental science and archaeology.  The book is rounded out by eighty pages of references, most from the 21st Century and some as recent as 2012.   Each chapter has a useful list of recommended papers that is subdivided into sections covering specific topics.  

This book shows that foraminiferal micropalaeontology, although not taught as widely as it once was, remains a relevant and developing field in both academia and industry.  Summarising a lifetime of devotion to the field, it shows that the author did not slow down as he approached retirement, but redoubled his efforts to make micropalaeontology accessible to the interested.  Both handy and practical, this book will for many years prove a vital resource for graduate students, interested amateurs, and academic and professional micropalaeontologists, and should be read also by anybody else who uses the results from foraminiferal studies.  

Reviewed by Brent Wilson

FORAMINIFERA AND THEIR APPLICATIONS by ROBERT WYNN JONES, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2013 ISBN: 9781107036406 401pp Hardback List price: £45.00. W:

adfAtlas of Benthic Foraminifera

Taxonomy is the basis of all micropalaeontological work.  Illustrations are fundamental to this – especially for those unable to visit type collections.  For many years most foraminiferologists could only identify their specimens using previous workers’ drawings or frequently low quality photomicrographs.  Some early drawings were excellent – see, for example, the plates in H. B. Brady’s Challenger Report.  

Others were not, however, being by workers with, like me, limited artistic skills.  This may have led to a proliferation of named species, workers being unwilling to use a name on the basis of a poor illustration. It was once thought that the introduction of the scanning electron microscope had overcome the problem of illustration, the SEM producing clear, objective illustrations.  This spurred, for example, van Morkhoven et al.’s (1986) compendium of Cenozoic deep-water benthic foraminifera. However, the SEM is not without challenges.  

It cannot illustrate the specimens’ internal details, which limits its usefulness for illustrating, for example, species of Cibicidoides and Amphistegina.  Perhaps it was this that encouraged van Morkhoven et al. to include the type illustrations – usually drawings – in their compendium.  Furthermore, the SEM photograph does not replicate what is seen under an optical microscope.  

The development of digital microscopes and stacking software for digital micrographs has opened up a new avenue for illustrating specimens that replicates what is seen under the optical microscope.  The Atlas if Benthic Foraminifera uses this technology and the result is magnificent.  It contains clear, crisp digital photographs of 300 common benthic foraminiferal species, occasionally augmented with SEM images.  Although the specimens photographed are not holotypes, details of the type specimen, type level and type locality are given.  Type illustrations are not reproduced; however, type illustrations of some of the species were illustrated by van Morkhoven et al., so I have found it useful to use both books together.  Biogeographic and palaeobathymetric details are provided.  Ages are given also, although these are a little generalised.  

Perhaps stating the ages in terms of planktonic foraminiferal zones would have been useful.  Bulimina, Cibicidoides and Uvigerina are particularly well illustrated, although I was surprised that U. peregrina was excluded.  The Atlas claims to illustrate deep-sea species, so the inclusion of intertidal Trochammina inflata was also a surprise.

I would highly recommend this reasonably-priced, painstakingly assembled book to all foraminiferal micropalaeontologists.  It is sure to be a standard reference for decades to come.  

Reviewed by Brent Wilson

ATLAS OF BENTHIC FORAMINIFERA by Ann Holbourn, Andrew S. Henderson and Norman Macleod Published by: Wiley-Blackwell; Publication date: 2103  ISBN: 978-1-118-38980-5 List price: £149.95 654 pp. W: