DINOSAURS OF THE FLAMING CLIFFS

Field paleontology in Mongolia's Gobi Desert is at once the most difficult and the most rewarding of scientific endeavors; here's a firsthand account by the leader of a major expedition. Dinosaur buffs already know the spectacular fossils brought back from the Gobi by previous generations of paleontologists. But the Cold War intervened, preventing Western scientists from exploring the fossil beds for six decades. With the breakup of the Soviet empire, Novacek (curator of vertebrate paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History) decided to seize the opportunity to explore the Gobi. The expedition had to overcome incredible logistical and political barriers: scorching heat, deadly sandstorms, and obtaining food and fuel in a country whose economy is in free fall. But as Novacek and his colleagues quickly realized once they reached the vast desert, there were spectacular fossil beds awaiting them. In some places a scientist could pick up dozens of well-preserved specimens in a short walk. Among their discoveries: dinosaur nests, some with the skeletons of brooding parents preserved with the eggshells; small theropods (carnivorous dinosaurs), including the now-famous Velociraptor; herds of the sheep-size grazer Protoceratops, at all ages from juvenile to adult; and a wealth of early birds and mammals. The book alternates descriptions of the various expeditions (the team has returned several times to explore new areas) with informative and up-to-date discussions of modern paleontology. The reader will learn a great deal not only about the Gobi discoveries, but about such related concepts as how a fossil is created and preserved, plate tectonics, the evolution of birds (probably from a theropod ancestor), and theories of why the dinosaurs became extinct (Novacek is cautious about the asteroid impact theory). A fine treatment for the general reader and a treasure trove for dinosaur buffs. (30 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-47774-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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