Leicester lecturer's new book extrapolates the universe from a pebble
The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth's Deep History is actually Jan’s second popular science book after his acclaimed debut two years ago with The Earth after Us: What legacy will humans leave in the rocks?
In his new book, Jan extrapolates the entire geological history of the planet Earth from a single pebble on a beach, almost in a manner reminiscent of Marcel Proust extrapolating an entire semi-autobiographical novel from one bite of madeleine cake. The hypothetical pebble is one which reflects Jan’s principal geological interest:
Across 13 chapters, Jan uses this simple pebble to explain about many different aspects of science, starting with a look at the atomic make-up of the rock. He uses the Avogadro constant – familiar to anyone who studied chemistry at school, clearly explained here for those who didn’t – to show that even an ultra-ultra-rare element such as iridium is represented by about a million billion atoms in this one anonymous lump of slate.
The book goes on to touch upon the origin of the universe, the formation of the Solar System, the changing face of the planet Earth and the effect this has had on the animals and plants on its surface. Geology, minerology, palaeontology, vulcanology, cosmology and a whole bunch of other -ologies - all extrapolated from one small pebble.
Reviewing the book, New Scientist said:
The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth's Deep History is published in hardback by Oxford University Press with a cover price of £16.99.
Public talk on The Planet in a Pebble
On Saturday 30 October 2010 Jan will give a talk on the themes explored in his book at Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford Road, Manchester as part of the Manchester Science Festival. The event is free and kicks off at 11.30am.