01 September 2008

Bones, Rocks and Stars

I've been interested in this book since seeing it mentioned on Pharyngula, maybe two years back now. I finally ordered a copy about a month ago. In part, it was very very good. Clearly written, engaging style, good information. However, I thought it was too brief in its treatment of technical matters. I would have liked to see a bit more detail, particularly on radiometric dating, calibration thereof, and other doublechecks (such as the magnetic reversals recorded in the ocean floor). Turney sort of handwaves that these exist, but doesn't go into many specifics beyond one single example handpicked for each chapter. The examples are good, but insufficient.

Basically, each chapter focuses on one technique used to date objects or events, goes through one major example of applying the technique, handwaves some generalities, and moves on. I realize that the book is intended for a lay audience, but would putting a few technical details in place of the handwaving really turn anyone off of reading it? Particularly if he clearly put in a Technical Stuff header before each section, to warn people who aren't interested to skip ahead?

So I recommend the book as a bare bones introduction (no pun intended), and as a good read, but not as a stopping point if the topic genuinely interests you. There is a "further reading" list for each chapter. I might work my way through and see which ones are easily available on the topics most in need of shoring up.


John said...

"I thought it was too brief in its treatment of technical matters."

I haven't read this particular book, but I tend to feel the same. Popularized science books tend to not be technical enough, journal publications tend to be too technical for me (but if I feel it's worth the effort, I'll slog through repeatedly until I get it).

Qalmlea said...

This one seemed shallower to me than most, as far as technical details. Or, well, most of the pop-sci I've read has been pure physics of one branch or another, so possibly I've known enough details there to fill it in in my head without noticing the lack in the text. *shrugs*