Friday, July 28, 2017

Paul B. Wignall - The Worst Of Times (Princeton University Press, 2015) ****

Life on earth has existed for approx. 3.5 billion years, and it took a 1 billion years after the creation of the earth to start happening in a chance reaction of molecules. This book gives an overview of the major extinctions of life during the Permian, Triassic and Jurassic period some 260 to 200 million years ago, which has known no less than 6 major catastrophes that almost wiped out all life on earth. And if you're interested, there have been many, many more global scale calamities of the same nature, but few with the same power. Volcanoes, igneous rocks created a global warming that killed nearly every known animal, reptiles, early mammals and crustaceans, by not only heating up the atmosphere but also by desoxygenation the oceans. Interestingly enough, this unprecedented massacre of life, paved the way for the famous dinosaurs to emerge, who survived the cataclysm (together with the crocodiles).

Wignall writes for a broad audience, but with a level of detail and explanation of his scientific methodology which may go beyond the average educated non-geologist readers capacity such as mine. At the same time, it gives a wonderful account of what the mysterious world so long ago might have looked like. You can only wonder how little we know, and probably what more mysteries will be unveiled in the coming years now that new technology allows us to recreate the world of the past.

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