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Life, don't talk to him about life...
Darwin's Lost World: the Hidden History of Animal Life by Martin Brasier.

Sometimes a book picked out at random surprises you. This is one of them. I chose it because its subject is the pre-Cambrian biota, about which I don't know enough, and the so-called Cambrian explosion, about which I now know a lot more.

Also, I wish, wish, wish that I could have studied under Brasier. If his lectures are anything like as racy and anecdotal as his writing, they must be very well attended at 9am, even though he implies otherwise, in one of his many inspired similes. Even the endnotes are a riot - in particular 103, which details the ritual of 'Screeching-in', something that definitely should not happen to a sober scientist.

He also has a talent for writing what are almost-poems to help you commit particular points to memory.

Braiser takes us all over the world, from Scotland to Mongolia to Siberia, from China to Newfoundland to Australia. He has a great talent for description, for metaphor and for detail. Even if you are not interested in the pre-Cambrian, you cannot fail to be charmed by his stories of academic and cold war rivalry, and the eccentricities of various historical (and contemporary) luminaries.

During this romp, you learn a lot about micro-fossils, and biology, and the theories about the pre-Cambrian and whether it was a Snowball Earth or a Slushball Earth - and while I am not totally convinced that Brasier's theory of what led to the Cambrian explosion is the One True Theory, it certainly deserves consideration. The man who invents the 'Mofaotyof Principle' (My Oldest Fossils Are Older Than Your Oldest Fossils)and admit to his own occasional use of it is well aware of how often a hypothesis that seems convincing at the time is proved wrong.

I commend this book to anyone interested in evolution, geology, geography, history, academia and good writing. I suspect that the academic squabbling will be of particular interest to my Primeval writing friends. Yes, this is what Cutter would be doing...

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Sounds fascinating. One for the Christmas wish-list, possibly :-) The Cambrian's not something I know a lot about either.

Most of all, it's a fun book.

I really like the sound of this. Another for my Amazon basket!

I was very impressed and am looking for his next book, even if it is a text book...

What's the next one? *thinks Xmas prezzie for Mr FB*

Have you read Mike Benton's book, When Life Nearly Died, on the end Permian extinction? That's one I really enjoyed.

Not yet, but I will. I rather think it's in my basket over at Amazon.

Oh, and Brasier mentions working on a (text?) book on the early fossil record.

Edited at 2010-10-12 06:49 pm (UTC)

I bought this for Mr FB for Xmas and he really enjoyed it. I now need to remember where it is, so I can read it as well. Thanks for posting the link to this.

Mr FB (whose posts to CiF are models of cutting to the heart) has taste.

Mr FB has huge fun on CiF, as you can no doubt tell.

Book now located in dinosaur-related bookshelf, so I can now finally do some reading. (Once I've finished editing my humongously long help_pakistan Primeval fic!)

You make this sound like a wonderful book! I have ordered a (Kindle) sample; if it is as good as it sounds it goes on the "to be bought when I have money" list. :-)

fredbassett's husband, whose taste in science books often coincides with mine, also liked it.

I LOVE Brasier.

Nuff said. lol

Ooooooh! Sounds fabulous. Definitely going on my 'do-want!' list.

And 'Screeching-in'... that wouldn't have been in Newfoundland, would've it? ;P Because it certainly sounds like a certain Newfie custom!

Fahahahaha! Brilliant. Just brilliant. xD Gotta love the Newfies.

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