Elentarri's Book Blog

Book reviews and other interesting goodies.

WE: ROBOT by David Hambling

WE: ROBOT: The robots that already rule our world  - David Hambling

TITLE: WE: ROBOT: The Robots That Already Rule Our World

 

AUTHOR:  David Hambling

 

PUBLICATION DATE: 2018

 

FORMAT: ebook/ PDF

 

ISBN-13: 978 1 78131 805 8

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NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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From the blurb:

Robots exist all around us. They populate our factories, assist our surgeons and have become an integral part of our armed forces. But they are not just working behind the scenes – impressive inventions such as free-roaming hoovers takecare of your household chores and the iPal is set to become your closest friend.

David Hambling reveals the groundbreaking machines – once the realm of science fiction – that are by our sides today, and those that are set to change the future forever. From the Reem robocop that polices the streets of Dubai to the drones that deliver our parcels and even the uncanny Gemonoid Hi-4 built to look just like you, here are fifty unique robots that reach into every aspect of our daily lives.

We:Robot examines why robots have become embedded in our culture, how they work and what they tell us about our society and its future.

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In We:Robot, David Hambling discusses the myriad of ways that robots and humans already work together and what the future may hold for robot-human interactions.  He provides a variety of specific robotic examples under four categories:  robots at work, robots at war, robots in your life and robots beyond.  Each robot example includes a page sized diagram (and sometimes a photograph), its dimensions, construction material, power source, processor, year of first use and then a summary of the robot's history and uses.  

Examples of specific robots include:
(1) industrial robots such as those that help put cars together, those that are designed to pick strawberries, skyscraper window washers (aptly named the Gekko Facade Robot), pilotbots, the alpha burger-bot, and the robot that herds and milks cows!!;
(2) household, lifestyle and medical robots such as the Roomba "vacuum cleaner", the Automower 450X, the Da Vinci Surgical System, the kiddies entertainment unit (IPAL - not sure letting a robot raise your child is a good idea, but it's there!), bionic hands;
(3) war robots such as drones, the packhorse replacement packbot, exoskeletons; and
(4) robots in the future such as the robonaut, underwater dolphin robot, a remote controlled lifeguard robot, Curiosity Mars rover, the soft, squishy octobot, swarming kilobots, and the Dubai police robots.

I found this book to be particularly fascinating - I had no idea there were that many robots running around!  The writing style is clear and conversational, with no technobabble.  The illustrations are beautifully (and colourfully) rendered and accompanied by colour photographs of a selection of the stranger robots.

This is an interesting book that takes a look at some specific robots, how they work, how they fit into our lives and what the future holds for us and them.  I suspect even technophobes will find this book interesting.

 

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean by Jonathan White

Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean - Jonathan White, Peter Matthiessen

TITLE:   Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

 

AUTHOR:  Jonathan White

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2017

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-59534-806-7

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NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Jonathan White is a sailor, surfer, writer, and active marine conservationist who takes his readers on an adventure around the world to discover the science and spirit of ocean tides.

 

Some of the fascinating topics covered in this book include tidal bores, tidal anomalies, the difference between spring and neap tides, the science and history of forecasting tides, resonance, geophysics, the different methods of harvesting energy from the ocean, and a rather poor attempt to describe the effects of rising tides on civilization. 

 

The author provides a superficial explanation of tidal mechanics – I really was looking for more information on this, especially in a book subtitled “the science and spirit of the ocean”.  The “spirit” part of the subtitle takes over the book in terms of personal anecdotes, “travel writing”, tangential stories and philosophical musings that didn’t particularly appeal to me. 

 

The book was also arranged in an odd manner by explaining specific tidal anomalies before explaining tides in general.  Trying to sift the interesting scientific information out of all the extraneous text didn’t help with the conveyance of information.  However, the book does provide numerous black & white photographs, explanatory diagrams and sixteen colour photographs.

 

If you want to know more about tides and like personal, chatty stories mixed with your science, then you will probably enjoy this book.  If you want more science and less “fluff”, you need to look elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power Places and the Master Builders of Antiquity: Unexplained Mysteries of the Past by Frank Joseph

Power Places and the Master Builders of Antiquity: Unexplained Mysteries of the Past - Joseph Frank

TITLE:  Power Places and the Master Builders of Antiquity: Unexplained Mysteries of the Past

 

AUTHOR:  Frank Joseph

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2018

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781591433132

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This book is an extremely superficial collection of chapters about individial oddball topics - everything from pyramids in China to unexpla artifacts/buildings in the America's, Templar mysteries, today's megalith builders, remote viewing, power places, a random collection of interesting personalities, alteres mental states, interviews with unusual people and strange natural occurences.  This book is not nearly so well written as other books that I have read by Frank Joseph.  The topics are not covered well enough to provide anything other than a few tantilizing glimpses of mystery.  There is also a lack of rigorous research.  In several cases we only have the author's interview with the subject to go on.  Several of the subjects covered in this book are familiar to me, but I did find found some topics (usually the longer chapters) interesting.

If you are new to this sort of subject or just wish to read something in chapter size pieces, then this book may be of interest to you.  If, on the other hand, you are familiar with the mysteries of antiquity and some unexplained mysteries, you might not find any meat in this book.

 


OTHER SIMILAR BOOKS

- Worlds Before Our Own - Brad Steiger
- The Giza Power Plant - Christopher Dunn
- The History of Atlantis - Lewis Spence
- Atlantis Beneath the Ice - Rose and Rand Flem-Ath
- Forbidden History - J. Douglas Kenyon
- History's Mysteries - Brian Haughton
- The Lost Treasure of King Juba - Frank Joseph
- Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America - Frank Joseph

The End of the Long Summer by Dianne Dumanoski

The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth - Dianne Dumanoski

TITLE:  The End of the Long Summer:  Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth

 

AUTHOR:  Dianne Dumanoski

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2009

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-307-39609-9

 

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From the blurb:

"For the past twelve thousand years, Earth’s stable climate has allowed human civilization to flourish. But this long benign summer is an anomaly in the Earth’s history and one that is rapidly coming to a close. The radical experiment of our modern industrial civilization is now disrupting our planet’s very metabolism; our future hinges in large part on how Earth responds. Climate change is already bearing down, hitting harder and faster than expected. The greatest danger is not extreme yet discrete weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina or the calamitous wildfires that now plague California, but profound and systemic disruptions on a global scale. Contrary to the pervasive belief that climate change will be a gradual escalator ride into balmier temperatures, the Earth’s climate system has a history of radical shifts–dramatic shocks that could lead to the collapse of social and economic systems.

The question is no longer simply how can we stop climate change, but how can we as a civilization survive it.

The guiding values of modern culture have become dangerously obsolete in this new era. Yet as renowned environmental journalist Dianne Dumanoski shows, little has been done to avert the crisis or to prepare human societies for a time of growing instability. In a work of astonishing scope, Dumanoski deftly weaves history, science, and culture to show how the fundamental doctrines of modern society have impeded our ability to respond to this crisis and have fostered an economic globalization that is only increasing our vulnerability at this critical time. She exposes the fallacy of banking on a last-minute technological fix as well as the perilous trap of believing that humans can succeed in the quest to control nature. Only by restructuring our global civilization based on the principles that have allowed Earth’s life and our ancestors to survive catastrophe——diversity, redundancy, a degree of self-sufficiency, social solidarity, and an aversion to excessive integration——can we restore the flexibility needed to weather the trials ahead.

In this powerful and prescient book, Dumanoski moves beyond now-ubiquitous environmental buzzwords about green industries and clean energy to provide a new cultural map through this dangerous passage. Though the message is grave, it is not without hope. Lucid, eloquent, and urgent, The End of the Long Summer deserves a place alongside transformative works such as Silent Spring and The Fate of the Earth.
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This is a clearly written and well-organized book that that describes how our current planetary civilization must  transition to the "Planetary Era." This is the era in which we are currently living, in which the human species forced Earth's living planetary system beyond its normal operating range, and in which we must face the future together as a global community.  Dianne Dumanoski explains how climate change, pollution, ozone layer destruction, species loss etc are all just symptoms of a larger problem, and suggests means to restructure human society to cope with fast-changing planetary systems. 

 

Dumanoski discusses everythig from the Ozone Hole issue, ice core data, historic climate change, the rise of civilization, geoengineering, and the vulnerability and apathy of governments to plan for the future.  She also discusses the survivability of human civiilization in a changing world.

 

I found the book interesting, with minimal hand-wringing by the author.  This is one of the few climate change books that I've come across that deals with the larger picture, looks at where we stand realsitically, and has a long term (though not easy) solution to human survival.

 

"...in bringing the long summer to a premature close and engaging with vast planetary systems, we have opened the door to nature's return as a major, perhaps decisive force in human history." - Dianne Dumanoski.

 

The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery & Nic Bishop

The Hyena Scientist  - Sy Montgomery, Anne Bishop

The Hyena Scientist is a book written with 10-12 year old's in mind.  However, I'm sure most adults can get something out of it as well.  In this book Montgomery and Bishop take a tour through the Hyena research station in Kenya lead by zoologist Kay Holecamp.  The book reads like a travelogue with intersting bits about the spotted hyenas that this group studies, along with a nail-biting episode of floods and getting stuck in mud.  There are also short biographical sections for the scientists and assistants that operate this particular research station.  The main attraction of this book are the numerous (every single page!) colour photographs of spotted hyenas (fascinating creatures!) and other wildlife.  This is a good inspirational and educational book for children.

 

The Ape That Understood the Universe by Steve Stewart-Williams

The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve  - Steve Stewart-Williams

TITLE: The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve

 

AUTHOR:  Steve Stewart-Williams

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:  December 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9781108425049

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NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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In this book, Steve Stewart-Williams gives us a story of the human animal by taking a look at the human species from a new perspective: through the eyes of a hypothetical, hyperintelligent alien.
  " If an alien did drop in on us, how would it view our species?"  

This is a fun way of discussing human behaviour and culture, without devolving into baby talk.

The author draws ideas from evolutionary theory to shed light on the human mind and behaviour (i.e. evolutionary psychology); and evolutionary principles to shed light on human culture (i.e. cultural evolutionary theory).  Stewart-Williams discusses a variety of multidimensional aspects to provide a deeper understanding of the evolutionary and cultural (memes!) foundation for human behaviour.  

The guiding assumption is that: 

"humans are animals, and like all animals, we evolved to pass on our genes.  At some point, however, we also evolved the capactiy for culture - and from that moment, culture began evolving in its own right.  This transformed us from mere ape into an ape capable of reshaping the planet, traveling to other worlds, and understanding the vast universe of which we are but a tiny, fleeting fragment."


This book is well written and the author makes his arguments in a lucid manner without fluffy, irrelevant, biographical side trips.  A worthy successor to Desmond Morris' "The Naked Ape" and "The Human Zoo", as well as Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene".

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

Brief Cases (Dresden Files) - Jim Butcher

This is a beautifully written collection of short stories that deals with side issues in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series.  I don't think there was a weak story in the whole collection.  Some stories were more serious than other, but the whole book made for entertaining reading.  Some stories are from Harry's perspective, other stories tell of events from another characters perspective, such as Molly's first assignment as Winter Maiden and Butter's first mission as a Knight.  Mouse and Harry's daughter get some page time too.  This anthology also includes the three BigFoot stories. 

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters  - Daniel H. Wilson

From the blurb:

"From the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse comes a fascinating and fantastic collection that explores complex emotional and intellectual landscapes at the intersection of artificial intelligence and human life. A VINTAGE BOOKS ORIGINAL.

In "All Kinds of Proof," a down-and-out drunk makes the unlikeliest of friends when he is hired to train a mail-carrying robot; in "Blood Memory," a mother confronts the dangerous reality that her daughter will never assimilate in this world after she was the first child born through a teleportation device; in "The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever," a physicist rushes home to be with his daughter after he hears reports of an atmospheric anomaly which he knows to be a sign of the end of the earth; in "Miss Gloria," a robot comes back to life in many different forms in a quest to save a young girl. Guardian Angels and Other Monsters displays the depth and breadth of Daniel H. Wilson's vision and examines how artificial intelligence both saves and destroys humanity.
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This is a compilation of 14 short science-fiction stories.  I found this collection to make for enjoyable reading, though some stories I enjoyed more than others.  This collection deals mostly with the human side, rather than the science side, of whatever subject the author was writing about at the time.  Some stories were thought provoking, others rather creepy.  The writing was beautiful. 

 

NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

 

 

 

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome - Mary Beard

TITLE:  SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

 

AUTHOR:  Mary Beard

 

DATE PUBLISEHD:  2016

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781631492228

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Mary Beard has writen an accessible history of the rise of Rome, it's people and it's senate.  The book deals with events that are dated to 753BC, and ends in 212 BCE with Caracalla's decree extending citizenship to all free men living within the Empire.  The book deals with those in power as well as the little people, how Rome expanded its power and maintained it.  Beard deals with archaeological and well as written sources for her information.  While the book was informative, the subject matter tended to be a bit superficial and the writing style too chatty.  This might make a good introductory text if the reader is not interested in biographies of important Roman citizens.

 

 

OTHER BOOKS

 

The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy
by Adrienne Mayor

 

 Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
by Richard Miles

 

The Big Ones by Lucy Jones

The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them) - Lucy Jones

TITLE:  The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them).

 

AUTHOR:  Lucy Jones

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2018

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780385542708

 

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From the blurb:

"By a veteran seismologist of the U.S. Geological Survey, a lively and revealing history of the world's most disruptive natural disasters, their impact on our culture, and new ways of thinking about the ones to come.

Natural disasters emerge from the same forces that give our planet life. Earthquakes have provided us with natural springs. Volcanoes have given us fertile soil. A world without floods would be a world without rain. It is only when these forces exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Together, these colossal events have shaped our cities and their architecture; elevated leaders and toppled governments; influenced the way we reason, feel, fight, unite, and pray. The history of natural disasters is a history of ourselves.


The Big Ones is a look at some of the most devastating disasters in human history, whose reverberations we continue to feel today. It considers Pompeii, and how a volcanic eruption in the first century AD challenged and reinforced prevailing views of religion for centuries to come. It explores the California floods of 1862, examining the failures of our collective memory. And it transports us to today, showing what Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami can tell us about governance and globalization.


With global temperatures rising, natural disasters are striking with greater frequency. More than just history, The Big Ones is a call to action. Natural disasters are inevitable; human catastrophes are not. With this energizing and richly researched book, Jones offers a look at our past, readying us to face down the Big Ones in our future."

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This book provides a superficial look at a few of the world's biggest natural disasters and how these disasters effected societies.  Jones explores how the disaster victims and relevant governments dealt with the catastrophe and what they are doing to mitigate the adverse effects of any subsequent natural disasters.  This is a history book with minimal, superficial science.  The book is informative with an easy going writing style, however, I was hoping for more specific information on the disaster themselves and the engineering options used to mitigate disaster impacts.  This book makes for a good introductory text to the subject.

 

Exile by Glynn Stewart

Exile - Glynn Stewart

NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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From the blurb:

"A shackled Earth, ruled by an unstoppable tyrant
An exiled son, and a one-way trip across the galaxy
A perfect world, their last hope for survival

Vice Admiral Isaac Gallant is the heir apparent to the First Admiral, the dictator of the Confederacy of Humanity. Unwilling to let his mother’s tyranny stand, he joins the rebellion and leads his ships into war against the might of his own nation.

Betrayal and failure, however, see Isaac Gallant and his allies captured. Rather than execute her only son, the First Admiral instead decides to exile them, flinging four million dissidents and rebels through a one-shot wormhole to the other end of the galaxy.

There, Isaac finds himself forced to keep order and peace as they seek out a new home without becoming the very dictator he fought against—and when that new home turns out to be too perfect to be true, he and his fellow exiles must decide how hard they are prepared to fight for paradise…against the very people who built it.
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Glynn Stewart has written a science fiction novel that has almost everything - space battles, a decent plot, indepth characters, strange new species, politicking, rebellion, civilization building, adventuring and new worlds.

 

The writing style is direct and makes the reader feel they are in the midst of the adventure.  The main characters have depth, though a few of the more minor characters could have done with more personality.  Even the aliens have their own fully-fleshed personality and oddities.  I also haven't enjoyed a space battle this much in ages. The pacing was just right - fast but not rushed or too bogged down - especially for short book like this.  I have no idea if the author is planning sequels or not, but this novel can be read as a standalone.  This novel would also make a great movie or TV series.  This story makes for a fun and exciting read, with tense, nail-biting moments. 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

The Evolution Underground by Anthony J. Martin

The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet - Anthony J. Martin

TITLE:  The Evolution Underground:  Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet.

 

AUTHOR:  Anthony J. Martin

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-68177-312-4

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In this book, ichnologist Anthony J. Martin takes a look at how burrowing animals have evolved and influenced the ecology of this planet.  Martin starts off with alligators and gopher tortoises, ancient subterranean human settlements in Turkey and more modern underground Cold War bunkers, then travels through time to see what trace evidence and fossils prehistoric animals have left for burrowing behaviour - everything from the first worms, the first vertebrates and invertebrates, insects, dinosaurs, birds, penguins, giant ground sloths, crabs, shrimp, moles, gophers, earthworms and more.  

Martin shows  that burrowing animals are ecosystem engineers that alter their habitats through burrowing action.    He provides a fascinating eye-opening account of earth altering underground activities that effect the flora and fauna that exist on the surface of the planet.  

Martin also theorises that burrowing strategies of prehistoric and contemporary animals help in their survival during catastrophes and the survival of their species, and thus their evolutionary development, after the catastrophes.  Afterall, burrows provide shelter and protection, a reduction in extreme temperature fluctuations, minimized dessication during droughts, safe places to procreate and raise young, and on occassion food storage facilities.  Martin compares the survivors of major prehistoric catastrophes with the survivors of minor modern catastrophes, using examples like the pocket gophers that were hibernating during the eruption of Mt St. Helens.  The sleeping pocket gophers awoke to found an ash and lava covered landscape with minimal food, but due to a shortage in predators and a full storage larder, the gophers survived, prospered and also helped with seed dispersal and soil movement.

Martin is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about his subject.  This book adds a new perspective to evolution, extinction and ecosystem engineering.  There are 85 pages of note references, a whole wad of colour photographs/ illustrations, and a list of genera and species mentioned in the book.  The writing style manages to lively, fun, on the odd occasion amusing,  and informative at the same time.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Portals in Time by John Joseph Teressi

Portals in Time: The Quest for Un-Old-Age - John-Joseph Teressi

NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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This fantasy/dystopian/metaphysical novel follows the adventures of the "Eye of Time Exploration Team", which is sent via time-travel, on a mission to discover the Secret of Un-Old-Age and thus rescue their prematurely aging citizens and save their civilization.  

This book was not for  me.  I wasn't particularly fond of the writing style, which seemed remote and provided more expositions and descriptions than showing the reading what was going on.  I can't say I was particularly fond of any of the characters either.  The "Eye of Time Exploration Team" memberes were a particularly obnoxious, obtuse, self-centred lot.  This team of 10 people somehow never completely interact with each other.   The team ends up in Acronos, which (to me) came across as an immitation version of Alice's Wonderland.  All the poetry/lyrics did not appeal to me either.  The ending was also a bit disappointing - you never know how the mission ended or what happened to the team members.  However, the concept of the "Seven Harmonies" and how they effected (pr failed to affect) the team was interesting.  The "Seven Harmonies" may be of use to those interested in metaphysics and self-improvement.

In short, the concept was interesting, but the execution was lacking.

Bunnicula by James Howe

Bunnicula - a rabbit tale of mystery - James Howe

Harold the Dog and Chester the Cat must solve the mystery of the white dessicated vegetables and if this has anything to do with the home's new pet rabbit that sleeps during the day and can escape from his unopened cage.  This is a childrens book but the author doesn't talk down to children or use overly simplified language.  The story is cute and funny, while the characters each have their own personality.  An entertaining read for children and older "children".

QUOTE: The Evolution Underground [Chapter 7]

The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet - Anthony J. Martin

"Once animals began burrowing farther down into the seafloor, though, all biogeochemical hell broke loose. Burrowing animals that punched through biomats and went down more than a centimeter abruptly (and quite rudely) introduced oxygenated water from above to sediments that had rarely encountered this element. The storming of this subsurface Bastille meant that anaerobic bacteria, which had ruled the sedimentary underworld for nearly four billion years, screamed, shriveled up, and died. Well, not completely, as these bacteria are still around today, with many of them living happily ever after in our gastrointestinal tracts. But still, anaerobic bacteria became far less common in shallow-marine sediments, restricted to smaller patches of those environments. The resources of the underworld were too rich and tempting to stay out of reach forever, and its colonization was on."

 

From:  the Evolution Underground by Anthony J. Martin

INTERESTING ARTICLES

Some articles I thought others might find interesting:

 

 

Agatha Christie: world’s first historical whodunnit was inspired by 4,000 year-old letters

 

Debunking dinosaur myths and movie misconceptions

 

sea lily fossils find

 

50000-year-old bones found in siberia may be the oldest homo sapiens outside africa and middle east

Currently reading

Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World by Oren Harman
Progress: 18%