In Earth, the acclaimed author of Trilobite! and Life takes us on a grand tour of the earth’s physical past, showing how the history of plate tectonics is etched in the landscape around us.
Beginning with Mt. Vesuvius, whose eruption in Roman times helped spark the science of geology, and ending in a lab in the West of England where mathematical models and lab experiments replace direct observation, Richard Fortey tells us what the present says about ancient geologic processes. He shows how plate tectonics came to rule the geophysical landscape and how the evidence is written in the hills and in the stones. And in the process, he takes us on a wonderful journey around the globe to visit some of the most fascinating and intriguing spots on the planet.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Earth|
|Release Date: 11-04-2009|
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Up and Down
It should be difficult to lose a mountain, but it happens all the time around the Bay of Naples. Mount Vesuvius slips in and out of view, sometimes looming, at other times barely visible above the lemon groves. In parts of Naples, all you see are lines of washing draped from the balconies of peeling tenements or hastily constructed apartment blocks: the mountain has apparently vanished. You can understand how it might be possible to live life in that city only half aware of the volcano on whose slopes your home is constructed, and whose whim might control your continued existence.
As you drive eastwards from the centre of the city, the packed streets give way to a chaotic patchwork of anonymous buildings, small factories, and ugly housing on three or four floors. The road traffic is relentless. Yet between the buildings there are tended fields and shaded greenhouses. In early March the almonds are in flower, delicately pink, and there are washes of bright daffodils beneath the orchard trees; you can see women gathering them for market. In the greenhouses exotic flowers such as canna lilies can be glimpsed, or ranks of potted plants destined for the supermarket trade. Oranges and lemons are everywhere. Even the meanest corner will have one or two citrus trees, fenced in and padlocked against thieves. The lemons hang down heavily, as if they were too great a burden for the thin twigs that carry them. The soil is marvellously rich: with enough water, crops would grow and grow.
This was an abundant garden in Roman times, and it still is, even if crammed between scruffy apartments a