Really Deep Time

International Year of Planet EarthGreetings from Wrangellia! How is everyone doing with the Planet Earth Reading Challenge? I can’t help noticing that my part of the planet is starting to tilt away from our star, which means I had better get to my geology books if I want to finish them before the International Year of Planet Earth is over.

I’m starting with Canada Rocks: The Geologic Journey, which is almost as big as a continental plate. It’s no wonder the book is big considering that Canada is the second-largest country on earth and has an extremely complex geology. The oldest known rocks on Earth are here, as are the earliest signs of life. They go back to what the authors call “really deep time,” billions of years ago.

Canada Rocks is intended for a general audience, so there is a minimum of technical language and you certainly won’t be required to memorize the geologic eras. Handy time scales at the beginning of each chapter keep things in perspective. There are colour photos and diagrams on every page, as well as paintings of Canada’s remarkable terrain, to keep things interesting. I’ve also noticed some intriguing and amusing chapter headings:

  • The puzzles of epeirogeny and eustasy
  • Thinking about the Bahamas
  • Something different at Niagara
  • Orogeny and Transgression in the Cretaceous
  • Unrest in the west
  • Arriving today . . . the Yakutat terrane
  • Up and down; but also sideways; the key to the Rocky Mountains

Canada has an illustrious history in geoscience. Our oldest government department is the Geological Survey of Canada, which predates Confederation. The formation and break-up of supercontinents (see at the bottom of this post) is called the “Wilson cycle” after Canadian geologist John Tuzo Wilson, who had a hand in developing the theory of plate tectonics. Canadian geology is world geology, so you don’t have to be Canadian to read this book.

Lead author Nick Eyles was also responsible for the “Geologic Journey” series broadcast by the CBC on The Nature of Things. If you go to the website you can learn more about Canada’s geology and watch video clips from each episode. The series was partly sponsored by Earth Sciences Canada as part of the International Year of Planet Earth, so it all ties together, like terranes accreted onto the edge of a continent.

Terranes of British Columbia


10 comments on “Really Deep Time

  1. J.D. says:

    I really admire readers like yourself who can take on a broad range of topics. Geology? I can read and talk classic literature, contemporary literature, archeology, philosophy, history, music, and psychology without a problem, but math, science, astronomy — not so much.

  2. Sylvia says:

    J.D., I started out as a scientist, so this is familiar territory for me. The good news is that there are many excellent books on planet Earth that are completely non-technical and quite entertaining for the general reader. Most of the ones listed here fall into that category.

  3. Stefanie says:

    I've got until the end of the year, right? πŸ˜‰

  4. Sylvia says:

    Right, but you can't be late because next year is the International Year of Astronomy. That is going to be awesome.

  5. wil says:

    The International Year of Astronomy — cool! I'm assuming there will there be a reading challenge? I might join in on that one…

  6. Sylvia says:

    Of course! There might be a field trip involved too. πŸ™‚

  7. wil says:

    Field trips?!? Awesome! πŸ™‚

  8. Sylvia says:

    Well, er, not to outer space, just to your local planetarium/observatory. πŸ˜‰

  9. wil says:

    Oh… 😦

  10. Sylvia says:

    Sorry! πŸ™‚

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