In Earth, a planetary scientist and a literary humanist explore what happens when we think of the Earth as an object viewable from space. As a "blue marble", "a blue pale dot", or, as Chaucer described it, "this litel spot of erthe", the solitary orb is a challenge to scale and to human self-importance. Beautiful and self-contained, the Earth turns out to be far less knowable than it at first appears: its vast interior an inferno of incandescent and yet solid rock and a reservoir of water vaster than the ocean, a world within the world. Viewing the Earth from space invites a dive into the abyss of scale: how can humans apprehend the distances, the temperatures, and the time scale on which planets are born, evolve, and die?
1. Prologue: Genesis
3. Ground (Why Earth?)
4. Scale (Barriers to Understanding)
5. Radiance (Earth's beauty)
6. Gravity (Earth's Pull)
7. Interlude: A Hike Around Piestewa Peak
List of Illustrations
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University, USA. He is the author or editor of 11 books, including Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (2015) and Elemental Ecocriticism: Thinking with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire (2015; edited with Lowell Duckert).
Linda T. Elkins-Tanton is Foundation Professor and Director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, USA. She is the author of a six-book series The Solar System (1st edition 2006; 2nd edition 2010) and co-editor, with A. Schmidt and K. Fristad, of Volcanism and Global Environmental Change (2015). Her articles have been published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Nature Geoscience, Nature, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Astrophysical Journal, among other publications.