This is the story of a single pebble. It is just a normal pebble, as you might pick up on holiday – on a beach in Wales, say. Its history, though, carries us into abyssal depths of time, and across the farthest reaches of space.
This is a narrative of the Earth's long and dramatic history, as gleaned from a single pebble. It begins as the pebble-particles form amid unimaginable violence in distal realms of the Universe, in the Big Bang and in supernova explosions and continues amid the construction of the Solar System. Jan Zalasiewicz shows the almost incredible complexity present in such a small and apparently mundane object. Many events in the Earth's ancient past can be deciphered from a pebble: volcanic eruptions; the lives and deaths of extinct animals and plants; the alien nature of long-vanished oceans; and transformations deep underground, including the creations of fool's gold and of oil.
Zalasiewicz demonstrates how geologists reach deep into the Earth's past by forensic analysis of even the tiniest amounts of mineral matter. Many stories are crammed into each and every pebble around us. It may be small, and ordinary, this pebble – but it is also an eloquent part of our Earth's extraordinary, never-ending story.
2: From the Depths of the Earth
3: Distant Lands
4: To the Rendezvous
5: The Sea
6: Ghosts Observed
7: Ghosts in Absentia
8: Where on Earth?
10: The Oil Window
11: Making Mountains
12: Breaking the Surface
Jan Zalasiewicz is a Lecturer in Geology at the University of Leicester, before that working at the British Geological Survey. A field geologist, palaeontologist and stratigrapher, he teaches various aspects of geology and Earth history to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and is a researcher into fossil ecosystems and environments across over half a billion years of geological time. He has published over a hundred papers in scientific journals and is the author of The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? (2008).