Monday, June 12, 2006


I just finished two books. The first one I picked up in London because I was without anything to read on the flight to San Francisco that was catching my interest at all and the second I started and finished after getting home. The first one was Augustus: Godfather of Europe, a biography of Octavian and the second was Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago. It was an interesting combination. The great founder of the Roman Empire vs the near extinction of life.

I rather liked both books. Extinction's author, Erwin, came across as an open minded individual that was willing to admit when he was wrong and evaluated the different hypotheses about the PT Event in a interesting and weighing manner. Some of the things he pointed out I'll discuss when I finally get the PT Event on my extinctions blogging. The one of note is that starting the Siberian Traps by nailing the planet on the other side has been thought of already and even proposed. Simulations of it have shown that its of neglible energy by the time the shockwaves get to the other side of the world: it's just too damned far. He has also stated that now that paleontologists are convinced of the KT Impact hypothesis, they keep looking for exactly the same data for support as evidence. This is probably wrong. As an example, he notes that if a comet impacts, it's not likely to leave an Iridium layer like the KT asteroid did. He did say there was other evidence - shocked quartz, etc. - that would show up no matter what and it would be far better to dismiss or accept the impacts based on that.

Augustus was a different beast. It was a biography. There were a lot of details that I didn't know, much to my shame, and I'd have to say that I am almost glad that I am seperated by such a temporal distance from Octavian. The man was just damned dnagerous. Oh, not on a personal level with a knife in hand a feral attitude. Rather this guy, at 18, started a climb, successfully, to such heights that it was ... amazing. Anyways, most of you already know the story. The nifty part of this biography was that the author included some personality quirks about Augustus: he loved to gamble, but would often make sure he gave everyone the money to be gambled rather than take from them. He disliked, somewhat strongly, being called 'Dominus' (lord auf latin). It was a worthwhile read. I wish I'd bought another book besides this one to read on the plane...I still had hours to kill.

I am currently reading Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. I'll be wquickly following that with Terrestrial Ecosystems Through Time : Evolutionary Paleoecology of Terrestrial Plants and Animals. Hopefully after that last one, I'll make my long promised post about the Ordovician.

The latest books I'm picking up are:

1. Insulating Concrete Forms Construction : Demand, Evaluation, & Technical Practice.

2. Building with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) : Strength and Energy Efficiency Through Structural Panel Construction.

3. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times.

4. Gorgon: The Monsters That Ruled the Planet Before Dinosaurs and How They Died in the Greatest Catastrophe in Earth's History

5. The Late Devonian Mass Extinction

I am a little hesitant about Gorgon. I bought a book for a friend in NM by him called Future Evolution. I was completely underwhelmed by the book - the first negative review there is pretty damned accurate - but Gorgon was cheap and it'd round out the read for the Permian Extinction. The Devonian book would be great to back up the Hallam and Wignall work for the post on the Devonian. Truthfully I wish I had more on the other extinctions, but the Permian going to be a very researched on at least. ;) I'll start to need to collect books on the KT next. :D

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