Books : reviews

John J. Renton.
The Nature of Earth: an introduction to geology.
Great Courses. 2006

rating : 6 : unfinishable
review : 15 May 2023

This is the course guidebook that accompanies the 36 lecture “Great Course” of the same name. It is essentially an abbreviated transcript of each 30 minute lecture, a few pictures, some suggested reading, and a few questions to think about. (I watched [some of] the lectures, which is what I am reviewing here, and am using the book simply as an aide-memoire.)

This is simply dreadful, both in content and in delivery. The early lectures on the formation of the Universe, solar system, and earth, include nonsense: no, gravity is not due to stuff rotating! Okay, let’s give that a pass, and wait until the geology starts. Then we have a description of isotopes. Apparently, for multi-isotope elements, “one isotope always superdominates”; um, so what about chlorine? And then we have the totally egregious explanation that the atomic mass of oxygen is 15.999 because it is the average of isotopes with atomic masses 16, 17, and 18. Gah! I can’t trust anything said so far, so why should I trust anything later?

Then the nonsense content is all delivered in a unconvincing ‘folksy’ style. When he’s reporting what astronomers say about astronomy, for example, the style is sort of well, these guys say this thing, but who knows? Actually, given how he mangles the physics, maybe that’s a good thing!

Anyway, I gave up. Didn’t anyone at Great Courses quality check the content or the delivery?