Into the Heart of Our World-A Journey to the Center of the Earth: A Remarkable Voyage of Scientific Discovery is a mind boggling, hypothetical journey into the world beneath our feet. Whitehouse, an astronomer, has bottled the wonder that he feels for the stars and channeled it into exploring the depths below. Though the science in this book went above my head at times, I enjoyed learning about Earth and its secrets. Into the Heart of Our World would make a great documentary.
Here are the parts that I loved the most:
Whitehouse was discussing the chemical composition and age of some of the oldest rocks on earth: “If the life of the Earth was represented by a day then mankind appeared just twenty seconds before midnight. These rocks have been waiting since about 1 a.m.” pg 52, advance reading copy
On a discussion of plumes beneath the Earth’s surface: “The big question is: can we see mass extinction events on the way up? Some scientists believe we can by looking for the plumes. Such a thing is seen in the south-west Pacific near the Fiji Tonga subduction zone. It’s 700 km deep, has a structure consistent with a massive temperature anomaly and may be rising. It could render the Earth uninhabitable for humans and it will reach the surface in an estimated 200 million years.(!!!!!?!????!!)” pg 146, advance reading copy, emphasis mine
About the core of the Earth: “”The core…is larger than the planet Mars and far more alien. It has one-sixth of the volume of the Earth yet one-third of its mass, and it is liquid, dense yet not thick. If you donned super-protective gloves you could run your hands through it like water. It is this liquid- molten iron, nickel, and a few other elements- that profoundly affects the nature of our planet and protects us from the harshness of the cosmos. In the mantle we suspect that there may be aspects of the subduction cycle that are important for life on the surface. But in the liquid core we have no such doubts. We are certain that life on our planet could not have survived without it, for out of its liquid motions emerges our great protector- the Earth’s magnetic field.” pg2 158-159, advance reading copy. Who knew?
In a discussion of the magnetic field, some medieval beliefs about magnets:“In the thirteenth century Bartholomew the Englishman (c. 1203-72), author of the book On the Properties of Things, said that ‘This kind of stone restores husbands to wives and increases elegance and charm in speech. Moreover, along with honey, it cures dropsy, spleen, fox mange, and burns… when placed on the head of a chaste woman causes its poison to surround her but if she is an adulteress she will instantly remove herself from bed for fear of an apparition.” pg 167, advance reading copy. Behold the power of magnets.
One last bit of Into the Heart of Our World that was special to me on a personal level: “The oldest working seismograph, over a hundred years old but still fully operational, can be found at the university of Gottingen. It is the work of Emil Wiechert (1861-1928) who was the world’s second professor of geophysics.”pg 80-81, advance reading copy. My husband, a Geiger, is related to the man who created the Geiger counter. I’ve always felt that my family was a bit lacking when it came to scientific contributions. But now, I find out, there’s a geophysicist in the family! In your face, Geigers! :p
If you enjoyed Into the Heart of Our World, you may want to read What If by Randall Munroe or Rust: The Longest War by Jonathon Waldman. A big thank you to Goodreads First Reads program for a free advance reading copy of this book. And, thank you for reading!