Great new book: Cataclysms by Michael Rampino

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cataclysms: A New Geology for the Twenty-First Century by Michael Rampino was published this year.

Relatively few are the new astronomy books each year that one could call really important. One of them was published late this summer, and it deserves the attention and careful reading of everyone who wants to be up to date with current thinking on astronomy. 

Cataclysms: A New Geology for the Twenty-First Century by Michael R. Rampino (211 pp., hardcover, Columbia University Press, New York, 2017, $30, ISBN 978–0–231–17780–1) should be read by everyone with even a casual interest in the history of our planet. 

Rampino is the well-known professor of biology and environmental studies at New York University, who has been an outspoken authority on Earth’s life, geological history, impacts, volcanism, and major extinction events. He has been a consultant for NASA and is the editor of Climate: History, Periodicity, and Predictability (1988) and coauthor of Origins of Life in the Universe (2008). 

Rampino’s current book starts with the stunning 1980 realization that an asteroid slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula 66 million years ago, wipiing out the dinosaurs, among other things. The knowledge that Earth had once been in a “cosmic shooting gallery” — and still is — awakened a whole new science of examining major impacts and other catastrophes on Earth. In this important book, Rampino takes the history of Earth’s past and builds a new picture of “neocatastrophism,” cataloging and helping readers to understand major planetary upheavals such as energetic volcanism and extinction events such as asteroid or comet impacts. 

The book also offers glimpses into what has been an amazing and very interesting personal career. We accompany the author on visits to impact sites, receive a brilliant summary of how the planet and the universe interact, and glimpse the cutting edge of where we are in understanding what it all means. 

This is a rare science book. It stimulates, informs, entertains, and offers a new way to understand our planetary home. 

Major applause to Professor Rampino. I can hardly wait for his next book. 

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