The great American scientist Carl Sagan once remarked ‘If we teach only the findings and products of science—no matter how useful and inspiring they may be—without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience?’ Forty years after these words were penned, Sagan’s concerns could not be more prescient. Over the last two decades many countries have reported an alarming fall in the number of students taking science. As scientists we need to do a better job communicating the excitement of discovery.
The Antarctic remains one of the last great unexplored regions on Earth. In spite of a century of discovery, the southern continent and vast surrounding ocean remain a unique place to learn about how our planet works. Iced In (Kensington Publishing, North America) and Shackled (Penguin Random House, Oceania) tells the story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (2013-2014), a privately-funded expedition that aimed to extend over a hundred years of scientific endeavour in the region and communicate the value of science and exploration of this remote and pristine environment. Here I describe the latest scientific thinking from the frozen continent and our entrapment by a major breakout of decade-old sea ice during the Christmas period. We were extremely fortunate to have an amazing team of people on board. Chronicling our discoveries and experiences, I revisit famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's harrowing Antarctic expedition almost a century before when his ship, Endurance, was trapped and ultimately lost to the ice, forcing his team to fight for survival on a vast and treacherous icescape for two years.
During the height of the Heroic Age of Exploration, the limits of our planet were pushed all the way to the South Pole and the door to Antarctica flung wide open. A frozen continent shaped by climatic extremes and inhabited by wildlife and vegetation unknown to science was being uncovered. Tales of endurance, self-sacrifice and technological innovation during 1912 laid the foundations for modern scientific exploration and inspired future generations. To celebrate the centenary of this groundbreaking work, 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica revisits the exploits of these different expeditions. Looking beyond the personalities and drawing on my own polar experience, I show how their discoveries marked the beginning of the end for traditional exploration. Making use of original and unpublished archival material and weaving in the latest scientific findings, I reveal why 1912 marked the dawn of a new age in understanding of the natural world, and show how we might reawaken the public's passion for discovery and exploration.
1912 was runner-up for 2013 The Bragg Prize Prize. Many thanks to the Skelton family estate and the University of Cambridge (Scott Polar Research Institute), for granting permission to use additional material in 1912. Click here to download a list of resources.
Imagine a world of wildly escalating temperatures, apocalyptic flooding, devastating storms and catastrophic sea level rise. This might sound like a prediction for the future or the storyline of a new Hollywood blockbuster but it's something quite different: it's our past.
In a day and age when where we re bombarded with worrying forecasts for future climate, it seems hard to believe that such things could come to pass. Yet almost everywhere we turn, the landscape is screaming out that the world is a capricious place. The problem is if we don't tune in, the message is lost. We need to decipher the past and learn from it.
In Ice, Mud and Blood, I explore the changing climate and the risks facing us today as we continue to drive our planet to new extremes.
In May 2009, Ice, Mud and Blood was longlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.
What is the Turin Shroud? When were the Pyramids built? Where are the branches on the human family tree? Why did the dinosaurs die out? How did the Earth take shape?
With questions like these, I show time is of the essence. Understanding how we pinpoint the past is crucial to putting the present in perspective and planning for the future.
In eleven chapters, each focusing on a well-known dating controversy (from the existence of King Arthur to the last Ice Age), I reveal the leg work behind the headlines. Bones, Rocks and Stars explains how written records, carbon, pollen, tree rings, constellations, and DNA sequencing can help archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists to 'tell the time'.
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