Grand Canyon: Solving Earth's Grandest Puzzle

Overview

Vast and majestic, the Grand Canyon represents one of science's most challenging puzzles: How did this massive canyon come to be? This is the story of the search for the answers, and the first account of the consensus geologists have reached in the last few years.

A scientific detective tale packed with colorful characters, Grand Canyon follows the explorers, adventurers, and geologists whose efforts led to the understanding of the canyon's mysteries. Modern scientists have ...

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Overview

Vast and majestic, the Grand Canyon represents one of science's most challenging puzzles: How did this massive canyon come to be? This is the story of the search for the answers, and the first account of the consensus geologists have reached in the last few years.

A scientific detective tale packed with colorful characters, Grand Canyon follows the explorers, adventurers, and geologists whose efforts led to the understanding of the canyon's mysteries. Modern scientists have revealed that the Colorado River once ran in the opposite direction—and for many years flowed hundreds of feet beneath the ground. These efforts also led directly to the discovery of tectonic plates, one of the most important advancements in the history of geology. An eloquent, breathtaking narrative, Grand Canyon is a fascinating true story that is as epic as its subject. BACKCOVER: “Powell's well-crafted account makes one appreciate just how [the Grand Canyon] came to be so grand.”
Natural History

Grand Canyon will be enjoyed by anyone who is curious about how geologists think, piece together disparate information, and assemble explanations.”
Science

“What many readers will walk away with is a sense of the awesome power of water running over the surface of the earth.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this illustrated work, Powell (Night Comes to the Cretaceous) chronicles the search by explorers, scientists, and academics to understand what caused the Grand Canyon. Combining historical text with geomorphological and scientific evidence about the evolving nature and grandeur of the Green/Colorado Rivers, the text reads like a detective story, with pieced-together clues identified by 19th-century exploration giants of the American West. Powell writes in an easy-to-read style, successfully integrating historical vignettes, statistics, descriptive narration, scientific theory, and personal observation. He provides excellent insight into the development of geological theory culminating in a new model of canyon building and the development of a great river system and the surrounding landscape. Professional or amateur geologists and anyone else who has an interest in great rivers or has viewed the Grand Canyon will find this book captivating. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Ian D. Gordon, Brock Univ. Lib., St. Catharines, Ont. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
How did the Grand Canyon come about? Geologist Powell strives to give the latest accounting, but he's torn between addressing a popular audience and spinning out all the geological theories. When geologists first laid eyes on the canyon, it was love: here, the Earth would reveal the deep secrets of its structure. But the great fissure would prove far from a cheap date. Throw me a theory, buster, it would say, and I'll throw you back a curveball. Powell starts, and continues for over half of his pages, with biographical sketches of the early geologists-John Newberry, John Wesley Powell, Grove Karl Gilbert, Clarence Dutton-spelling out in simple terms the nature of their theories (through they were by no means simple, including abrasion, transport, and stream morphology-early glimmerings of the fluid interior of the planet). By the time geologists Charles Hunt and Edwin McKee enter the picture, the theories get more tortured, the academic beard-pulling starts, and Powell (Night Comes to the Cretaceous, 1998) begins losing the less devout rock hounds as he enters the dark matter of advanced geology. Those who do wade through the material will experience the feeling of watching a fascinating chess game only to have it end in a draw: None of the theories, painted in such detail, has ever been proven. Ultimately, Powell suggests that the best modern theory combines "large-scale drainage reversal, headwater erosion and stream piracy, possibly aided by lake integration"-and it's a tribute to him that lay readers will understand all those terms-but what many readers will walk away with is a sense of the awesome power of water running over the surface of the earth. Powell warns at the outset thatthe canyon may be on naked display, but that doesn't mean it's not deeply complicated: as many theories litter its banks as rapids break its water. (Photographs, maps, diagrams)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452287877
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

JAMES LAWRENCE POWELL is executive director of the National Physical Science Consortium, and former director and president of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. He is the author of Night Comes to the Cretaceous and Mysteries of Terra Firma.

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Table of Contents


I. A BRIEF HISTORY OF AWE.
1. Six Feet.
2. Water Catch 'Em.
3. How Old Is a River?
4. The Saw That Cut the Mountain.
5. Seven Cities of Gold.
II. SECRETS OF THE RIVER.
6. America's Greatest Geologists.
7. The Sublimest Thing.
8. Earth's Engine.
9. Where Everything Is Exposed.
10. Antecedence in Doubt.
11. The Same River Twice?
III. A NEW THEORY.
12. Paradox.
13. Canyon Makers.
14. Lazarus and Lakes.
15. Molten Rock, Melted Snow.
16. What Caused the Grand Canyon?
Key Terms and Places.
References.
Acknowledgments.
Index.
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