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Welland's multidisciplinary portrait is as versatile as the element itself.
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Though we rarely consider the implications of the sand we encounter daily (as wind-borne grit or the beach on which we walk), geologist Welland finds much that's relevant and fascinating in the ancient history and present role of sand. In precise and poetic prose, Welland ponders sand's strict definition (based on particle size) and multifarious composition (from quartz grains to calcareous microfossils) Before addressing the subject from every other angle, from the strange fluid mechanics of moving sand masses to the bizarre elegance of sand art. Unsurprisingly, sand's history encompasses much of geological, biological and human history: how mountains grow and crumble, how rivers move the earth, how minute creatures keep beaches clean, how desert winds shape dunes and the impact of sand migration on humanity. In a clever framing device, Welland follows a single particle of sand down the valley of the Susquehanna River and out into the depths of the sea, which keeps his far-flung investigation on track from elemental force to industrial-era necessity (Chapter 9, "Servant of Our Lives," is an entertaining A-to-Z list of the ways sand and humans interact). Welland's work even manages to sift some romance from the subject, firmly cementing this fun-to-read text as a worthy science title for the masses.
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Sand has a sense of vastness, mystery, and power. It is both a nuisance and a powerful tool as the smallest grain on a beach or as vast desert landscapes. Welland, a professional geologist in the oil and gas industry, weaves an insightful narrative about one of our planet's most ubiquitous and fundamental materials. He discusses the science, geology, and cultural significance of sand as a critical ingredient in so many aspects of our lives. Learn about arenophiles, sand forensics, extraterrestrial sand, Udden-Wentworth scale, Bagnold formula, and how sand shapes our environment. A highlight of the book is the chapter "Sand in Our Lives," in which Welland documents the use of sand as the basic building block for many products including stone, glass, toothpaste, cement, and pharmaceuticals. Anyone who has walked on a beach, run up a sand dune, or built a sand castle will be fascinated by this excellent book written for amateur scientists and the general public. Highly recommended for all undergraduate and public libraries.
—Ian D. Gordon
1 Individuals: Birth and Character
2 Tribes: The Strange World of Granular Materials
3 Sand and Imagination I: Very Large Numbers of Very Small Things
4 Societies on the Move: A Journey to the Sea
5 Moving On: Waves, Tides, and Storms
6 Blowing in the Wind: Desert Landscapes
7 Witness: Testaments of Sand
8 Sand and Imagination II: Stories, Medium, and Muse
9 Servant: Sand in Our Lives
10 Outward and Onward: Beyond Earth, beyond the Present
Epilogue: A Desert Mystery
Sources and Further Reading
Posted July 27, 2009
After finishing my morning walk around the park I sat and dumped the sand out of my shoe. It made me smile since I've recently finished reading SAND by Michael Welland. He has done an excellent job of blending the science of sand with literature. It is amazing how often these tiny grains impact our lives. I'd like to try some of the experiments he discusses. This book goes beyond just being for geologists and soil scientists. It will be enjoyed by anyone. Thank you!
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Posted February 25, 2014
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