Sand: The Never-Ending Story

Sand: The Never-Ending Story

Sand: The Never-Ending Story

Sand: The Never-Ending Story

Synopsis

From individual grains to desert dunes, from the bottom of the sea to the landscapes of Mars, and from billions of years in the past to the future, this is the extraordinary story of one of nature's humblest, most powerful, and most ubiquitous materials. Told by a geologist with a novelist's sense of language and narrative, Sand examines the science--sand forensics, the physics of granular materials, sedimentology, paleontology and archaeology, planetary exploration--and at the same time explores the rich human context of sand. Interwoven with tales of artists, mathematicians, explorers, and even a vampire, the story of sand is an epic of environmental construction and destruction, an adventure in staggering scales of time and distance, yet a tale that encompasses the ordinary and everyday. Sand, in fact, is all around us--it has made possible our computers, buildings and windows, toothpaste, cosmetics, and paper, and it has played dramatic roles in human history, commerce, and imagination. In this luminous, kinetic, revelatory account, we do indeed find the world in a grain of sand.

Excerpt

Sand is overrated—it’s just tiny little rocks.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I should have turned left some distance back, but following twisting and diverging tracks in the sand took concentration and made distinguishing a left turn difficult. There were no signposts; the map was a tentative set of branching spidery lines, petering out into not very much. Having missed the left turn and driven straight on for some time, I found myself entering the Rub’ al-Khali, the aptly named Empty Quarter, the largest sand sea on Earth; the sight, the sense of the place, was unlike anything I had encountered before—immense, impersonal, and, yes, very empty. I was on my own in an ancient but valiant Land Rover, attempting to catch up with my companions. It’s tempting to say I was lost and terrified, but in truth I was neither: if I looked behind me, I could still see, over the tops of the rolling sand hills, the Oman Mountains, out of which I had recently driven. But if I looked ahead of me, there was nothing, nothing but a horizon lost in haze, and I truly did not know where I was—I was not terrified, but I was deeply nervous.

Over thirty years ago, I was on my first job as a professional geologist, surveying the Oman Mountains as part of a British government aid project. the country was being dragged out of the dark ages by its new sultan, who had decided that his father’s medieval approach—wearing glasses had been, until recently, illegal— required change. Maps, communications, transport were, to say the least, unsophisticated, and the British Army was still attempting to control insurgency. As geologists, we needed to spend our time in places the army advised us against visiting, and we tended to avoid the scattered villages that marked the occasional emergence of water. We did so, however, not through safety concerns, but simply because we could not afford the time required by the embracing hospitality of the local people . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.