Bones, rocks and stars. The science of when things happened

Bones, rocks and stars. The science of when things happened 

Chris Turney 

Basingstoke, UK and New York, US: Macmillan | 2006 | 182 pp | ?16.99 (HB) | ISBN 1403985995 

Reviewed by Helen Lunn

A fascinating guide to the measurement of time and its importance, in a nutshell. The book is divided into 11 chapters (somehow, I did so want it to be 12 to match the months in a year) each one covering celebrated dating controversies such as the Turin Shroud, the last ice age, etc, and age measurement methods.  

Written in an easily accessible personal style, the book should appeal to a diverse readership with no knowledge of science being necessary or in fact required because everything is explained fully, even isotopes. The pros and cons of all the measurement techniques are discussed - for instance, I learnt that radiocarbon dating is only useful if your sample is 40 000 years or less old because this is the limit of the technique.  

Turney manages to inject some of his own personality into the book with some amusing stories and also his own research, particularly, the recent discovery of the ’Hobbit’ skeleton in Indonesia.  

The book is ordered so that the further reading section is helpfully arranged for each chapter, there is an index, a list of tables and figures and a list of copyright permissions.  

The concluding chapter tackles the current upsurge in creationism and gives us a timely reminder of the relevance of investigating and understanding past human responses to catastrophe in the wake of ever-increasing doom-laden climate change scenarios.