Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

A Guide to the End of the World: Everything You Never Wanted to Know Paperback – Jan 8 2004


See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
CDN$ 25.82 CDN$ 0.01

Best Canadian Books of 2014
Margaret Atwood's stunning new collection of stories, Stone Mattress, is our #1 Canadian pick for 2014. See all


Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (Jan. 8 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804525
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,278,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Amazon

Nothing lasts forever, and we are all going to die. Since we've lived with these givens all our lives, it's not really surprising that we enjoy books about the end of the world such as Bill McGuire's A Guide to the End of the World. Going all together would be so much more fun.

McGuire's account of likely natural catastrophes is a splendidly integrated mechanism, relating rising tides to volcanic eruptions, eruptions to floods, global warming to local cooling--it's amazing we've lasted as long as we have (not sarcasm: fact).

Of course, the boundary between the "natural" and the "man-made" disaster is (and has been, since we arrived on the scene) a grey area. The marked success of one species threatens extinction on all. The super-success of homo sapiens bodes ill, not only for individual species, but for the whole environment.

And this, not surprisingly, is where McGuire's book starts to leave the rails. McGuire writes: "By wiping out the bulk of species that exist today, we are destroying much of the evolution's raw material and severely limiting the planet's ability to generate the species of the future." First, this is a classic piece of misdirection: we have not, as McGuire implies, destroyed the bulk of other species (although we may in the future). More important, its conclusion is plain nonsense. The mass extinction event at the end of the Palaeozoic Era (there have been four others in Earth's history already) wiped out something like 96 per cent of all species--yet life, far from being stunted, blossomed in the gaps, more various than ever before. McGuire would do better to argue that mass extinctions make room for new species to evolve! McGuire's book is a lively entertainment. But his breast-beating is hard to swallow. --Simon Ings --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

`Review from previous edition each chapter does cover the current state of knowledge with impressive thoroughness, often backed by striking facts and figures' New Scientist

`I would heartily recommend Bill McGuire's potted histroy of the Earth and its many mechanicanisms of destruction' www.bluegreenearth.com

`The book is pacy and terrifying' Literary Review

`a convincing, gripping and, at times. terrifying, case' TNT Magazine

`If you like self mutilation, this book will make a humorous light read at bedtime' Front Magazine

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
1
4 star
0
3 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
See the customer review
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
There's a lot to worry about here, and frankly I'm worried. The main disaster that I didn't know about until I read this intriguing little book is the volcanic "super-eruption." Take your standard volcanic blast and multiply it by something like a thousand and one begins to get the picture. Not only that, but a super-eruption isn't necessarily going to happen around the old fault lines or Vulcan sites. No, a super-eruption with enough power to usher in a "volcanic winter" can happen suddenly without warning virtually anywhere.
The really scary thing about super-eruptions is that not only can't they be predicted, they can't be prevented. In this sense they are worse than an earth-crossing asteroid or unleashed Oort Cloud comets. We might be able to see a meteor coming our way and with current technology nudge it off its course or blast it into smaller pieces, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about a super-eruption. Even if the super-eruption takes place halfway around the world, its effects, possibly leading to a civilization-ending volcanic winter, will be felt everywhere. With the social disruption, the disease, and the cold and starvation, the living (to recall a phrase from the Cold War) may very well envy the dead.
McGuire, who is Benfield Greig Professor of Geophysical Hazards at University College London, recalls for our delectation, "perhaps the greatest volcanic explosion ever" that took place at Toba in northern Sumatra 73,500 years ago. It qualified as a Volcanic Explosivity Index 8 (VEI 8) event, which means it was about one thousand times as powerful as the VEI 5 1980 blast at Mount St. Helens.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Chicken Little was right Dec 30 2002
By Dennis Littrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There's a lot to worry about here, and frankly I'm worried. The main disaster that I didn't know about until I read this intriguing little book is the volcanic "super-eruption." Take your standard volcanic blast and multiply it by something like a thousand and one begins to get the picture. Not only that, but a super-eruption isn't necessarily going to happen around the old fault lines or Vulcan sites. No, a super-eruption with enough power to usher in a "volcanic winter" can happen suddenly without warning virtually anywhere.

The really scary thing about super-eruptions is that not only can't they be predicted, they can't be prevented. In this sense they are worse than an earth-crossing asteroid or unleashed Oort Cloud comets. We might be able to see a meteor coming our way and with current technology nudge it off its course or blast it into smaller pieces, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about a super-eruption. Even if the super-eruption takes place halfway around the world, its effects, possibly leading to a civilization-ending volcanic winter, will be felt everywhere. With the social disruption, the disease, and the cold and starvation, the living (to recall a phrase from the Cold War) may very well envy the dead.

McGuire, who is Benfield Greig Professor of Geophysical Hazards at University College London, recalls for our delectation, "perhaps the greatest volcanic explosion ever" that took place at Toba in northern Sumatra 73,500 years ago. It qualified as a Volcanic Explosivity Index 8 (VEI 8) event, which means it was about one thousand times as powerful as the VEI 5 1980 blast at Mount St. Helens. It tore a hole in the ground one hundred kilometers across and sent an estimated 3,000 cubic kilometers (that's kilometers)of debris into the atmosphere, enough "to cover virtually the whole of India with a layer of ash one metre thick." (pp. 98-103) A volcanic winter of perhaps six years followed with "up to 5,000 million tonnes of sulphuric acid aerosols" in the air, enough to "cut the amount of sunlight reaching the surface by 90 per cent." (p. 104) An ice age followed, perhaps triggered by the mammoth eruption. McGuire goes on to speculate that so many humans died world wide that humanity went through a "population bottleneck" that almost sent us the way of the dinosaurs. (pp. 105-107)

McGuire, who sometimes refers to himself as "Disasterman" (p. 131), also looks at "The Threat from Space" (Chapter 5). He separates the asteroids from the comets and guesses that our chance of being killed during an asteroid or comet walloping is "750 times more likely than winning the UK lottery." To me, the really scary "from outer space" scenario is a hoard of comets being dislodged from their normal orbits to fly toward mother earth, so many that we would have no ability to ward them off.

Global warming and the coming ice age are also topics explored by the good professor. Earthquakes and tsunamis have their chapter and there is an Epilogue (in which he notes, e.g., that come the year 2100 "an extraordinary 50 per cent or so of the people in Japan and western Europe will be 60" years old or older). There are a couple of appendices showing "threat" and geological timescales, and a modest index. The chapter on global warming, I must say, left me somewhat confused. Clearly McGuire believes human activity is a factor in making the nineties the hottest decade ever recorded, but whether our pollution will melt the ice caps or help to usher in an ice age is not clear.

Some other items of interest in this very readable book:

There was a geological episode in the earth's history referred to as "the Cryogenian" in which the earth was covered by "a carapace of ice a kilometre thick." McGuire calls this "Snowball Earth" and when it finally melted 565 million years ago, the Cambrian explosion of life followed. (p. 69-71)

An earthquake in the Tokyo-Yokohama region similar in intensity (8.3 on the Richter Scale) to that which struck in 1923--a reprise, McGuire says, is "thought to be only decades away"--would cripple the Japanese economy and have disastrous world wide effects. (pp. 123-131)

The so-called "Contraction & Convergence" plan "to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" that would require monitoring and billing polluters for their emissions on a per capita basis: to me, this requirement would reveal the true cost of various enterprises and would help us to move toward renewable production and ecologically sound business practices.

Not to be picky, but on page 18 McGuire reports that Hurricane Andrew of 1992 "brought to bear on the city" of Miami "wind speeds of up to 300 kilometres per second." That's about 670,000 miles per hour! (I suspect he meant wind speeds of 300 kilometres per HOUR.)

Bottom line: fascinating, a little flippant at times, but a full-out good read by a man who knows what he is talking about.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A nice guide to your own obliteration May 4 2008
By Jerald R Lovell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Dr. Bill McGuire, a volcanologist by training, and a Professor of Geophysical Hazards at the University College in London, England, is a man worth one's attention when it comes to discussing massive, if unlikely, disasters.

McGuire has been criticized by some as a self-aggrandizing Cassandra. This envy-based criticism becomes invalid as one reads this and other works by him on the such subjects as mega-tsunamis, supereruptions, climate change, (both warmer and colder), giant earthquakes, impacts of asteroids and comets, breakdown of ocean currents, and like matters. McGuire has the unique capability of mastering all of these subjects and presenting them as a cohesive whole. That is what he has done in this book.

Make no mistake, McGuire is not talking about the planet being blown to smithereens. Rather, he addresses the effect of events that have occurred before, and will occur again, in the history of our planet that could lead to the end of civilization as we presently know it.

By way of example, considered as a whole, an 8.7 earthquake in the South Sandwich Islnds off Antarctica would have little effect on most of the world , but such an event centered in the Tokyo-Yokohama area could very easily lead to a collapse of most of the world's economies, widespread famine and warfare, etc.

The same is even more true of the impact of a one-kilometer asteroid with the Earth, a long-term change in climate, a Yellowstone-sized supervolcano going off, and the like. McGuire accurately points out that, should any of these dire events come to pass, there is not much that could be done except to endure the consequences. However, early detection of those events that could be forecast, and subsequent preparation, would help immensely to soften the blow.

McGuire is a delightful, sprightly writer, especially considering the morbid nature of the subject, and in so doing, he reminds us of the indomitability of the human spirit. His subtle but keen wit makes the book entertaining as well as valuable.

One should not be deluded that the book is an exhaustive treatise on all potential disasters. For example, a massively disastrous plague is not included. Nor is the book even an all-encompassing narrative covering all facets of the events discussed. Rather, it is a very good introductory guide to some of the greater hazards we face that are given short shrift by most people, and by their governments. Hopefully, McGuire's book, and your reding of it, will help change this unfortunate latter aspect of things. Every responsibler citizen should be conversant with the contents of this book.

The book is enjoyable and highly recommended.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Bogus science June 11 2012
By Dr. P. R. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In his personal quest to frighten us to death, McGuire has penned yet another doomsday book. With its superficial air of science, it presents a quite bogus picture of nature. Disasters of natural origin are a fact of life for those who live next to a volcano, or in an earthquake zone, but neither apply to the UK, so you can relax. So he tries to spin the argument into super-volcanoes, giant landslides, forgetting that they are infrequent on a geological timescale, and infinitesimal on a human time-frame. Not to be out-done, he then spins out the familiar guff about global warming, and tries to tell us that the debate is over: "there is absolutely no doubt that the Earth is warming up". I have news for McGuire: the earth is currently cooling, and none of the disasters predicted by the IPCC and other irresponsible bodies have yet to occur. Eat your words McGuire, and can one expect an apology for your wild prognostications? He even copies the now totally discredited hockey stick curve of Mann, which was made by deliberately manipulating data to eliminate the Medieval Warm period and the little Ice Age. This is fraud on a grand scale, and McGuire sucks it up like a dummy. He should consult the many interesting emails exposed by Climategate. This book is junk science at its worst, and avoided. A much more balanced presentation is given by Ian Plimer in Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science, and also by Carter in Climate: The Counter-Consensus - A Palaeoclimatologist Speaks (Independent Minds).
7 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Hysteria July 22 2005
By senorsam21 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you want to know all about all sorts of terrible things that will kill you, everyone you know and end civilization as we know it, read this book!

You'll be scared and worried and yet you will be powerless to do anything.

Complete waste of time.


Feedback