Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I have an awesome new book!

I've wanted a copy of All Yesterdays ever since it came out, and finally convinced myself to cough up the extra money and get a hard copy version.

I doubt All Yesterdays will make the New York Times bestseller list, but to me this book is very, very exciting.  Even more exciting than the latest Children of Bodom album.  That, gentlepersons, is about as exciting as it's possible to get in my world.  This is a book that celebrates speculation and asks a question that is fascinating and important, but often overlooked: just how weird might extinct animals have been?

Reconstructing how extinct species looked in life is a field where speculation is unavoidable.  We can look at fossilized skeletons and make a good guess about what the muscles might have been like.  If we're really lucky we might have fossilized impressions of skin or feathers.  But often we know nothing about the animals' skin, hair, and other soft tissues and the artist simply has to use their best judgement.

The difficulty here is that modern animals often look nothing like their skeletons would suggest, because of things like hair and feathers and subcutaneous fat.  And if we can't tell what a modern animal looked like from its skeleton, it's reasonable to suppose that ancient animals didn't look much like we would expect based on their skeletons either.  All Yesterdays contains pictures that speculate about how extinct species might have looked.

What makes this book really special, however, is that the authors are experts in their field. This is not a book of wild guesses, the speculations in this book are well researched and reflect an up to date scientific understanding of palaeontology.  I'll be posting a full review with lots of nice pictures soon.

In the meantime, here's a nice photo of  the cat  helping me enjoy All Yesterdays.