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The Spinning Magnet


This intriguing and fascinating book delves into all corners of research behind electromagnetism. It is a great book for anyone who, as well as learning about geological concepts, also loves to learn about how they came to be and all the amazing people who came up with the theories behind this complex topic.

Alanna Mitchel goes into riveting detail, crossing oceans to speak with anyone in the know. She discusses long-forgotten scientists who are rarely mentioned yet hold great importance in electromagnetism. A scientific timeline is created leading up to what we know in the present day as well as offering a glimpse into the future, where the poles have reversed. She creates a wondrous story starting from the 13th Century all the way to the present day.

As an introduction to electromagnetism this book is excellent at explaining some basic ideas such as the geodynamo; however if you want a more in-depth telling of the science behind it you might be left a bit cold. However, I believe if Mitchell did go into greater detail than she already has, this book would be a couple of extra hundred pages long! Such a complex theory is difficult to fully explain in only 277.

Her in-depth reporting is evident; she starts with going on an adventure with Jacques Kornprobst through central France exploring where Bernard Brunhes made the discovery that the poles had once switched places by looking at reheated terracotta. She touches on why Brunhes remains long forgotten. She ends her book with a discussion with Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado, asking questions about what would happen if a solar storm struck the astronauts first venturing onto the moon (dig a hole and lie down on it, with the junior of them laying on top of his senior in the hope of at least one making it back alive). She also asks what a future would be like where we were heavily affected by a magnetic pole reversal (space weather television, anyone?)

Mitchel’s reporting skills are evident here and she doesn’t hold back with travelling anywhere she can to get some answers. I urge you to get this book now as it holds the most up-to-date information. Some might say this book even offers something of a warning for a dangerous and treacherous future surrounded by solar radiation.

Reviewed by Eleanor Dunn

THE SPINNING MAGNET: THE FORCE THAT CREATED THE MODERN WORLD – AND COULD DESTROY IT by ALANNA MITCHELL, 2018. Published by: Oneworld 277pp (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-78607-424-9 List price: £16.99 W: