Earth The Blue Planet Essay Introduction

1908 - Earth, a Blue, Shining Speck

William Hope Hodgson's 1908 novel The House on the Borderland is available at Project Gutenberg:

I drew nigher to our system, and now I could see the shine of Jupiter. Later, I distinguished the cold, blue gleam of the earthlight . . . I had a moment of bewilderment. All about the sun there seemed to be bright, objects, moving in rapid orbits. Inward, nigh to the savage glory of the sun, there circled two darting points of light, and, further off, there flew a blue, shining speck, that I knew to be the earth. It circled the sun in a space that seemed to be no more than an earth-minute.

1925 - Earth, the Green Star

The novelette "When the Green Star Waned" by Nictzin Dyalhis (real name!) was first published in Weird Tales, April 1925. This story is notable for the first known mention of a fictional weapon called a "blaster", or "blastor" as Dyalhis spelled it. The titular "Green Star" is the planet Earth (or "Aerth") as seen from Venus (or "Venhez"):

That something was radically wrong with our neighbor, everybody already knew, for many years before the green light of Aerth had become perceptibly dimmer. Little attention, however, had been paid at first, for, by interplanetary law, each planet's dwellers remained at home, unless their presence was requested elsewhere. And no call had come to us nor to any other world from Aerth; so we had put it down to some purely natural cause with which, doubtless, the Aerthons were perfectly capable of coping without outside help or interference.

But year by year the green light waned in the night skies until finally it vanished utterly.

1939 - Earth, the Green Speck (suggested in a comment by @Ubik)

The short story "Marooned off Vesta" by Isaac Asimov was first published in Amazing Stories, March 1939. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of that issue. The following quotation is from a reprinting of that story in The Best of Amazing (Joseph Ross, ed.), Doubleday, 1967:

He gazed about him. For the first time since the crash he saw the stars, instead of the vision of bloated Vesta which their porthole afforded. Eagerly, he searched the skies for the little green speck that was Earth. It had often amused him that Earth should always be the first object sought for by space-travelers when star-gazing. However, his search was in vain. From where he lay Earth was invisible. It, as well as the Sun, must be hidden behind Vesta.

When the story was reprinted in The Best of Isaac Asimov, among other revisions, the "green speck" became a "blue-white speck". The following is quoted from a 1976 paperback edition, but the text is presumably the same as in the original 1973 hardcover:

He gazed about him. For the first time since the crash he saw the stars instead of the vision of Vesta which their porthole afforded. Eagerly he searched the skies for the little blue-white speck that was Earth. It had often amused him that Earth should always be the first object sought by space travelers when stargazing, but the humor of the situation did not strike him now. However, his search was in vain. From where he lay, Earth was invisible. It, as well as the Sun, must be hidden behind Vesta.

1942 - Earth, the Blue World

The short story "Peril of the Blue World" by Robert Abernathy was first published in Planet Stories, Winter 1942 (available at the Internet Archive), well before the first satellite images of the earth. The "Blue World" of the title is indeed Planet Earth. Here is the beginning of the story:

There are those who have criticized the wisdom of the members of the First Earth Expedition in returning to Mars so precipitately, without completing the observations and explorations which it had been intended they should make. For some time now, we who were with the Expedition and knew the real reason for that return have chosen to ignore these few but noisy individuals; but latterly some of the hot-headed younger generation, but lately out of the egg and unwilling to trust to the wisdom of their elders, have begun to talk of launching a second expedition to the Blue Planet.

Therefore, I, Shapplo with the Long Proboscis, interpreter to the First Expedition, have been commissioned by the crew of the Earth Rocket to tell the full and unexpurgated story of our adventures on Earth, and the reasons for our contention that the planet must forever remain closed to Martian colonization.

Part 1. The Earth System: Our Place in Space

1. The Earth System 5

What is Earth Syste, Science? 6

Earth System Reservoirs 14

Dynamic Intercations Among Reservoirs 16

How Science Works: Hypothesis and Theory 22

2. Energy 31

What is Energy? 32

External Energy Sources 35

Internal Energy Sources 42

Earth's Energy Cycle 43

Energy and Society 46

3. Matter 53

Earth's Materials 54

Organic Matter 59

Composition and Internal Structure of Earth 61

Minerals 64

Rocks 71

Regolith 74

How Matter Moves Through the Earth System 76

4. Space and Time 81

The Sun: An Ordinary Star 82

The Solar System 85

Other Suns and Planetary Systems 96

Time and Change 101

Part 2. The Geosphere: Earth Beneath Our Feet 109

5. The Tectonic Cycle 111

Plate Tectonics: A Unifying Theory 113

Plate Motion and the Driving Force 120

Plate Interactions and Earth's Landscapes 125

Building the Continents 132

6. Earthquakes and Volcanoes 143

Earthquakes: When Rocks Shift 144

Earthquake Hazard and Risk 150

Earthquakes and Earth's Interior 156

Volcanoes: When Rocks Melt 161

Volcanic Disasters 173

Magma Underground 176

The Tectonic Connection: Origin and Distribution of Magmas and Volcanoes 177

7. The Rock Cycle 185

From Rock to Regolith 186

From Regolith to Rock 195

New Rock to Old 202

From Rock to Magma and Back Again 209

The Rock Cycle. The Tectonic Cycle, and Earth's Landscapes 212

Part 3. The Hydrosphere: Earth's Blanket of Water and Ice 221

8. The Hydrologic Cycle 223

Water and the Hydrologic Cycle 224

Water on the Ground 228

Water Under the Ground 241

Water and Society 247

9. The Cryosphere 257

Earth's Cover of Snow and Ice 258

Glaciers 260

Glaciation 270

Sea Ice 277

Ice in the Earth System 279

10. The World Ocean

Ocean Basins and Ocean Water 288

Ocean Circulation 295

Ocean Waves 301

Ocean Tides 306

Where Land and Ocean Meet 307

Changing Sea Levels 311

Part 4. The Atmosphere: Earth's Gaseous Envelope 319

11. The Atmosphere 321

The Habitable Planet 322

Composition and Structure of Our Atmosphere 325

Moisture in the Atmosphere 335

The Atmosphere in the Earth System 343

12. Wind and Weather Systems

Why Air Moves 350

Global Air Circulation 355

Regional Wind and Weather Systems 360

Local WInd and Weather Systems 364

Severe Weather 365

Weather and the Earth System 373

13. the Climate System 379

Earth's Climate System 380

Evidence of Climate Change 381

Earth's Past CLimates 392

Why Climates CHange 400

Feedbacks and Complexity in Earth's Climate System 408

Part 5. The Biosphere: Life on Earth

14. Life, Death and Evolution 417

What is Life? An Overview of Basic Biological Processes 418

Life: A Planetary Perspective 424

Evolution: the History of Life 431

Extinction: The History of Death 442

15. Ecosystems, Biomes, and Cycles of Life 449

Energy and Matter in Ecosystems 450

Global Cycles of Life 459

Earth's Major Ecosystems 474

16. Populations, Communities, and Change 487

Populations 488

Communities 492

Biodiversity 502

Part 6. The Anthroposphere: Humans and the Earth System 517

17. The Resource Cycle 519

Resources from the Earth System 520

Renewable Resources: Seeking Balance 526

Limits to Growth 537

18. Mineral and Energy Resources 541

Nonrenewable Resources: Closing the Cycle 542

Mineral Resources 542

Energy Resources 551

19. The Changing Earth System 473

Understanding Anthropogenic Change 574

Human Impacts on the Earth System 577

Anthropogenic Role in Global Climate Change 592

Anthroposphere: Humans and Earth System Change 599

  • The overall structure of the text more clearly reflects the spheres of the Earth system.
  • Significant emphasis is placed on cycling of materials and energy, and interactions among the spheres.
  • "The Basics" feature focuses on basic science that is carried over from chapter to chapter.
  • More systematic documentation of human impacts on the various spheres of the Earth system.
  • Addition of new material on ecosystems, biomes, and soils.
  • "A Closer Look" focuses on applications and more in-depth explorations of topics.
  • Systems approach connects all the processes of earth sciences into a "holistic" approach so students learn how these are connected.


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