Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
In Earth, a planetary scientist and a literary humanist explore what happens when we think of the Earth as an object viewable from space. As a “blue marble,” “a blue pale dot,” or, as Chaucer described it, “this litel spot of erthe,” the solitary orb is a challenge to scale and to human self-importance. Beautiful and self-contained, the Earth turns out to be far less knowable than it at first appears: its vast interior an inferno of incandescent and yet solid rock and a reservoir of water vaster than the ocean, a world within the world. Viewing the Earth from space invites a dive into the abyss of scale: how can humans apprehend the distances, the temperatures, and the time scale on which planets are born, evolve, and die?
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.