Monday, 18 February 2013

Book Review: Metasomatism and the Chemical Transformation of Rock

Last April I heard about a soon to be released textbook that sounded very interesting and useful to my current research project: Metasomatism and the Chemical Transformation of Rock, edited by Daniel E. Harlov and Håkon Austreheim (published by Springer).  I checked out their web page, and saw that it would be possible to obtain a copy for review, so I filled in the form and sent it in.  In September I received an email letting me know how to access my copy on line, and I have been happily reading my way through the book (in between my other duties) ever since.  Now that I have (mostly) completed the reading, it is time to sit down and type up the review.

First of all, I am pleased to note that sometime between when last I read a textbook and picking up this one the fashions in how they are organized seems to have changed—this book starts with a chapter that summarizes what can be found in all of the subsequent chapters. I think I like this new trend, since it makes it easier for a busy person to decide which chapters they actually need to read based on what is and is not relevant to their own research.

The introductory chapter also provides a concise, clear, definition of metasomatism and an explanation of how it is both related to and different from metamorphism.  Metamorphism refers to the changes in rocks due to changes in physical conditions (primarily heat and pressure) which may or may not involve a change in composition of the rock. This is a subject I am well versed in, having done metamorphic research in one form or another for more than seven years now. Metasomatism, on the other hand, refers to changes in the composition rock due to interactions with an aqueous fluid, which picks up some elements and deposits others.  This is clearly related to metamorphism, but while they overlap, they are not the same.  It is also the major process affecting the rocks in my current research area, which is why I was so happy to see the book come out just now.

For the most part I have been very happy with this book—it takes a variety of different threads and ties them together in an easy to understand package.  Indeed, I have so enjoyed some of the discussions that I have taken longer to read the full book than I might otherwise have, since I stopped so often to look up and read references cited—something I don’t recall ever doing when I was an undergraduate student reading textbooks because they were required for a class.  

The list of chapter authors includes names that will be familiar to anyone who has been reading papers that address aspects of metasomatism (see above link for the table of contents). My personal favourite chapters were the ones on thermodynamic modelling, the effects of metasomatism on their host rocks, and on geochronology.  I found the one on thermodynamic modelling fascinating since I am already familiar with doing that for metamorphic rocks, and it was interesting to read about what needs to be considered when one assumes that the bulk rock composition DID change, as it does with metasomatism, but as it does not (necessarily) do with metamorphism. The chapter on effects is particularly useful for me because this is information I need for my current research, and I enjoyed the geochronology one because I did a fair bit of geochronology for metamorphic rocks for my PhD research, and it is interesting to see how one approaches it differently for metasomatic environments.  

I did notice some minor issues with the editing on a grammatical level, which surprised me, since I would have assumed that a major publisher would have good editors on staff whose job it is to prevent such things. They were just little things that caught my eye and grated a bit on my nerves as being awkward and clunky (I think that the phrase "…presence or not of fluids" should have been written "…presence or absence of fluids”).  However, such details do not actually detract from the content, which I am finding to be very useful.

I am also pleased to pass on the news that the authors of this book have recently presented a short course at the 2012 Goldschmidt conference.  They have shared the pdfs of their presentations for this course on line.  I would have loved to have attended the workshop, but since I wasn’t able to make it to the conference I am delighted that they have this handout available—it appears to compliment the book very well.

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