Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

ABES cover (38K) ISBN TBA, written by Peter Macinnis, now complete (15 January 2017), and a year later on 14 January 2018, it was edited, but it is still to be designed and published by the National Library of Australia. Making a good book takes time. In May 2018, I finished the design draft, and it looks set for release in January 2019. Well before that date. there will be more stuff appearing here: contnts list and the odd taste...

Please note that this page is a place-holder for a book that is yet to be published though there is some extra background here.

The "cover" you see here is a dummy, only.

There will now be a silence of several months, but news will appear here and on the Facebook page when it seems appropriate. I am going to have some grandchildren time, and then I will post some pretty earth-sciencey pictures and stuff. Anybody who reads my blog will soon work out that I have had a fondness for rocks for quite a while.


Acknowledgements | Who is it for? | The Blog (extras) | Chapter contents | This book on Facebook

A note from the author

Here you will meet many sorts of rocks, including a few surprises, like a rock that floats.

I also look at rocks that fold, rocks that fault, climate change a volcano at Bondi, and quite a few other things. I hope you will have a great deal more fun from this book. I certainly had fun writing it.


The main helpers were my family: mainly the ones who patiently waited while I took many of the photographs for this work: Christine Macinnis who was there for all of them (and read all of this), and non-relatves Lyn and Warren Kidson who were there for a large number of the Sydney ones, and Anne, Terence and David Lemmon, who stood still for quite a few, across four states. Angus and Cate Macinnis helped me collect wombat bones, and Angus and Duncan Macinnis made two deep forays with me into the Budawangs, seeking an elusive unconformity. In the end, they made a third trip, without me, to get the shot I needed. Cate found me New Zealand sites, and Brianna and Alastair came with me for some of them. It has been a family show.

Laura Hicks let me use her photos of Sideling Hill, and the nice people at 'Inside the Volcano' let me use Benjamin Hardman's picture of the interior of Þríhnúkagígur. My grand-niece Annie, gave me a different answer about pumice and also found more pumice for me.

While I was writing this, I was "visiting scientist" at Manly Vale Public School, where my young charges kept me on my toes. Five stage 2 classes heard varying versions of my essay on the seasons, and shared thoughts with me. Charlie (he knows who I mean) gave me a marvellous different answer that made me feel ten years younger.

Geoff Lambert was good enough to share with me his estimates for the North Head rock fall, which was probably about 950 square metres and the height (if no overhang, was an average of 33 m, giving us a volume of 31000 cubic metres, translating to a mass of ~75,000 tons of rock.

On the seasons, thanks go to On the season markers, thanks to Matthew Ansell-Laurendet, Barbara Braxton, Mel Campbell, Peter Chubb, Toby Fiander, Jan Gidge, Anne Graham, Rachel Hennessy, Serene Johnson, Mary-Ellen Jordan, Tamara Kelly, Peter McBurney, Rob McFarlane, Kari McKern, Ian Musgrave, Judith Nelson, K J Price, Anil Tortop, Tamsyn Taylor, Emily Walpole, Alexandra Williams, Losang Zopa.

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Who I want to reach

Some of the friends I made as a small boy infected me with an enthuisiasm for nature.

I hope among other things, to give adults the tools with which to infect another generation. Every activity in the book was done from scratch and photographed, so readers can see the steps and read a logical account that leaves nothing out, because I made notes to myself as I went through the steps.

In the 1950s, I used to go home from school, having seen a demonstration in the classroom. I would try to repeat it at home, using a chemistry set which gave me a great deal more freedom than my parents ever realised.

As a teacher, I adopted a deliberate policy of sharing what I called "take-home science", activities that you could take home and try for yourself. I specialised in making my own equipment from available scrap, and showing my audiences how I made stuff. This book is the culmination of a life-time's experience as the arch-underminer of the Machines That Go Ping industry. Simple science is good science.

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Instructions for use

brianna-and-us (103K) This book is strongly recommended for reading to grandchildren!

(Obligatory disclosure in relation to this photo: please note that Robert the Rose Horse was employed as a stand-in for Australian Backyard Earth Scientist, which had slept in that morning. In consequence, this picture may contain traces of roses, sneezes and horse hair.)

I hope this book won't ever be a classroom text book, but I would like its ideas and ideals to seep into classrooms everywhere, because the science you find here is stuff that young people can see and do in the class, and then take home and do again and again—and improve on. They can share the methods—and the wonder—with parents, grandparents and neighbours. Lifelong education goes both ways!

Some of the freedom I found as an experimenting child could have been dangerous (especially the things I did with the chemicals!), and I make it the Golden Rule to help my readers dodge those dangers, but there is still plenty of adventure to be had. We ended up with far more material than we could use, so difficult stuff, complicated stuff, things that needed special equipment were all deleted.

Freebie extras!

I don't waste the out-takes, though.

The dropped items are now appearing, bit by bit, in my writing blog, Old Writer on the Block. Remember: it may not be all that hard or risky: we just had too much material. Poke around there, and notice the tags that I attach to the entries to help readers to zero in on particular types of entry. In particular, follow the "Earth Science" tag.

Chapters in brief:

The chapters have changed repeatedly, and to see how they panned out, you'll just have to wait and read the book :-)

It begins with a Prologue: A short history of the earth;

  1. Cycles The whole Earth is a horde on intermeshing cycles of air, water, energy, minerals and more ;
  2. Seasons The seasons drive many oif the cycles, but how many are there, and what drives the seasons ;
  3. A changing earth It seems to go on forever, but it doesn't ;
  4. Rocks What are they, what can we learn from them? Contains traces of fossils ;
  5. Soil Soil isn't just dirt, you know;
  6. Wet and dry, hot and cold Aspects we can measure;
  7. Weather We all talk about it, but we can also observe it and measure it;
  8. Droughts and flooding rains Climate is what you expect, but weather is what you get on a given day. ;
  9. Oceans and seas Why they are in trouble;

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Click here for information from the National Library's shop, and use this second link for information from the distributor.

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It was created on January 17, 2017 (the day I completed the ms) and last updated January 17, 2018.

If you email me at macinnis at, you will reach a spam trap, but you will be read, eventually, probably maybe. If you put my first name in front of that address (so it reads petermacinnis), you will reach me much faster and more surely. This low-tech solution is to make email harvesting difficult. I am generally willing to talk to interesting humans. Spammers miss out twice on fitting that specification.

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