The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People

Neil Shubin. Pantheon, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-37843-9
University of Chicago paleontologist Shubin wrote about the fishy origins of humanity in 2009’s Your Inner Fish. In his new book, he goes farther back and further out, explaining how humans bear the markings of cosmic phenomena; as he puts it, “Written inside us is the birth of the stars.” Here, the author surveys everything from glints in “Greenlandic rocks” to the spreading signs of supernovae to reveal “deep ties to the forces that shaped our bodies.” He demonstrates how mammals owe their “high-energy lifestyle[s]” to oxygen released hundreds of millions of years ago as continents spread apart, and how color vision arose after continental drift cooled the planet, diversified flora, and resulted in biological competition that favored those organisms who could identify nutritious plants according to hue (“Every time you admire a richly colorful view, you can thank India for slamming into Asia”). Shubin is a leading proponent of the fusion of paleontology, developmental genetics, and genomics, and the result of his efforts is a volume of truly inspired science writing. Appropriately vast in scope, Shubin deftly balances breadth and depth in his search for a “sublimely beautiful truth.” Photos & illus. Agent: Katinka Matson, John Brockman, Max Brockman, and Russell Weinberger, Brockman Inc. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 01/08/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 225 pages - 978-0-307-47327-1
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-14-192401-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-449-01294-9
Open Ebook - 167 pages - 978-0-307-90786-8
Hardcover - 225 pages - 978-1-84614-220-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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