The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

Robert Hazen. Viking, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-02355-4
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With a blend of storytelling and science (from mineralogy and geology to biochemistry), Hazen (Science Matters) illuminates the origins of Earth and the origins of life. Hazen begins some 4.5 billion years ago, when the solar system coalesced from a cloud of cosmic debris. Hazen, a professor of earth science at George Mason University, describes the “Big Thwack” from a wandering asteroid that knocked off a piece of molten Earth to make the Moon. The creation of oceans and continents fed by Earth’s “inner heat”; a celebrated 1953 experiment to recreate the Earth’s “primordial soup”; and the discovery of strange creatures living on volcanic vents deep underwater show that life probably began in the water. Hazen moves on to photosynthetic organisms and their impact on the atmosphere, and on the explosive growth of algae in shallow coastal waters. Fossils show that the first primitive animal life evolved at least 545 million years ago and endured despite the threats of natural disaster, mass extinctions, and the extreme cold of the Ice Ages. Hazen enriches his story with details about pioneering researchers like continental drift theorist Alfred Wegener, and his own experiences hunting for meteorites, handling moon rocks, and collecting trilobytes. This is a thoroughly accessible book, deftly mixing a variety of scientific disciplines to tell an unforgettable story. Agent: Eric Lupfer, William Morris Enterprises. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/06/2012
Release date: 04/26/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-14-312364-4
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