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A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters

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Skipping ahead, we go through time, from one great extinction to another, and we learn of some of the fantastic beasts and creatures that lived in-between them. Their rise and fall. We discuss the dinosaurs, these amazing creatures, and how they evolved into the titans that they were. We explore ideas and continue on through time, viewing it all like a window passing by, we see the dinosaurs die. We see the world go through the tumult as it had never been through before. The asteroid that wiped the earth out, would be the key in setting up our deep ancestors for success, which eventually would lead to us. Our ancestors have ranged through some pretty… weird phases, let me tell you. All in all, a thoroughly engaging read, complete with ‘the moral of this story’ towards the end. Some hundreds of million years from now, Earth will become uninhabitable to even the hardiest organ isms, spelling the final doom for Earth-evolved life—unless, perhaps, some earthlings manage to escape into space first. Meanwhile, the reader is rewarded with a deeper appreciation of our own place in the grand scheme of life, where even the best-adapted species disappear within a time that is minute on the scale of evolution. Following the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, the idea took hold that Austria had been the first casualty of Hitler’s aggression when in 1938 it was incorporated into the Third Reich.’ About 2.5 million years ago, Homo erectus arose, a territorial savannah predator, deadly thanks to two traits: it was a powerful long-distance runner and a social animal. From this lineage, Homo sapiens evolved. Humanity’s first attempt at worldwide dispersal failed, shattered by the cold of an ice age 200,000 years ago. Confined to an oasis in what is now the Kalahari Desert, humankind nearly went extinct. We, as a species, are just as fragile as all the others, reminds Gee.

Under a microscope, bacterial cells appear simple and featureless. This simplicity is deceptive. In terms of their habits and habitats, bacteria are highly adaptable. They can live almost anywhere. The number of bacterial cells in (and on) a human body is very much greater than the number of human cells in that same body. Despite the fact that some bacteria cause serious disease, we could not survive without the help of the bacteria that live in our guts and enable us to digest our food. The sound effects in the audiobook did not, in my opinion, enhance the experience. I listen to audiobooks so I can multitask, not because I want a multimedia experience. The narration itself was excellent. in chapter 3 for example, author uses a tons of extinct species to tell facts of evolutionary history, it becomes difficult to imagine them in a sentence of information, most of them you might have never heard of them. so it made sense to constantly look at Google images to see what he was telling about. majority of facts won't even stay in your head as a lot of these species won't live more than a sentence or twoReaders should be chastened at his conclusion, shared by most scientists, that Homo sapiens is making its habitat—the Earth—progressively less habitable and will become extinct in a few thousand years. Gee writes lucid, accessible prose." So where does the hope come in? Well, I don't want to spoil it too much, but he goes into if the Earth continues on its trend that it has for all time, likely we humans won't see some of the truly big cataclysmic events (definitely not in my lifetime anyway). So that's somewhat comforting. Although it doesn't relieve us of the responsibility for doing better now so that current conditions stay relatively sane. If one continues to read, past the end of the book, and into the epilogue the tone changes, it is not all death and despair, and Dr. Gee even points out that he is only discussing life on THIS planet, not denying it could be found elsewhere, or that even we humans, despite how challenging may be able to find a habitable location elsewhere in this galaxy and beyond. I share a slightly more hopeful view, I think our species, as inventive as it is, will find a way, as it always has. For better or worse we are a species that is always on the edge, on the edge of immense technological power, or on the edge of complete destruction. When Humans are pushed to extreme lengths and life or death situations, as a species we seem to find a way. And I do not see that coming to an end any time soon. A (Very) Short History of Life non-Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chaptersis an excellentbook I would recommend to all readers who find themselves interested in the history of Earth. From the extremely distant past and the start of life itself, to what may be our last battle on this planet, it is poignant and critical to understand where we are now, and why we have the challenges that we face today. In the scheme of things, we are a small blip, but as Dr. Gee says, and as is quoted in the book, this just makes it an even more convincing time to give life everything we have got. With dramatic flair, Henry Gee’s sweeping new book, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, tells the 4-billion-year story of life on this planet and how it has been repeatedly shaped by geological, climatic, and atmospheric forces. Trained as a paleontologist, Gee tells life’s history using the framework of the fossil record, offering insights from the related fields of ecology and physiology. Interwoven as it is with geology and climate, life evolves the way Ernest Hemingway said we go broke: “gradually and then suddenly” (1).

Bringing us to the third section that I have divided this book into, we see the rise of mammals, and other small creatures after the remnants of the dinosaurs’ ashes covered the Earth. And yet, as is the key idea that I believe this book is trying to convey, is Life found a way. Despite all of the challenges that it had faced up until that point, Life was able to continue, and find new ways to grow to extremes and diversify in ways it had never done before. Towards the end of the book, we finally come to where we come in, and what a small section there is about us. This is appropriate, for, in the grand scheme of geologic time, we have, to take a word from the title, left a pithy mark on this planet. From there, we go into the future, discussing how Humanity’s population will finally begin to drop in 2100, and how after a few tens of thousands of years after that, we will be extinct, like so many other organisms that have gone before us.Once upon a time, a giant star was dying. It had been burning for millions of years; now the fusion furnace at its core had no more fuel to burn. The star created the energy it needed to shine by fusing hydrogen atoms to make helium. The energy produced by the fusion did more than make the star shine. It was vital to counteract the inward pull of the star’s own gravity. When the supply of available hydrogen began to run low, the star began to fuse helium into atoms of heavier elements such as carbon and oxygen. By then, though, the star was running out of things to burn. Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil. Free oxygen became more abundant during the Great Oxidation Event, a turbulent period between about 2.4 and 2.1 billion years ago, when, for reasons still unclear, the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere at first rose sharply—to greater than today’s value of 21 percent—before settling down to a little below 2 percent. Although still unbreathably tiny by modern standards, this had an immense effect on the ecosystem.12 The book draws on the latest scientific understanding, much of it first published in Nature, for “a tale of survival and persistence, illuminating the delicate balance within which life exists”.

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