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Life's Engines Audiobook

Life's Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable

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Publisher's Summary

For almost four billion years, microbes had the primordial oceans all to themselves. The stewards of Earth, these organisms transformed the chemistry of our planet to make it habitable for plants, animals, and us. Life's Engines takes listeners deep into the microscopic world to explore how these marvelous creatures made life on Earth possible - and how human life today would cease to exist without them.

Paul Falkowski looks "under the hood" of microbes to find the engines of life, the actual working parts that do the biochemical heavy lifting for every living organism on Earth. With insight and humor, he explains how these miniature engines are built - and how they have been appropriated by and assembled like Lego sets within every creature that walks, swims, or flies. Falkowski shows how evolution works to maintain this core machinery of life, and how we and other animals are veritable conglomerations of microbes.

A vibrantly entertaining audiobook about the microbes that support our very existence, Life's Engines will inspire wonder about these elegantly complex nanomachines that have driven life since its origin. It also issues a timely warning about the dangers of tinkering with that machinery to make it more "efficient" at meeting the ever-growing demands of humans in the coming century.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2015 Princeton University Press (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

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  •  
    serine 07-28-15
    serine 07-28-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Best Science Book Ever Written. Period."
    What made the experience of listening to Life's Engines the most enjoyable?

    I am only 2/3 of the way through this book. However, the one and only review for this book has compelled me to write a review before I finish. The only Audible review was by someone who couldn't read more than 30 minutes. From their short sampling, they concluded that Falkowski brought nothing new to the table. This book blew me away with the novelty and brilliance brought to every chapter. Falkowski provides new explanations for why endosymbiosis occurred, why animals evolved, why nanomachines had to evolve basic machinery and then build bodies of animals and plants (consortia), etc.

    Until reading Life's engines, my favorite books in order were:

    Nick Lane's Life Ascending
    Sean Carroll's (physicist) The Particle at the End of the Universe
    Sean Carroll's (biologist) Endless Forms Most Beautiful Caleb Scharf's Gravity's Engines Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe
    Lucretius' On the Nature of Things

    Without question, Falkowski's book has topped that list. It took me a very long time to get through much of this book. I stopped every few minutes to take notes that I can refer to later. This was necessary because I believe this book to be a seminal work on how the world operates. The depth of understanding Falkowski bestows upon his reader will help them understand their host planet on a fundamental level.

    Do you want to understand your planet as one big organism? Then read this book. Every chapter is packed so tightly with an abundance of information about microbes: how they are connected to one another, to groups of microbes, to plants and animals (including humans), and to the earth at large.

    In this book you will learn the langue microbes use to communicate. Think humans are the most intelligent species on the planet? Think again. You will also learn the wonderful story of how mitochondria evolved. Lest you think you have heard it before (ie., as Nick Lane or Lynn Margulis tell it), you will undoubted hear a new tale. Falkowski's idea of mitochondria as a "nutrient trap" and not a workhorse is nothing short of revolutionary. Sheer brilliance!

    I plan to now scour the intent for all of his talks. I want to know everything he is willing to share. LOVE HIM!

    If you like evolution, biochem, microbes, understanding you place in evolution, or are just a lover of really good science, this book is for you!


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There are so many novel ideas in the book. Each one moved me deeply.


    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 03-19-16
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 03-19-16 Member Since 2016

    l'enfer c'est les autres

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    "Microbes are incredibly interesting!!!!"

    The author is very good at explaining complex concepts in easy to understand ways. He starts by telling the listener that the nature of science advances by recognizing patterns and then developing tools for finding those patterns.

    Microbes (and all life) contain nano-machines which get their energy from electrons or elements available from the environment and converts that into the universal currency of life, ATP, which every living organism on the planet possesses for its energy source (with maybe just minor exceptions). The author states that there are 1500 or so core genes which most of life share in fundamental ways. He'll step the listener through the steps necessary for creating an oxygen rich atmosphere on earth thus allowing for endosymbiosis (a very specific type of horizontal gene transference) which leads to the development of eukaryotic cells (cells with nucleus). (The author doesn't doesn't mention it, but it's possible that the subsuming of the mitochondria by an archaea was a one time only event and can be one of the large filters which helps explain the Fermi Paradox, the reason why we might be alone in the universe. See, microbes are incredibly interesting!).

    Very rarely do I come across a popular science book where the author knows how to tell a story as clearly as this author did. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in understanding our place in the universe.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David United States 02-13-16
    David United States 02-13-16 Member Since 2012

    Hellicopter Man

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    "Nifty stuff"

    I am no novice in these matters and the tone at first seemed a bit juvenile. That turned out to be a good thing because the content is not juvenile and provides the best linear progression of cellular development I have heard. I will need to listen again to better absorb the topic but will not be burdened with inaccessible jargon.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B 10-05-15
    B 10-05-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Great book to appreciate microbes"

    This was a great listen. The narration was on point, but more importantly, you'll gain a much deeper appreciation for the microbial world that you inhabit. The build up to the profound question of, "are we alone," was well done and offered seemingly viable theories and ideas.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    firmgrip 11-16-15
    firmgrip 11-16-15 Member Since 2015

    firmgrip

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    "If your a human...this should be mandatory."

    Enjoyed this so much I'm going in for a second helping. 10/10 brilliant on all levels.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    silas 07-09-15
    silas 07-09-15
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    "Fluffy"
    What disappointed you about Life's Engines?

    The book was very repetitive, not even repetitive just in ideas, but also word choice. You will hear "tinkering", "inadvertently", "disrupt", "extant", "machines", so so many times. It was kind of boring, certainly for anyone that has education in biology. Nothing new was brought to the table. I stopped listening with 30 minutes left...I heard "tinkering" too many times. It was mostly fluff I would say, and that the book could be shortened by at least half and still maintain all the information.


    What could Paul G. Falkowski have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Not repeat the same thing over and over, both word choice and main points.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yeah


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Eh.


    Any additional comments?

    I don't recommend. It had educational information which is good but was delivered poorly.

    6 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    weberchiro 11-30-16
    weberchiro 11-30-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Informative about microbes and ALL of their roles"

    Microbes from top to bottom is what this book is about. It does not go into specific microbes and their behaviors but the origins of our planet, gases, rocks, our planet as a whole. Overall an interesting and informative book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    John Highland Park, NJ 11-11-16
    John Highland Park, NJ 11-11-16 Member Since 2015
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    "An approachable journey through time"

    This book was a really enjoyable experience. I liked how Paul made the complicated subject more approachable by discarding some of the jargon that keeps people away and replacing it with either new more colonial terms or defining his own down to earth jargon for the sake of the book. I have a bit of background in this subject and I have to say that I not only learned new things, but also leaned a new way to describe the concepts that I knew coming in.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Pelletier Niagara Ontario 10-11-16
    D. Pelletier Niagara Ontario 10-11-16 Member Since 2016

    OtherUser76767

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    "An interesting informative look into microbes"

    This book simplified and explained a great deal of information on microbes evolution and a history of our understanding although it had no practical information on how to harness soil bacteria microbes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel A. Griska Narberth, PA 07-29-16
    Joel A. Griska Narberth, PA 07-29-16 Member Since 2001

    Jag

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    "Truly great!!!"

    Excellent!!! I learned a great deal that I did not know and I thought I was well read in life science. Very well written and read! I will read it many times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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