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The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet | [Robert M. Hazen]

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

Earth evolves. From first atom to molecule, mineral to magma, granite crust to single cell to verdant living landscape, ours is a planet constantly in flux. In this radical new approach to Earth’s biography, senior Carnegie Institution researcher and national best-selling author Robert M. Hazen reveals how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere - of rocks and living matter - has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos.
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Publisher's Summary

Earth evolves. From first atom to molecule, mineral to magma, granite crust to single cell to verdant living landscape, ours is a planet constantly in flux. In this radical new approach to Earth’s biography, senior Carnegie Institution researcher and national best-selling author Robert M. Hazen reveals how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere - of rocks and living matter - has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos.

With an astrobiologist’s imagination, a historian’s perspective, and a naturalist’s passion for the ground beneath our feet, Hazen explains how changes on an atomic level translate into dramatic shifts in Earth’s makeup over its 4.567 billion year existence. He calls upon a flurry of recent discoveries to portray our planet’s many iterations in vivid detail - from its fast-rotating infancy when the Sun rose every 5 hours and the Moon filled 250 times more sky than it does now, to its sea-bathed youth, before the first continents arose; from the Great Oxidation Event that turned the land red, to the globe-altering volcanism that may have been the true killer of the dinosaurs. Through Hazen’s theory of “co-evolution,” we learn how reactions between organic molecules and rock crystals may have generated Earth’s first organisms, which in turn are responsible for more than two-thirds of the mineral varieties on the planet - thousands of different kinds of crystals that could not exist in a nonliving world.

The Story of Earth is also the story of the pioneering men and women behind the sciences. Listeners will meet black-market meteorite hawkers of the Sahara Desert, the gun-toting Feds who guarded the Apollo missions’ lunar dust, and the World War II Navy officer whose super-pressurized “bomb” - recycled from military hardware - first simulated the molten rock of Earth’s mantle. As a mentor to a new generation of scientists, Hazen introduces the intrepid young explorers whose dispatches from Earth’s harshest landscapes will revolutionize geology.

Celebrated by The New York Times for writing “with wonderful clarity about science . . . that effortlessly teaches as it zips along,” Hazen proves a brilliant and entertaining guide on this grand tour of our planet inside and out. Lucid, controversial, and intellectually bracing, The Story of Earth is popular science of the highest order.

©2012 Robert M. Hazen (P)2012 Gildan Media, LLC

What the Critics Say

“A fascinating new theory on the Earth’s origins written in a sparkling style with many personal touches. . . . Hazen offers startling evidence that ‘Earth’s living and nonliving spheres’ have co-evolved over the past four billion years.” (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

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  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-18-14
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-18-14 Member Since 2014

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "THE FATE OF EARTH"

    There are many theories about the origin and fate of earth. They range from religion to science to science fiction. Robert Hazen’s theory revolves around minerals, time, and Darwinism.

    The nature and history of earth suggest yesterday, today, or tomorrow may be the beginning of the end for human life. Hazen suggests, as long as space-ship-earth is humanity’s only safe harbor, human survival is probabilistic.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe HOOVER, AL, United States 03-04-14
    Joe HOOVER, AL, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Nerdy Geology at its finest?"
    What did you like best about The Story of Earth? What did you like least?

    I liked that the Story of Earth is interesting.....if also boring. It's easy to be intrigued by the (many) things I didn't know about the history of our planet but it's also just as easy to back away from. There was certainly a limit to the amount of detailed knowledge I was willing to quickly accept at a given sitting.


    Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

    Depends. At times I was on board with Hazen but others I got lost in details. I think this has a lot to do with the numbers of it all. Throughout the book, Hazen describes geological facts in terms of a timeline. For me, it became increasingly difficult to keep that timeline straight. In the first place, it's a massive timeline on a scale which the entirety of human history is but a tiny speck at the end, indistinguishable and unimportant. Secondly, 530 millions years ago sounds and feels just as remote as 350 million years ago. The numbers are just so large and the pace of reading so fast that it is no small task to process the wheres and whens of all the different ideas Hazen discusses. On that note, Hazen tends to jump to other eons and for a complete novice like me, this become confusing quickly. I effectively disregarded the detail of age and concentrated on the overall issue Hazen was attempting to explain. In this way, the book became easier to read and easier to process while maintaining the essence of Hazen's narration. I'm sure I missed some details on the way, but my sanity is still intact.

    Also, for a listen, I was probably even more handicapped. A visual representation of a number has a different value than a heard number.


    Which character – as performed by Walter Dixon – was your favorite?

    Mother Earth :)


    Did The Story of Earth inspire you to do anything?

    Nope.


    Any additional comments?

    I have rated this 3-stars principally because the subject didn't hold my interest enough. This is just an issue of personal preference. There were definite moments where I was presented ideas that I never heard prior and concepts that were utterly foreign to my preconceptions to the subject. But these moments of surprise, intrigue, and awe were not the majority but were enough to fuel the engine to continue the book until the end. I imagine those more interested in geology, the Earth, or other life/earth science would be more connected to The Story of Earth. As for me, I'm glad I read it but I'm equally glad it's over.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Zoe 02-19-13
    Zoe 02-19-13
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    "good"
    Any additional comments?

    contained a lot of good information; covered a wide range of topics relating to earth history and the history of the universe. actually gave a pretty good treatment of dark matter, as i recall. did not have a lot of unnecessary fluff. good listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacob Brenner Stanford, CA United States 04-08-15
    Jacob Brenner Stanford, CA United States 04-08-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Very interesting science, great presentation"

    I slept through high school geology. If this book had been the text, I would have listened in rapt attention

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Robert Dottin 04-05-15
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    "Weak start strong finish"

    Great book despite its too-detailed beginning.
    I preferred the discussion of life on earth to the focus on rocks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Nicmac 03-27-15
    Nicmac 03-27-15 Member Since 2009
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    "Documented and researched pretty technical"

    Very thorough was more technical than I thought from a geological pov, overall very interesting though. It gives a very deep view of risk and life symbiosis

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 01-13-15
    Jennifer 01-13-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Denser science than I was in the mood for"

    I am ambivalent about this book. As it turns out, it was much more in depth science than I was in the mood for. Not that that's bad, it robustly covered every branch of physical science as it came into play- everything from astrophysics and geology to chemistry and microbiology... The author did include some "attention keepers" and amusing anecdotes peppered throughout, but if the subject matter isn't your cup of tea, it is not worth the read.

    If you are not opposed to discussions that get down into the chemical makeup of obscure minerals and the theories on evolution of early microbes, then by all means give this a shot. Proportionally, my interests were in the first and final thirds on the genesis and most recent history of the planet. Even during those though, I still found myself zoning out and having to backtrack.

    I nodded off not once, but twice during his chapter on the plate tectonics, something which, though being a little dry, I studied with interest in high school, and certainly it had never put me to sleep before. The mood picked up when he finally hit the Cambrian period and the trilobites (clearly a passion of his). Unfortunately he lost me entirely in the final chapter and epilogue when he digressed from the future of the planet into environmentalist preaching... say what you will about the climate change debate, that is not what I wanted to hear about here.

    The narrator was adequate but not at all engaging. I gave it three stars across the board because I neither liked it nor disliked it. Maybe if I'm more in the mood for mineralogical history some day in the future, this will be worth revisiting.

    Anyway, a solid nonfiction book, trove of wide ranging science on all things Earth, and worth it if you can keep focused on it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Wired Plastic 01-04-15 Member Since 2015
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    "I was pulled to the core you might say."

    It's hard to believe that a step on to any natural surface of any area I ever go again ...it will not be the same with the knowledge I have recieved from this book, of what is under my feet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Karen Springfield, OR, United States 08-16-14
    Karen Springfield, OR, United States 08-16-14 Member Since 2010
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    "So packed with info, also bought the physical book"

    I can’t say enough good things about The Story of Earth. Even though I have a doctorate in biological science from decades ago, I found literally hundreds of ideas and facts I was totally unaware of. For example, I had no idea the moon was formed by “the Big Thwack” with proto-earth of a very early planet called “Thea”, nor that the weathering of rock is a far bigger sequesterer of carbon dioxide than are all plants on earth. Nor that there is now a real debate about an abiogenic origin of the earth’s petroleum resources. The author does a fantastic job of describing how the evolution of life on earth – going back billions of years, far earlier than the pre-Cambrian – is totally bound up with the evolution of minerals and geology of the planet. Us short-lived humans are actually lucky we are not around long enough to experience most of the repeated cataclysms (asteroid impacts, massive volcanic explosions, continental drift) that rock this planet from the distant past to the distant future. Absolutely fascinating book.
    The reader's style was a bit sing-songy and repetitive (inducing drowsiness because of the technical material). He also made a few verbal typos, not caught by the editor.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jewan K. Sukhdeo 06-25-14
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    "Awesome Narration and content."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Eye opener. The story is compelling.


    What other book might you compare The Story of Earth to and why?

    Water


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    A must read if you live on this planet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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