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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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Performance
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  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-31-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 07-31-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Makes minerals interesting"

    It takes a mineral expert to understand the development of earth. I'm not a mineral expert and I don't play one on TV, but after listening to this book I feel like I'm a geologist in training.

    I didn't think it was possible. The author makes minerals and its science interesting. He has an over arching theory that's best summarized as "the origin of (mineral) species".

    For those of you who have a pet theory and have a deep understanding of the subject you'll probably find many things to criticize about this book and you'd probably be right. Either your theory is not covered at all or he doesn't cover it in the way you believe. Give the author a break, he's covering over 4 1/2 billion years of history.

    I'll be awaiting further shows on Discovery covering this same topic, and maybe this time I'll be able to follow them.

    I bought this book on the Kindle when it first came out, because I didn't think there was going to be an audio version. I had read 2/3 of the book on the Kindle and listened to the last 1/3 of the book on audible. The reader really made the book better. He has a way of making what he's reading as exciting as the subject matter deserves. I probably would not have finished the kindle, I much prefer to listen. Good book and even better listen.

    45 of 45 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dana madison, WI, United States 12-08-13
    dana madison, WI, United States 12-08-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Please learn how to pronouce the words!"
    What did you love best about The Story of Earth?

    Marvelous information/story, well told. I love the organization into chapters: blue planet, grey planet, black planet, and so forth. Geology was not dumbed down but very accessible.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Walter Dixon’s performances?

    His voice and intonations are wonderful, but it was very very disconcerting that he absolutely butchered the pronunciation of many of the geological terms. Planetesimals, isostacy, many others. If you are going to perform a geology book, wouldn't you want to be sure how to pronounce the words first?


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

    no.


    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ingwe Washington, DC, United States 04-03-13
    Ingwe Washington, DC, United States 04-03-13
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    "Thorough"
    Any additional comments?

    This is a thorough, up-to-date look at the history of the Earth and the science that has been used to discover it. As I was finishing it, I found that Nat Geo TV have computer generated special telling pretty much the same story in overview. Now I know more than I used to about the world we live on.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tammy Borger, TX, United States 08-21-12
    Tammy Borger, TX, United States 08-21-12
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    "Very interesting and informative!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, it was well read, interesting and I learned a lot from this book.


    What about Walter Dixon’s performance did you like?

    His voice is very pleasing.


    Any additional comments?

    I will probably listen to this book over and over again!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chantal FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, United States 02-19-13
    Chantal FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, United States 02-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Strangely entrancing"

    Walter Dixon's narration is probably my favorite narration I've listened to so far. His voice is very warm and friendly, and he speaks as if he's telling a story, rather than lecturing you. The book is actually surprisingly accessible even to people who might not be geology or chemistry fans, and it goes just deep enough into the subjects to satisfy those who might be interested, without being too awfully dry. I was fascinated by a lot of the content and I feel like I've learned a lot! Due to the dense nature of the material, I sometimes need to go over some chapters multiple times, but it's never a bad experience because the narration is so smooth. Definitely recommend this one!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-21-13
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-21-13 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "The fluid Earth"

    I enjoyed this book. Robert Hazen starts from the beginning and describes how the Earth formed from starstuff, its crust and minerals crystallizing from cooling magma. He covers the planet’s storied relationship with its moon, the importance of tectonic plates, the formation of the seas, and the magnetosphere. We learn about the chemistry that provided a basis for proto-life-as-we-know-it, and, eventually, the real deal. We learn about the complex feedback loops that govern the climate system, the revelation that the entire planet may have once been covered in ice.

    Hazen emphasizes the interdependence of the planet’s features and life itself: “geology influences life and life influences life”. Eons of metabolizing, respiring, and dying plants and animals have unquestionable altered the features and chemical makeup of the Earth’s surface, and, more importantly, the climate. Hazen also takes some time to identify instances of past natural climate change, triggered by imperfections in the Earth’s rotation, changes in the sun, volcanic activity, feedback loops caused by clouds/ocean/ice, and the emissions of the biosphere. Deniers of man-made climate change often refer to such events (usually with limited understanding of what caused them) to minimize the idea that human activity makes any difference, but Hazen points to the past as evidence that the equilibrium is delicate and *can* be changed, sometimes with catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem.

    Finally, I’ve often wondered how scientists *know* about things that happened millions or billions of years ago -- I mean, I was aware that they had methods, but I couldn’t have explained them in much depth. Well, this book provides some good answers.

    A worthwhile read. Informative and sweeping without being too dense.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Francisco 10-20-12
    Francisco 10-20-12
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    "Truly Enjoyable"
    If you could sum up The Story of Earth in three words, what would they be?

    captivating, well-written, insigtful


    What did you like best about this story?

    I expected a story about rocks and geology, but instead the author elegantly inter meshes a variety of scientific disciplines, such as physics, biology, astronomy, climatology, oceanography, and many more with a good dose geology and mineralogy to give a grand view of our planet and its future. It is well written for a broad audience, and I applaud his work in popularizing geology. The narration is well done, it sounds as if the author had read it himself, convening a sense that the narrator truly enjoys the material. The narrators tone conveys a feeling enthusiasm and amazement for the subject.


    Any additional comments?

    As an elementary school teacher with a love for science, this book has become one of my favorites. The science presented has intrigued me to learn more about the often overlooked and neglected field of geology.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted 12-28-13
    Ted 12-28-13
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    "The "Greatest Story Ever Told" : -)"
    If you could sum up The Story of Earth in three words, what would they be?

    Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "The Greatest Story Ever Told II"'


    Any additional comments?

    Good introduction to the newest ideas about geology." Newer" meaning the integrated view of Earth as both an organic and inorganic symbiotic system. How life created Earth and Earth created life. Versus the the older way of thinking about "rocks" being separated from
    "animals." Also gives sense of Deep Time and Earth as a dynamic, changing thing. We can no longer think that "the mountains are eternal." Quite the contrary.

    *Narration is good. But I wish that pace could be a little slower, with pauses after important points. Scientific subjects require processing time. This is one area where audio books are inferior to paper books. I don't know if there is an easy answer to the difference in format.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Houston, TX, United States 06-13-14
    David Houston, TX, United States 06-13-14 Member Since 2008

    Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.

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    "How Earth scientists know what they know"

    I would have to listen several more times to Hazen's very clear explanations of the details of the scientific evidence for our understanding of the history of the planet before much of it would remain in my sieve-like memory for more than a few days. What WILL persist, however, is a deep respect for the painstaking and ingenious scientific process which has yielded so much concrete understanding of events in the unimaginably distant past. The book also provides a broadly brush-stroked sequence for the Earth's development, often featuring vivid descriptions of the landscape and dynamic processes which bring the scientific findings to life in panoramas which will remain in my memory. (The image of our moon, a mere 12,000 miles away and gigantic in the sky, hurtling by overhead every few hours sporting visible volcanic fracturing, for instance.) What's more, I never would have guessed that rocks and minerals would become so fascinating and central to my understanding of the rise of life.

    Hazen's narrative is replete with details of change. Two kinds of change: that which has driven the history of the planet through constant and extraordinary formation, destruction and reformation with only occasional periods of stasis, and that which has marked the development of our scientific understanding of our own particular niche in the universe. The result is a picture of mixed certitude and conjecture, and he is quite clear about the difference between the two. This is a fascinating listen, very well read. If you can deal with a good deal of clear but fairly detailed technical explanation, I recommend it to you highly.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Éamonn CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, United States 11-14-13
    Éamonn CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, United States 11-14-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Facinating account of how our earth evolved"
    What made the experience of listening to The Story of Earth the most enjoyable?

    I had never heard an explanation of how the earth how evolved from the evidence of its geology in such a compelling lucid manner.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I found that I was absorbing text book-type information nuggets from a well told, well constructed beautifully told story.


    What about Walter Dixon’s performance did you like?

    This was effortless listening, a tribute to both the narrator and author.


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

    No, I found myself listening and re-listening, to ensure that my non science brain had absorbed every little detail.


    Any additional comments?

    A great combination of subject, author and narrator.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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