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A New History of Life

Narrated by: Stuart Sutherland
Length: 17 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (29 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The story of our world and the different living things that have populated it is an amazing epic with millions of species, exotic settings, planet-wide cataclysms, and surprising plot twists. 

These 36 lectures tell the all-embracing story of life on Earth - its origins, extinctions, and evolutions - in a manner that assumes no background in science. At half an hour per lecture, you’ll cover the entire 4.54-billion-year history of Earth in 18 hours, averaging 70,000 years per second! 

Professor Sutherland notes that if the story of Earth is compared to the height of the Washington Monument, then all of human history is the thickness of a sheet of paper balanced at the top. He devotes most of these lectures to the incredible happenings beneath that piece of paper, including stirring episodes such as Earth’s “snowball” phase, which should have been permanent according to some theories; the Cambrian explosion, after which life’s complexity soared in an explosion of genetic diversification; and the age of giant insects, where dragonflies had 30-inch wingspans and cockroaches reached 20 inches in length. By the time you reach the origin of humans in Lecture 35, you’ll appreciate our species in the widest possible context. Why does the Earth have continents? What causes periodic mass extinctions? How did animals move from water to land? What are the oldest fossils? Experience the thrill of scientists searching for answers to questions such as these. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great lecture!

Really wonderfully done. Professor Sutherland is a really great story teller. And that’s ultimately what this is, a story!

The only drawback is that this is a lecture where a lot of the times he is referring to images that he is showing. This isn’t Professor Sutherland‘s fault, this is a video series for the great courses, but just listening to it sometimes can be a little frustrating because you want to see what he is talking about. But again, that’s not no fault of his.

Overall outstanding. Highly recommend

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging and deep.

Credible and dignified, but lots of passion still gets through. A balanced, truly scientific approach.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful and very well presented course.

This course is very interesting and easy to follow but I have to say that, after listening to the audio version and very much enjoying it, I immediately subscribed to the video version and watched it all the way through. This course offers much more visual material than most of The Great Courses which I've read or watched and I strongly recommend the video version for this one. That said though, it was great both ways.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good but flawed

This presenter is an excellent teacher. However, the recording was of a class heavy in visual aids which don’t come across so well Iwhen listening. Also he really wimps out on climate change at the end.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Comprehensive and cohesive

This is the best treatment of the topic I’ve seen. The author doesn’t over-focus on any one group or hypothesis. He does make a compelling story of the biosphere’s history. Well done! The only negative for me was the time sequence skipped about a bit more than I’d prefer.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Too detailed

Too detailed and scientific for me. I might have liked it more at one time. Now I find the over detailed description of early life over tedious. I usually love great courses lectures fascinating but not this time.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mick
  • 04-24-19

Not appropriate for Audible

"Have a look at this item."

I've bought 30 plus great courses on audible but I've returned this one after the second lecture.

These lectures are heavily dependent on the visuals being shown in the room to explain the points the lecturer is making. he even holds up objects for the audience and talks about them but I've no idea what the object is.

I'm disappointed that the great courses released this as an audiobook as its just not appropriate for the format. I am sure the video of the lectures is great however as it seems a really interesting course.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful