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Publisher's Summary

Charles Darwin's theories, first published more than 150 years ago, form the backbone of how we understand the history of the Earth. In reality, the currently accepted history of life on Earth is so flawed, so out of date, that it's past time we need a "New History of Life".

In their latest audiobook, Joe Kirschvink and Peter Ward will show that many of our most cherished beliefs about the evolution of life are wrong. Gathering and analyzing years of discoveries and research not yet widely known to the public, A New History of Life proposes a different origin of species than the one Darwin proposed, one which includes eight-foot-long centipedes, a frozen snowball Earth, and the seeds for life originating on Mars.

Drawing on their years of experience in paleontology, biology, chemistry, and astrobiology, experts Ward and Kirschvink paint a picture of the origins life on Earth that are at once too fabulous to imagine and too familiar to dismiss - and looking forward, A New History of Life brilliantly assembles insights from some of the latest scientific research to understand how life on Earth can and might evolve far into the future.

©2015 Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

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Perspective worth reading

This is yet another book whose authors have joined the quest to understand our origins and what might happen to our species as green house gases rise. Ward and Kirschvink attempt to include the most up to date information of extinction available. Just as epigenetics is currently challenging our understanding of evolution, so too are relatively recent findings in fields related to extinction patterns. The role of Cuvier's catastrophism has seen a resurgence since the discovery of the meteoroid's impact on Earth's organisms. Further findings on how body morphology and function change in response to co2 and o2 are further supporting catastrophism. These authors challenge the notion that there were five extinctions and posit there were actually ten that deserve much greater attention and study, if we are to fully understand how greenhouse gases will affect our future.

In addition to the rise in mapping when and how extinctions happen (including the newest book by Lisa Randall on Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs) researchers are also increasingly interested in mapping out the networks of ecosystems- how might the extinction of species affect the survival of other species. For example, how does fire affect ecosystems? How do oxygen and carbon gas levels shape the bodies of organisms like clams? How does their shape affect burrowing behavior, and how does that burrowing behavior affect Earth's surface? How does Earth's surface then affect the development of future species? One of the best lecture series that also addresses the network/complexity/emergence of ecosystems is The Modern Scholar: Ecological Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Major Ecosystems by John Kricher.

I am a great lover of detailed books on cell respiration or photosynthesis (ie., Nick Lane's entire collection of books and Paul Falkowski's Life's Engines). This book included quite a bit of the nitty gritty science that I find so exciting and satisfying when trying to really understand what is going on around us, at the tiniest levels that translate to macro organisms and their elaborate ecosystems.

The writing was at times too much like an article. I love authors who hold your hand and assume you have no idea what point they are trying to make. Even when it is very clear to me what their argument is, I really like to be guided along so that I am free to just enjoy what is being discussed instead of trying to understand what point they are making. It's difficult to achieve this type of writing, certainly they do a better job than Nick Lane who seems to alienate much of his potential audience. Yet, they could have done a better job of handholding. On the flip side they painted some wonderful images with their words. I won't soon forget the image that is burned in my mind of the dinosaur who possess fingers, a working thumb, feathers, and was running fast over the earth. Nor will I soon forget the image of clams burrowing the bottom of the sea floor changing the crusts very structure and function. I loved the imagery evoked when discussing the sea floor, plate tectonics, coccolithophores, and subduction zones (This was a focus in at least 3 separate chapters and was magnificent each time. Even if I was starting to get a bit bored, when they included talk of chalk, my interest was peaked!). I would have liked more of that type of writing.


For further reading:
Lisa Randall's Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs
John Kricher's The Modern Scholar: Ecological Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Major Ecosystems
Nick Lane (all of his books)
Geoffrey West's Scaling in Biology
Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most beautiful
Paul Falkowski's Life's Engines
Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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An introductionary history of the biosphere

Where does A New History of Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best audiobooks I've listened to and by far the best science audiobook. Many science audiobooks don't translate well to this format, perhaps because of the writing style or reliance on figures and pictures. A New History of Life, however, is an excellent audio edition.

What about Tom Parks’s performance did you like?

The writing is clear and the reader is engaging; he has a good voice, and pronounces everything correctly (as far as I know!).

Any additional comments?

Firstly, I'm a big fan of Peter Wards previous books, it would be great if some of his earlier works could be translated into audiobook format.<br/><br/>I'm a biologist, and I've recommended this book to many of my colleagues as an introduction to how the biosphere operates over long time scales, providing an accurate summary while referencing the latest research. Don't be put off, however, this isn't a boring technical book. It moves at good pace, never dwelling on one topic so as get tedious, while not skipping past important periods of Earth's history either. Thankfully, like so many other books, this one does not dwell on the long, drawn out process of scientific discovery, fossil digs and academic feuding which unfortunately seem to bog down popular science books on paleontology and the earth sciences. <br/><br/><br/>Anyone familiar with Ward's previous work will likely be aware of what type of perspective he brings to the table- an emphasis on such things as mass extinctions, atmospheric oxygen levels and the self-destructive habits of life itself. <br/><br/><br/>I'd highly recommend those who enjoyed this book follow it up with any of Ward's previous books (which he references), or the books of Nick Lane, or Lisa Randall's Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs.<br/><br/>

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic and Interesting

This audiobook may be a little dense for a layperson, but it's well worth the effort to look up the terms used and learn much of Earth's geological and biological past!

I graduated from university more than a decade ago with a degree in earth sciences, so it was nice to gain updated details on what were then uncertain episodes and timelines.

I've enjoyed reading all of Mr. Ward's books (co-authored and singular efforts) over the years, and this was the first I've listened to. Thoroughly enjoyable, and with unintended humor from the narrator as he mispronounces several geological terms.

Read/listen to this book!

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Great Book on history of life. I will listen again

This book just made me hungry for more books on history of life. The illustrations ion the book would have been helpful for me

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Good current info, I learned a lot.

The authors bring together a complex idea and present it in a way most readers should understand. I like that they did not dumb it down. There is lots of current info in the book to kerp everyone up to date. I binge listened to it and look forward to listening to it again and taking notes this time.

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  • Aztex
  • Desert Southwest
  • 05-18-16

THE BEST science audio book I've ever heard!

Often books such as this fail as audiobooks but this one does not!

The narration is perfect and keeps one engaged even through very technical sections.

The authors were masterful at combining very hard science with more simple concepts that while some may be over ones head the basic concept grasped.

THE BEST science audio book I've ever heard!

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The narrator is Outstanding

Any additional comments?

Well. This is a fantastic presentation on the topic. Very detailed and all-encompassing plus laid out well. I liked the listen and made it all the way through. But I have to admit that some if not most of the information was over my head. The book did teach me I should stick to physics and the like. I need to take smaller steps into biology. The reader of this book; Tom Parks is really quite good.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Superb!

Best book about life on this planet you can get period...I never knew how important Oxygen levels on the early Earth was to the development of life. A great listen.

5 of 11 people found this review helpful

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A great deal of new informatiion

Excellent story about life and all the latest information about that history. I would highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the history of life, comprehensive.

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • United States
  • 10-25-16

Global Warmers evolve into Climate Changers

This book has a lot of good information and opinions but its probably best to use the written version. There simply is to much information tumbled out in many, many summaries it is simply impossible to keep up and visualize. For instance, the authors walk through their list of ten extinction events in a matter of a couple of minutes.

And I automatically skip to the next chapter whenever they even mention modern "Climate Change." These people used to believe in global warming.

2 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Robinson
  • 09-07-15

Awful.

What was most disappointing about Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink ’s story?

I purchased this audiobook expecting an interesting survey of Life and its origins. Instead what I appear to have bought is a book by two Global Warming Hysterics. <br/><br/>I do not recommend this book if you're interested in biology. It should be safely hidden away in the Activist Scientist section where it won't mislead anyone about its content.<br/>

0 of 3 people found this review helpful