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Publisher's Summary

Four billion years ago, the infant Earth was a seething cauldron of erupting volcanoes, raining meteors, and hot noxious gases, totally devoid of life. But a relatively short time later - only 100 million to 200 million years - the planet was teeming with primitive organisms.

What happened? Now you can find out - in a series of 24 vibrant lectures from a leader of the NASA - supported team studying the origins of life in the universe and also one of the nation's foremost science educators. The lectures take you from path-breaking experiments in the 19th century that proved the molecules of life to be no different from other chemicals, to our increasingly sophisticated modern understanding of just how the chemistry of life works, to the near certainty that the 21st century will see spectacular and unpredictable developments in our understanding of how life began. For all its familiarity, life is an elusive concept that is hard to define, much less explain. These lectures show how scientists are systematically building a picture of the process by which those chemical reactions on the early Earth eventually led to the first appearance of the DNA-protein world that remains the fundamental basis of all life today. And you'll join them as they probe for evidence of life beyond our planet.

Crammed with fascinating experiments, surprising results, heated debates, blind alleys, and promising leads, the investigation of life's origins is a mystery story in the truest sense - one in which the clues are slowly adding up but the solution is not yet in hand.

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

©2005 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2005 The Great Courses

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  • Kevin
  • SPRING, TX, United States
  • 07-06-15

An Excellent Lecture of Life's Origins

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

This audiobook was done very well and was enjoyable to listen to start-to-finish.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Origins of Life?

Going over the Miller-Uri experiments was interesting. I've heard much about these experiments, but not to the detail that Dr. Hazen provided, along with the impact that these studies have had on other "origins" work.

What does Professor Robert M. Hazen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Hearing the lecture gives the listener an idea of inflections and emotion that goes into the material, rather than reading from a book.

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

"Discover the possibilities of life's chemical origins"

Any additional comments?

This was a great lecture series on the origins of life. As the title indicates, this series sticks with molecular origins ONLY and does not really move beyond unicellular life (bottom up approach). Having a background in chemistry/biochem is certainly helpful, but overall I found this to be an interesting and relevant series on covering the many theories of life's origins.

Pros: Dr. Hazen covers many of the theories held by a variety of disciplines for life's origins in a neat, organized manner. He really drives home the point that there are MANY ideas on how life arose verses the misconception that some scientists feel there is only one means by which life could have begun.
Cons: Without a basic understanding of chemistry, most people would have a hard time following this lecture.
Bottom line: certainly worth a listen for anyone interested in getting a 10,000 foot perspective on the many ideas as to a natural means for emergence of life on earth.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Well organized, clearly presented, comprehensive

I have an intense interest in the subject matter.
This is the best book on the subject I have "read" so far.

This is a comprehensive overview of the proposed theories in the search for the plausible scenarios for the origins of life. Dr. Hazen brings the subject to life (pun intended) by not only talking about the science, but also the personalities, the politics and the process of scientific exploration.

This book is a worthwhile read for scientists,but is still very accessible to the lay person as well.

Brilliant !




4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • nfaulk
  • Galveston, TX USA
  • 09-22-13

Great Prof gives great overview

Would you listen to Origins of Life again? Why?

The Professor giving this lecture is a very good public speaker. I like the way he makes science into a story. He makes the laboratory experiments come alive.

What did you like best about this story?

The lecture is interesting in that it sheds light on all the different theories of life's origins and really allows you to stand back from your human perspective paradigm and see that we were once and still are chemistry!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Somewhat disappointing

This lecture series is presented by an enthusiastic lecturer who has much personal experience with the field. However I find the focus on personalities and events gets somehwat in the way of the science. The material feels a bit dated, referring e.g. to 2010 as a point in the far future. Also I find the large number of explicit references to visual materials unavailable to the listener annoying.
There is almost nothing here about organisms and the early stages of life as we know it; everything focuses on the chemical processes that led to the first life-like systems. This may be what you are after, but if your interest is in biology rather than chemistry, you may wish to think twice. Still for the subject matter it addresses, it's a good overview.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Excellent course

Can't seem to get enough of Robert Hazen's courses, so I listened to this great topic a second time, learning more this time around about the origins of life. I'm impressed he remains so enthusiastic about his own beliefs, but presents competitive theories in a very unbiased way. Well worth my time.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Great intro to the subject

Would you consider the audio edition of Origins of Life to be better than the print version?

I've only listened to the audiobook

What was one of the most memorable moments of Origins of Life?

Due to it's format, it didn't really lend itself to most memorable moments. It's a series of lectures and I found them all engaging.

Which character – as performed by Professor Robert M. Hazen – was your favorite?

This doesn't really have characters, but the lecturer did a great job.

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

Life: harder than you think and we're still working on it.

Any additional comments?

Evolution has limits. It needs to have something to work with and it needs to have a place to start. I did not fully appreciate the difficulty of these things coming together before I read the book. If you currently think that life simply started in the primordial soup, I highly recommend you read this to get a better understanding of how complicated that concept really is.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Required listening

Hazen goes over all the major facets of this field, breathing life into the theories, the speculations, and the experiments. His detailed explanations of key experiments does require more attention than casual listening, but it's worth the effort.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Intersting topic but so-so presentation

What did you like best about Origins of Life? What did you like least?

The origins of life is inherently fascinating, unfortunately Professor Hazen's course could be condensed into 3 or 4 lectures. The course proceeds at far too slow a pace, Prof. Hazen spends too much time discussing certain experiments in over-loving detail at the expense of more discussion about the science, and he spends too much time discussing infighting in the field.

Would you recommend Origins of Life to your friends? Why or why not?

Only if one desires a very superficial discussion.

What three words best describe Professor Robert M. Hazen’s voice?

Better than most

Was Origins of Life worth the listening time?

If it wasn't worth listening to at all I would have stopped before finishing and I did listen to the whole thing!

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Robert M. Hazen is quickly becoming my favourite.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Most assuredly. As I work in a museum I go from biology, paleontology, ornithology, anthropology and geology. We have about 10,000 kids from preschool to college come through our doors every year. Dr. Hazen's books and papers have been a great help for me in answering not only common questions but those intriguing ones that come out of left field.

What about Professor Robert M. Hazen’s performance did you like?

The man is seriously intelligent and it shows in the incredible ability to take the most difficult premise and explain it in a way that is easily digestible and memorable.

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Need one more thing

This lecture talks about images and documents but there aren't any. Maybe it is because this is from Audible? I am not sure, but I wish I had them.

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  • Michael McDaid
  • 07-20-15

spell binding!

Would you consider the audio edition of Origins of Life to be better than the print version?

Yet another gem of a lecture course from Robert Hazen. A mind expanding tour de force.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Planet Earth!

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The Cambrian Explosion.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Earth Rocks!

Any additional comments?

First rate presentation of exciting material!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert Winston
  • 10-31-16

An excellent introduction to abiogenesis

I have a lay interest in abiogenesis and Robert Hazen has worked in this field for a long while and is a recognised expert in this field.

It is not overly challenging and skips along at a good pace.

It's a good place for anyone interested in the origins of life to start.

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  • Barbara Smart
  • 08-17-17

why doesn't this not work on

the book is brilliant but it does not give me my additional work did you somewhere to let supposed to be at the end of all audio books that have it I never can find I try and complain and I can't send an email because he doesn't have that option you try and get a phone call back and it says that I am an Android please help

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Malcolm
  • 06-26-15

Unreal

What a wonderful series. Quite inspiring. I would love to be starting out as a young scientist chipping away at such a wonderful subject as the origin of life. A supernatural creator isn't even mentioned in this course which is as it should be. Thankyou for a brilliant 12 hrs of listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Danny
  • 04-24-18

My simple overview....

There is something about instinct that is lacking in general scientific research. This is a well composed story ingrained from one perspective and I have enjoyed an insight into something that I otherwise would not have considered.
I personally could have commenced this book from chapter 5 and found it just as equally interesting if not a little more although; this is largely due to my wish that scientists would collaborate more on ‘what is more important to life rather than what life is’.
A must read to enhance ones globalisation eyesight.