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The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,618 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
**Kirkus Best Books of the Year (2013)**

From one of our finest and most popular science writers, and the best-selling author of Your Inner Fish, comes the answer to a scientific mystery as big as the world itself: How are the events that formed our solar system billions of years ago embedded inside each of us?

In Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin delved into the amazing connec
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brendon Schrodinger
I've had Your Inner Fish on my to-read shelf for a while now, but I thought I'd give Neil's new one a try first. What a little condensed power-house it was.

As a fellow scientist I'm well-versed in the theories presented here; but teh book offered much more. Firstly, it ties together multidisciplinary sciences in a neat little dialogue. One moment you're reading about biology, the next geology, but it all ties together. Science as a spectrum is well demonstrated here.

Secondly, the history of thes
Dec 28, 2012 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When the continent of India slammed into Asia creating the Himalayas it changed the world climate which altered the plants available for food eventually leading to our ability to perceive color. How? This fascinating book, a sort of big history/big science blend, is exactly as its title describes it. The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets and People explores how the properties of our bodies and the course of our lives have been affected by the universe we live in, ...more
Apr 28, 2016 Nine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this with the lights off, the only clarity in the room coming from the screen of my e-reader. Some dreamy notes in my playlist on Spotify, the narrator’s soothing voice penetrating each and every cell of my body, like water molecules drenching the parched surface of my brain. 7 hours later, the feeling that life is banal was gone, the idea of symmetry in this supposed chaos was there and my hands were still shaking from the waves of words and sounds and footprints of our ancestors across ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Nikki rated it liked it
I like sense-of-wonder science, like Carl Sagan’s assertions that we are “starstuff”. This sounds as if it’s going to be in that vein, and in a way it is — certainly it brings home that it’s only possible for us to have iron in our blood because of ancient fusion in the hearts of stars — but on a more banal level, it’s the perfect way of revising what you’ve learnt in the Open University’s introduction to science module, S104. If you can follow and understand everything here, you’re okay on at l ...more
Tanja Berg
Apr 28, 2013 Tanja Berg rated it really liked it
Very solid 4 out of 5 *. Fascinating content, well-written, personal and easily digested. Popular science at its best!

"Ours is a species that can extend its biological inheritance to see vast reaches of space, know 13.7 billion years of history, and explore our deep connections to planets, galaxies, and ohter living things. There is something almost magical to the notion that our bodies, minds, and ideas have roots in the crust of Earth, water of the oceans, and atoms in celestial bodies. The st
I have a bit of a nerd crush on Shubin, having now read both of his books this year. What I like about his writing, is that it is as smart and informative as it is accessible. I don't know about your average Joe, but I do not have a degree in evolutionary biology, astronomy, or tectonics, so it was sure nice to find an author who can really explain the tricky details. I've read explanations of Carbon 14 dating of fossils in both this book and Nick Lane's Oxygen, and I only really got Shubin. Lan ...more
This book reminded me of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Except, it isn't as well written, or as comprehensive. Shubin introduces the formation of the planets and our moon. He talks about circadian rhythms. He talks about oxygen and how it allows for big bodies and mammals, etc. He tries to be Carl Sagan, with pontification on how stars go supernova and make the chemical elements that find their way into out bodies. That's about it. I guess that's the origin of the title? He ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, audiobooks
Not perfect, but pretty darn good. Rounded up to a full 5 stars because it was so full of memorable tidbits. Shubin may be a paleontologist, but you'll learn about astronomy, physics, microbiology, social sciences... And so many things in between. Accessible science writing that offers a solid starting point to many additional disciplines.
Jul 17, 2013 Arianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
completely beautiful book. It might sound silly to say but at leas to me, this book is perfect in every single way. The universe, our galaxy, the earth and all the wonderful developments that have come into fruition are all such beautiful things and processes to admire! We have such a deep connection to our environment, yet it doesnt feel like it? Through this book, I've felt like I've solidified a mysterious missing piece... a sort of lost-family connection. Seeing the development of the earth, ...more
Sep 23, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
3.5 stars

What I liked:
- context-rich factoids interweaving geology, astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics, and the history of science
- the extensive, descriptive "further reading" section. Love that stuff, especially in overviews like this where I sometimes want more info.

What I didn't like:
- the interdisciplinary interweaving sometimes felt like mental ping-pong, which made it hard to maintain focus at times
- I didn't get the point of all the portraits of dead science dudes. I don't care what
I don't understand how this book gets its name. It is really a geological/biological/astronomical survey of earth over time.

13.7 billion years ago - The formation of the universe and how the different elements were created. This chapter includes a nice write up of how scientist estimate the age of the universe and the odd fact that all of the stars are red-shifted indicating they are moving away and why that radio telescope in New Jersey was important.

4.7 billion years ago - The creation of the
Arvind Balasundaram
In this lively book, Neil Shubin (noted author of Your Inner Fish), makes paleontology, carbon chemistry, and climate science all come together in explaining our lives and the world around us. Drawing on the deep connectivity between our chemical composition and the natural processes in our universe, Shubin makes an immediate case of how dependent we are on almost everything around us. He explains how the state of the planet is greatly dependent on its carbon balance, a process maintained and go ...more
Julie Davis
Apr 05, 2013 Julie Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the galaxies in the cosmos, like every creature on the planet, and every atom, molecule, and body on Earth are deeply connected. That connection begins at a single point 13.7 billion years ago.
This book takes a big scientific fact and then links it back to life on Earth and our lives specifically. For example, the Big Bang created particles that exist on Earth and in living creatures today (including us). Along the way he tells the stories of scientists whose "wacky theories" just happened t
PEI Public Library Service
Shubin’s book is subtitled Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People, and that pretty well sums up what the books is about. It is a discussion of how astronomical events that took place billions of years ago have led to the human species as we know it today. Beginning with our very molecular composition, he shows how the evolution of the cosmos has had profound effects on the development of human life on earth and marked our own bodies. Starting with the first second of creati ...more
Heather Marshall
Mar 06, 2013 Heather Marshall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I dove into The Universe Within by Neil Shubin with no expertise in the subject. It was easy for me to follow and understand. In this book Neil Shubin had a way of making me the reader so interested and always wanting to know what was going to be around the corner. I love how he broke everything down, explaining the different scientists and how there different ideas originally came about. My only criticism for this book would be the fact that it didn't seem to flow as ...more
Koen Crolla
Jun 07, 2014 Koen Crolla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology
Neil Shubin, you'll remember, is the guy (or at the face of the team) who discovered Tiktaalik, which was all over the news a while ago. He wrote a book about that, which I quite enjoyed.
The Universe Within is more generic pop-sci, which is a bit disappointing; it's certainly not bad pop-sci, but there's also little to set it apart from a hundred other such books. Still, if you're looking for a low-difficulty thing under two hundred pages about the history of life, you could do worse.
Jun 27, 2014 Merilee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 4.5 stars. Shubin writes beautifully about topics scientific. The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars was because it was not quite as superb as his previous Your Inner Fish.
Jan 08, 2013 Jennifer marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I just heard Neil Shubin speak at Harvard Bookstore and look forward to reading this book! I enjoy all types of science books, and Geology is one of my favorite areas of science, and so it is exciting to see a book that links geology with anatomy and biology.

In this talk, Shubin showed slides of places where he has explored for fossils - Painted Desert in Arizona, Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Greenland, all places I would love to go to enjoy beautiful geology.

He is an engaging speaker, and so
Joe Iacovino
Apr 12, 2013 Joe Iacovino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun book to read. I was little hard on Shubin with "Your Inner Fish" as I was expecting a more technical read but this this time I expected a popular science book and with that expectation I was very pleased. The book jumps off to a pretty quick start and is a real smooth read. I would have liked to see a little more chemistry just to tie everything together a bit tighter. Also, I prefer footnotes that serve as little asides. Regardless, this is a great book for anyone who has an inte ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Ap rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is good for what it is -- a short history of science-- the universe, our world, and life forms -- for the jack of all trades. Brushes the surface of most major disciplines. If you have a well-rounded sciency background, this book offers few surprises. It is more like a primer to science, and it is clearly written. I thought it would be more exciting, given the title, but the book manages to dull such an interesting concept.

My initial impression was very low any way. The author opens wi
Eric Sullenberger
This book was a very easy and entertaining read (of course, I listened to it). Before yesterday I had listened to about 1/8th of the book, then I finished it while doing housework yesterday. It was hard to put down. Also, because I was a short book, I see it ending up on my classroom bookshelf soon.

The first half of the book was mostly old hat for me because I read so many science and especially astronomy books. However, I did learn quite a bit a the book progressed. There were also a lot of
Dec 02, 2014 Elmwoodblues rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything was reeeeally small, then it grew.
OK, that is oversimplification. But if you want to sit in on a fast-moving lecture of how the Big Bang begat the universe which begat elements which lead to the periodic table and water and us, or how the sun was at just the right size and place to form earth exactly as it is now and begat us, or how rocks regulate climate which regulates evolution which regulated the begatting of us, this is a singular book like no other.
From US Navy ships during
Nov 21, 2014 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Transformation is the order of the day for the world: bodies grow and die, species emerge and go extinct, while every feature of our plantetary and celestial home undergoes gradual change or episodes of catastrophic revolution." (p.14)

"The fundamental atoms that make our hands, feet, and brains serve as fuel for the stars." (p.18)

"Einstein's relation E=mc2 holds a key to the early events of the universe. The equation reveals the relationship between energy (E) and mass (m). Since the speed of l
Senthil Parthiban
Apr 26, 2014 Senthil Parthiban rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haa, what a fantastic journey for Nothingness to all the Wonders we see around us today.

Dr.Neil takes us through a mind bending but sensible and brief exploration about what lies behind all that we perceive around us today. This book profoundly explains how that all that seems to exists - Galaxies ,Stars ,Planets, Mountains , Oceans, Plants ,Animals, Microbes , Humans and so on…., are nothing but a complex function of endless formation and dissolution.

This book is an artful portrayal of how see
Thurston Hunger
Read this a couple of months ago, not sure if much stuck with me (and I accept that say more about me than the book). But not sure if there was much of a thesis here, maybe more a collection of interesting history of science moments.

Things I recall Camp Century was foremost, that underground ice tunnels by the US in Greenland, a scientist throwing frogs off a tower, There were various moments of cosmic dust from fusion reactions to the water on our planet that I guess connect to the notion of a
Sep 04, 2015 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As my first non-fiction in years, I couldn't be happier with my choice. Neil Shubin does a superb job of taking complex theories, histories, and stories and folds them into manageable and easily understood packages. Though I'm not currently working in the field of Earth sciences, this book brought me back to my childhood explorations in creek beds and forests, finding connections between myself and our planet. A big thank you to Shubin for re-opening this curiosity within.
Plamen H.
May 22, 2015 Plamen H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Увлекателна, много добре написана. Дълбоката ни взаимосвързаност с Вселената, подкрепена с купища интересни факти. Изток-Запад да не се ослушват, ами да налягат парцалите - книгата е бижу и заслужава българско издание.
Ravi Warrier
Jan 15, 2016 Ravi Warrier rated it liked it
In a nutshell, this is just another brief history of the world. As with many authors (and their respective) books, Neil Shubin and The Universe Within attempt sketching the vast history from Big Bang to modern times.

However, the book is not dull or uneducating. Linking mundane things that we take for granted and drawing a line to connect all the dots may be easy in today's expanded and connected scientific world, but explaining it with simplicity that (perhaps) even a high-schooler can understan
Feb 21, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
From the description, this seemed to be about connections between the composition and origin of the earth as reflected in human development. While there is some of that here, it's more a history of the planet and its life, as well as a history of people discovering the history of the planet and its life. While there was some interesting information, such as color vision possibly deriving from the isolation and icing of Antarctica and the separation of other continents (the new need to find prote ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I loved this book. The first couple of pages were the hardest to read, with a little too much contrived scene setting by the author. But from there, the book does an excellent job of touching on all the incredible bits of luck that lead to life as we know it. The science is well outlined and interesting and dumbed down enough that I never felt like I was getting buried in facts. The way that the author ties time and circumstance together is seamless and engaging.

Personally, the style of the boo
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“Each galaxy, star, or person is the temporary owner of particles that have passed through the births and deaths of entities across vast reaches of time and space. The particles that make us have traveled billions of years across the universe; long after we and our planet are gone, they will be a part of other worlds.” 10 likes
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