The Universe Within: A Scientific Adventure. by Neil Shubin
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The Universe Within: A Scientific Adventure. by Neil Shubin

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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  655 ratings  ·  135 reviews
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 connections between human bodies--our han...more
Hardcover, 225 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Allen Lane (first published January 1st 2013)
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Jaylia3
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
Tanja Berg
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...more
Stuart
I was looking forward to reading this book. Professor Shubin is a talented popular science writer who has serious real science cred. I was hoping for a book that would look at cosmology and geology with a human evolution angle. But the balance of this book is heavily weighted toward geology with the addition of some cosmology in the beginning chapters. How the geology and cosmology relate to human evolution is often thrown in at the end of a chapter almost as an afterthought.

It's all very well w...more
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...more
Lauren
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.
Jessica
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...more
Stephen
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...more
Andrea
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
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
Arianne
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
Julie Davis
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...more
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
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
Gendou
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
Merilee
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.
Jennifer
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...more
Senthil Parthiban
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...more
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...more
Rebecca
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
Graham
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...more
Nick
I liked his first book a lot because it was packed with facts and interesting things about our biology. This book takes a slightly more "Gee whiz, isn't the universe amazing" approach which left me feeling a little pandered to.
Daphne Miller
Although not as fantastic as Your Inner Fish (Shubin's previous book) this book is a great reminder of just how intimately our biology (and our health) is connected to our environment and our planet.
Doug
Neil Shubin starts out with the Big Bang and ends up speculating on the future of the human race, all in the space of 190 pages. He continues what he started with Your Inner Fish and demonstrates how we are linked to pretty much everything that has happened in the intervening 13.7 billion years. He is a paleontologist, but the book has references to geology, cosmology, physics, botany, biology, genetics and astronomy. The list may sound daunting, but he does it in a manner that most all of us ca...more
Koen Crolla
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.
Tyler Hickey
Sorry, but I wasn't particularly impressed. Unlike 'Your Inner Fish', Shubin is clearly out of his element here. He's writing on a number of subjects in which he is a non-specialist, and it shows - for example he makes a brief mention of canals on Mars, a scientific fad that was current back in the late 1800's. The book reads like a collection of admittedly intelligent essays, but in my opinion suffers from a lack of a cohesive narrative. It also fails to go into depth on a number of interesting...more
Lisa
I'm puzzled. I had read Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body some time back, so I thought I'd check this out. After the first chapter, I was convinced I'd read the book before. I thought perhaps it was just that the opening chapter was similar to the author's previous book, but as I continued, I kept getting the deja vu feeling. Now I can't work out if I've read the book before and neglected to mark it read here on GoodReads, or if it really is that simi...more
Jeremy Jetzon
An expository tour de force! Shubin excels in stringing together words and sentences in order to communicate ideas!
Jonny99
Neil Shubin reads like that professor at school who taught that somewhat nebulously-named class ("Comparative Philosophy", "Theoretical Scientific Frameworks", etc.) in which he spent the semester rolling from one high-minded but esoteric topic to another (atheistic Judaism, unified field theory, chemistry of the planet Neptune, etc.) and then just assigned a paper at the end instead of giving a test that you responded to by changing the title on a paper you had handed in the prior semester to t...more
Chris Chester
What Shubin has done, or attempted to do, is convey in a simple manner the way in which the entirety of space and time, from the Big Bang to the formation of stars to the formation of the Earth through all the geological periods of the Earth to the rise of complex forms of life have contributed to the lives and bodies of humans today.

It's an ambitious undertaking, and an important one, I think. The absence of a feeling unity offered by religion is widely acknowledged as one of the major failings...more
M
This has a little bit of everything. Starting at the origin of the universe, earth history, life history, and climate change. While I read the book, at each section I said "that sounds familiar." This is a good natural history primer intermixed with memoirs of Shubin's field work. If at any point while reading the book you go, that sounds interesting, then there are scores of other books that delve deeper into the subjects Neil Shubin touches on. A few of the top of my head that he made me want...more
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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.” 2 likes
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