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The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

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Author Robert M. Hazen writes of how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere—of rocks and living matter—has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos.
With an astrobiologist’s imagination, a historian’s perspective, and a naturalist’s passion for the ground beneath our feet, Hazen explains how changes on an atomic level translate into dramatic shifts in Earth’s makeup over its 4.567 billion year existence. He calls upon a flurry of recent discoveries to portray our planet’s many iterations in vivid detail. Through his theory of “co-evolution,” we learn how reactions between organic molecules and rock crystals may have generated Earth’s first organisms, which in turn are responsible for more than two-thirds of the mineral varieties on the planet.

The Story of Earth is also the story of the pioneering men and women behind the sciences. Readers will meet black-market meteorite hawkers of the Sahara Desert, the gun-toting Feds who guarded the Apollo missions’ lunar dust, and the World War II Navy officer whose super-pressurized “bomb”—recycled from military hardware—first simulated the molten rock of Earth’s mantle. As a mentor to a new generation of scientists, Hazen introduces the intrepid young explorers whose dispatches from Earth’s harshest landscapes will revolutionize geology.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 26, 2012

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About the author

Robert M. Hazen

72 books99 followers
Robert M. Hazen, Senior Research Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1971), and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in earth science (1975). The Past President of the Mineralogical Society of America, Hazen’s recent research focuses on the possible roles of minerals in the origin of life. He is also Principal Investigator of the Deep Carbon Observatory.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 281 reviews
Profile Image for Max.
343 reviews311 followers
April 8, 2017
Hazen views earth’s 4.5 billion year history through his unique lens as a mineralogist. He explains how the earth was built from cosmic dust and transformed into continents, oceans, atmosphere, and life. We find out why earth was primed for life and the many ways it could have started. We learn how minerals and living organisms evolved together shaping the future of each other. This very readable book is packed with fascinating insights. Following are my notes.

Hazen puts time in perspective. If on a walk every step equaled 100 years after a mile you would have travelled back 175,000 years, about the time anatomically modern humans first appeared. If you made it twenty miles that day, you would have travelled three million years into the past. At 100 years per step and twenty miles per day how long would it take to travel back to the formation of the earth? Four years! That was 4.5 billion years ago. Here we begin our story as a nebula of dust and gas form our sun and the leftovers accrete to build the planets.

A nascent earth is hit by a smaller sibling, Theia, which disintegrates. Theia’s denser material is drawn into the earth and the lighter material thrust into earth orbit where it coalesces into our moon. At only 15,000 miles up (today it is 239,000 miles) the young moon appeared 16 times larger than today’s sun. A full moon illuminated the night providing more than enough light to read by. But night turned to day quickly with the earth rotating completely every five hours. The moon orbited every 84 hours. What a spectacle it would have been watching the moon go through its phases! Unfortunately the earth’s 10,000 degree molten rock surface buffeted by huge tidal waves would have made observation pretty difficult.

As the earth cooled, chunks solidified based on their chemical composition, denser ones sank and lighter ones floated to the top. Within 100 million years a thin basalt crust formed floating on a molten mantle. The crust was punctuated with mega volcanoes that would build an atmosphere and oceans as carbon dioxide and water from the interior were pumped out. It’s fortunate that the atmosphere was full of carbon dioxide and perhaps methane. For the first 1.5 billion years the sun was 25% less bright than today. Without the greenhouse effect the earth might have quickly become a snowball and life may not have developed.

By 200 million years granite Islands began forming in the basalt magma. Less dense than basalt, granite rose to the top poking above the crust like icebergs do in water. Water filled in over the surrounding basalt crust forming a single mega ocean. In another billion years the granite islands would grow and coalesce into the first super continent. Rain in the carbon dioxide atmosphere fell as carbonic acid breaking down rocks into clays and sending sediments into the ocean. Granite contains lots of quartz so as it weathered nice sandy beaches arose on the shores of the blue ocean. Still the land was stark and gray and devoid of life.

The solar system and earth were rich in the carbon molecules required for life such as amino acids, sugars and lipids. Whether it was the nutrient rich ocean, a hot undersea vent, the sun drenched dense atmosphere or even rocks, somewhere the ingredients combined in the right way and life took off around 4 billion years ago. Predictably the author’s favorite birthplace of life is on rocks. Consider that as much as half of the biomass on earth today is found in the cracks and crevices of rocks penetrating well underground and living off minerals. Hazen uses the chirality (handedness) of amino acids and sugars to make his point. Minerals also have chirality and electric charge, another component of biologic molecules. An article published in Scientific Reports I read on phys.org on 4/4/17 as I wrote this, showed how the zinc clay sauconite can metabolize using the sun’s energy to synthesize new clay particles. Biofilms naturally stick to rocks and clays, which could have provided templates for the first life. Take a planet full of chemically diverse rocks covered with biomolecules; mix, heat and squeeze for five hundred million years. A lot can happen.

Around 2.5 billion years ago, cyanobacteria began producing oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis and the first Great Oxidation Event unfolded. The earth’s anoxic atmosphere would be transformed. By 2.2 billion years ago atmospheric oxygen had risen to 1%. This was enough to oxidize the iron in granite, the soil and oceans. The earth’s land surface changed from gray to red. Over the next 1.4 billion years oxygen levels would gradually increase in the atmosphere and the oceans. During that same time plate tectonics would slam granite islands together forming continents, mountains and shallow seas. A cycle of supercontinent creation and destruction would begin.

Oxygen under these conditions would combine with preexisting minerals to create thousands of new minerals. Minerals evolved just as their animate offspring. Free oxygen created by photosynthesis was critical. Two-thirds of known minerals would not have existed on an earth without life including human favorites such as turquoise and malachite. From 15 minerals in the dust of the original nebula the earth now has 4,500 different minerals, our neighboring planets without life at most 1,500.

Between 850 and 750 million years ago the supercontinent Rodina broke up dramatically increasing the shoreline and shallow seas setting the stage for the Second Great Oxidation Event 740 million years ago. Erosion flooded the new algal friendly coastal waters with nutrients. Oxygen producing algae thrived, setting off a cycle of extreme cold and hot periods after a billion years of stability. Reduced carbon dioxide and increased free oxygen disrupted the greenhouse atmosphere and earth turned into a snowball or perhaps just a slush ball. This killed the algae and the oxygen levels declined. Volcanoes pumped carbon dioxide back into the air melting the ice. Minerals subject to extreme weathering released large amounts of manganese, molybdenum and especially phosphorous into coastal waters resulting in massive algal blooms. After 150 million years of repeating cycles oxygen levels reached 20%. This would be the first earth where you could breathe and the first where your skin wouldn’t be quickly torched by UV rays. The degree to which methane was trapped and released as part of these cycles is uncertain, but critical to know in light of our current situation.

These events led to the Cambrian explosion 540 million years ago. New multicellular life forms appeared that evolved into the diverse flora and fauna of today. The ensuing half billion years would be punctuated with calamitous extinctions caused by extreme volcanic activity and asteroid strikes. Each extinction led to new life forms filling vacated niches. 430 million years ago plants and animals conquered the land breaking up rocks and forming more mineral deposits. 300 million years ago in the Third Great Oxidation Event oxygen levels rose to 30% supporting mammoth insects such as dragon flies with two foot wing spans. Much of this was due to carbon sequestration as increasing amounts of biomass were buried, a process which had also contributed to prior atmospheric oxygen increases. The fragments from Rodina collided to form a new supercontinent Pangea. The impact formed the Appalachian mountains then as high as the Himalayas are today. 250 million years ago oxygen levels sank to 15% before eventually recovering to today’s 21%. 175 million years ago Pangea broke up forming the Atlantic Ocean. Plate tectonics would move the fragments (our continents) to their present position.

250 million years from now, the continents will once again collide to form a new supercontinent. Life on earth should last another billion years perhaps two. By that time the sun, continually getting hotter, will evaporate the oceans and extinguish life on earth. We can expect ice ages to recur. We can expect many mega volcanoes and devastating asteroid impacts. Just as in past extinctions many vulnerable life forms will be lost, but others will survive and evolve just as in the past. However, humans along with many other species may not survive long enough to worry about these things. The immediate danger is human driven global warming that is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. We don’t know how it will end. There could be another calamitous extinction and we could well be casualties. But the earth and life will survive, reset and evolve as in the past.

If you got this far I hope you put this well written book on your list. Hazen offers informative discussions of plate tectonics and continent formation. He details theories of the beginning of life. He explains the many ways in which minerals influenced life and in turn life influenced minerals, both working together to shape the environment. He explores the critical role of the abiotic in the ecosystem. We’re all in this together and that includes the minerals.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,634 followers
March 22, 2015
It is time for my sorta-yearly scientifical audiobook! Last year, kinda around this time, I was listening to A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, which was good but quite a ways over my head technically. This time, I shifted the focus a bit closer to home and just focused on Earth, rather than the whole of universal existence. (Listen to me talking as though I plan what I read... Funny! You all know that the books choose me, right?)

Anyway, this was really interesting and informative, and at times disturbing and saddening. Still technical, but not quite so mind-bogglingly technical that I feel like I missed big points. I don't know if that's because Hazen does better at explaining than Krauss, or if maybe it's just easier for me to wrap my mind around geology rather than existential physics.

But what's funny is that I didn't know that I'd be learning about geological-based origin theory when I picked up this book from Audible. I just like origin stories, and I like science, even if I'm not smart enough to understand a lot of it. Plus I think the cover is pretty. Always an important consideration.

So anyway, I did really enjoy this one and I learned quite a lot, both about the earth, as expected, but also about geology - a realm of science that I almost never think about. I'd always kind of thought that geology was boring... If I was a scientist who was going to stare at rocks all day, I'd want to at least see some bones in there or something. But I've been shown that rocks don't have to be boring, they can be the keys to understanding our history. Which maybe isn't quite as cool as finding bones in things, but is still pretty cool.

I enjoyed how the book covered a lot of ground (heh, see what I did there?) from multiple different angles, and showed how in many different ways, the geology of the earth is central to this planet being the only one (that we know of) which sustains life. We're shown the patterns that have changed the earth over time - warming and cooling and shifting and crashing around - and how that has brought us to where we are now... and how we are affecting those changes as well. The patterns are bigger than we are - they span millions of years while most of us can barely plan for tomorrow. The earth will carry on once we're gone (for a while - until the sun dies, anyway). It doesn't need us, but we definitely need it. Mass extinctions aren't new to Earth. It just sucks that we might be listed among the participants of the next one.

Anyway... I'm glad that I didn't know that this was going to be geology-centric, because I'm afraid that I might've skipped it if I had. So, if that's something you might also think - put it out of your mind. This was interesting and well written and pretty damn fascinating. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Tanabrus.
1,841 reviews160 followers
March 24, 2021
Il tema è interessante, la scrittura è semplice e non troppo tecnica rendendo il libro fruibile anche ai non esperti di geologia, astronomia, paleontologia o chimica.
Ovviamente in alcuni punti risulta comunque più complesso, addentrandosi in spiegazioni scientifiche che possono richiedere qualche rilettura per essere comprese in maniera accettabile, ma questo penso sia necessario e anche obbligatorio in un testo di questo tipo.

Mancano purtroppo del tutto grafici o illustrazioni, che avrebbero aiutato non poco in determinate situazioni. Avrebbero potuto mostrare i legami tra le molecole, la stratificazione del mantello, le posizioni dei vari blocchi nei supercontinenti o il classico funzionamento della tettonica delle placche, ma anche magari una foto degli strumenti ideati per replicare le condizioni vicine al centro della Terra...

Anche al netto di questa grande assenza, un libro davvero interessante che mi ha fatto scoprire parecchie cose che neppure sospettavo riguardo alla storia del nostro pianeta.
Profile Image for Thi T..
27 reviews8 followers
February 6, 2013
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Earth history, or Earth's future. My background: I'm a 2nd year master's student in geochemistry. I've been taking geology classes for 5+ years and I've never had the story of Earth explained in such a captivating way. I'm the type of person who doesn't claim to know a subject unless I could describe its processes from the ground up, without using much jargon. That's all you get in Hazen's book.

My reading pace and enthusiasm decelerated for a short while once life started popping up around p.230 , which is consistent with my rock-loving, life-ignoring geologist nature. Yet I really enjoyed Hazen's assertion that the geosphere and biosphere are intimately linked. Though I've taken my fair share of mineralogy/petrology classes, I've never heard anyone suggest that minerals were so closely related to the evolution of life. His extensive description of changes during the Boring Billion was also quite new to me, and I have come away with a new appreciation and curiosity about the "boring" years of Earth history (much like my fascination with the Middle/"Dark" Ages in the history of science).

This is a great read especially for a geology student, undergrad or graduate. His descriptions of still unanswered questions, proposed hypotheses, findings, etc. are concise and easily understood. The aspiring student who wishes to pursue geology in academia will find several debates that still need further research (e.g. chirality of biomolecules, abiotic methane origins, snowball vs. slushball earth). The last chapter is somber and such sentiments should sound familiar for fans of George Carlin, but it is such an important read and can really change your perspective on the climate change controversy.

Readers who enjoyed this book would probably enjoy Knoll's "Life on a Young Planet" as well.
Profile Image for Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch.
105 reviews45 followers
June 3, 2012

Well constructed review of consensus earth science by one practicing in the field.

Embarrassingly I was halfway through “The Story of Earth” before recalling that I had only recently read Hazen’s “Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins,” a volume covering recent experimental science in origins-of-life research, including, or rather emphasizing, Hazen’s own.

While in “The Story of Earth” Hazen largely resists the technical (though, appropriately for a practitioner, he can’t resist it altogether, often again reprising his own work) enough is included to illuminate the speculation he is reporting on, and, as a working scientist his technical descriptions are plainly more credible than those found in similar general readership volumes.

Hazen, by the way, is one of the authors of recent research suggesting a rather wide scale co-evolution of earth life and the ‘mineral kingdom’ (see, for instance: http://www.nature.com/news/2008/08111...), largely as the result of the “Paleoproterozoic “Great Oxidation Event” (~2.2 to 2.0 Ga [gigaannum]), when atmospheric oxygen may have risen to >1% of modern levels, and the Neoproterozoic increase in atmospheric oxygen, which followed several major glaciation events [and] ultimately gave rise to multicellular life,” a topic also touched on, with modesty, in “The Story of Earth.”

(Actual “Mineral evolution” paper, quoted above, from ‘American Mineralogist’ at: http://www.geo.umass.edu/petrology/Ha....)
Profile Image for Kris Sellgren.
1,054 reviews21 followers
July 11, 2019
This was a fun read. The author has a talent for colorful and descriptive language that brings the science to life. I knew the broad sweep of the Earth’s history, so there were no surprises, but I enjoyed learning new details. The author’s biases show at times — he really dislikes Stanley Miller of the famous Miller-Urey experiment — but mostly he presents all the various approaches to understanding the origins of life as worthwhile and complementary. I particularly liked the experiment where someone put the contents of a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite in water and watched all the pre-biotic molecules (amino acids etc) assemble themselves into spheres with a membrane separating “inside” from “outside”. Not a cell but on the way to one. The author thinks that the hardest problem to solve in the origins of life is how chirality arose. Amino acids in meteorites are both right-handed and left-handed, but life on Earth only uses one of these.

It was interesting to see a geologist’s perspective on the Sixth Extinction, caused by humans. He feels confident that some microbes will survive the worst we could do (nuclear holocaust) and life will continue and evolve no matter what. He is very philosophical about the extinction of polar bears, gorillas, and tigers (all inevitable, he says) and possibly humans. I can’t feel that level of detachment.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 12 books2,520 followers
February 5, 2022
Fascinating study of earth's origins and the progression of its formation from a mass of gases to what it is today, with a disturbing look at its future. There's a lot of technical stuff, but it is rendered quite clearly and I found it no obstacle to enjoying this illuminating and perspective-changing book.
2 reviews
February 6, 2013
I never liked geology in school. Learning about rocks and how they formed was a series of exercises in memorization.

It's hard to say what made me pick this book up at the library. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I did. Hazen has a way of making a topic I had always found dreadfully boring fascinating, interesting and exciting.

My layman's description is the book covers a bit of astronomy, geology, oceanography, meteorology, physics, biology, and even a little history. Not too much of any one, usually never too much at one time, the science and technical details are fit within a readable narrative of the recorded and speculated history of the planet from its formation to its eventual destruction.

Hazen provides descriptions of the latest experiments, theories and work being done to learn how the earth became what it is, and where it is headed. I found the part about the discovery of plate tectonics to be especially interesting. I didn't realize it was such a recent and transformative idea in the world of a science.

I can't say the entire book was enthralling. There were some parts I found less interesting, or a little too geeky and technical for general reading. But this was a well written, informative and, at times, engrossing book.

I am not interested in the subject, or at least didn't consider myself interested in it. But I found this book to be enjoyable and educational to read. I can only imagine how thoroughly enjoyable it might be for someone actually interested in the topic.
Profile Image for Saturn.
390 reviews55 followers
April 11, 2021
Questo libro è come un viaggio nel tempo. Con le sue ottime capacità divulgative, Hazen porta il lettore per mano ad assistere agli affascianti avvenimenti che hanno plasmato il nostro pianeta, dal momento in cui si è formato il sistema solare fino ai giorni nostri e con uno sguardo al futuro. L'aspetto che mi ha colpito maggiormente è la forte relazione esistente fra l'evoluzione del mondo minerale e quello della vita biologica, che ha attecchito sulle rocce in forma di microrganismi miliardi di anni fa generando un'interazione fra la geosfera e la biosfera fondamentale per entrambi. Guardando ai tanti eventi ciclici che interessano il nostro pianeta è inevitabile riflettere sull'impatto che la specie umana può avere su di essi. Se in termini geologici le nostre azioni possono considerarsi insignificanti e smarrite nei miliardi di storia che attendono il nostro pianeta, in termini umani vediamo che nell'ultimo secolo abbiamo innescato un cambiato senza precedenti e le cui conseguenze saranno dunque imprevedibili. Come sempre avviene, è dalla storia che possiamo trarre le più grandi lezioni per il futuro. Leggendo la storia della Terra e dei suoi cambiamenti possiamo capire come difenderci dagli errori che abbiamo commesso, più che per salvare il "pianeta" per salvare noi stessi dalle conseguenze delle nostre nefaste azioni.
Profile Image for Ben.
968 reviews86 followers
October 2, 2018
A fairly well-written story of the 4.4 billion-year geologic history of Earth, with a chapter also extrapolating to the future 100 years to 4 billion years. I learned a bit—lots of highlights—but less than I would have liked given the length. Too much was review.

I enjoyed Hazen's emphasis on the methods by which scientists have learned the prehistory he relates, and also on the current hot topics, disagreements and open questions.

Flaws: Occasionally repetitive and unnecessarily verbose.
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,693 reviews124 followers
May 9, 2022
I didn’t realize the advances in science has left me in the dust of outdated learning. The part on the moon and how it went from filling the sky to being what it is today was my favorite. The chapter on molecular something or another has already turned to stardust. He tries to simplify the chemistry and physics but I struggled in parts as I have studied little in those subjects. A nice break from fiction reading.
91 reviews23 followers
November 13, 2020
Известный минералололог увлекательно (нет, правда, читается как хорошая художественная литература) не в ущерб научной точности рассказывает о том, как появилась и эволюционировала Земля. Понятно, делает он это с позиции фаната минералов, но всё равно очень интересно.
Profile Image for Tim Weed.
Author 3 books134 followers
January 30, 2022
A clearly written and highly readable book that I would put in the same category as The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses, The World Without Us, and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — in other words, a book that alters and expands one's perspective on the world in surprising, refreshing, and exhilarating ways. I couldn't put it down, and will never see the planet or the rocks we're all standing on in the same light.

Last year I did a talk with another novelist called "Writing the Climate Crisis" at which one of the attendees asked something to the effect of how do you keep from falling into utter despair given what's happening to the world? The answer that came out of my mouth, surprisingly even to myself, was "geological time." That is, putting the current environmental crisis in the long context of Earth history can be a very good thing for one's sanity, and is reassuring, above all, because it becomes clear that life, and nature, will ultimately do just fine. (Humanity, maybe not so much.) And reading this book is one of the best ways I know to gain an appreciation for the scope, majesty, and wonder of geological time. Highly recommended!
7 reviews
September 5, 2014
Woefully esoteric.

Hazen recounts the history of Earth from a perspective one would never expect: the perspective of a dedicated and highly knowledgeable mineralogist. Hazen argues that the history of Earth, and of life, are inexorably linked to the history of mineral evolution. The evidence he provides is at times fascinating, and the beginning of the book in which Hazen describes the formation of the first elements and minerals as though it were some sort of cosmic ballet was quite immersive. Unfortunately I found the grand majority of the book--much like the evolution of our precious planet-- incredibly dull. Much of the middle of the book is bloated from long stretches of boring factoids and the occasional wholly unwelcome and rather self-serving scholarly anecdote.

I would not recommend this book to the average reader or for someone with merely a passing interest in the history of Earth, which is what I had when I picked this book up. No, this book is a slog, and undoubtedly would be most appreciated by people in the field or with a dedicated interest in the finer points of carbon-dating, oxidation, mineralogy, or geology.
Profile Image for Chris.
248 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2022
A very good book on the evolution of our universe, solar system and Earth.  Hazen chronologically walks the reader through 4.5 billion years of our earth's history, explaining the conditions at each stage of our planet's existence.

One aspect of this book that was very appealing to me was his frequent references to current work being done by scientists who are searching for answers to geological questions still unknown.  His own theory, which he calls "Mineral Evolution", explains how minerals and life on earth co-evolved.  He explains that the majority of minerals existing on our planet could have only arisen due to the existence of living organisms.  Or to be more specific, the oxygen rich atmosphere and rain cycles that living beings created through photosynthesis directly led to the formation of a vast array of minerals.  He states that a rich mineralogical aspect could be used as an indicator when searching for life on other worlds.

Highly recommended for those interested in geology and the evolution of our planet.
Profile Image for Bob R Bogle.
Author 6 books73 followers
October 5, 2020
This is not the book I thought it was when I bought it. I was expecting more of an evolutionary history of life on Earth. Probably a full 80-90% of this book is essentially a geological history of the planet, and I'm no geologist.

To my surprise, however, I found every page of this wonderful book to be of far more interest than I could ever have imagined. It seems seven or eight fascinating new facts ― new to me, anyway ― jump off of every page. And this doesn’t even begin to get at the implications that arise as all those facts pile up higher and higher.

Very easily, this book is extraordinary for putting geological time in its proper proportions. Most of us struggle with thinking about a few thousand years, much less millions and billions of years. I've never read another book that keeps all the temporal perspectives in such fine proportion.

One minor nuisance is the dual manner of dating events in this book. Sometimes the author reports key events in millions of years ago; at other times, however, he starts the clock running forward at the origin of the planet. Sometimes therefore a little mental subtraction is required to keep events in their appropriate chronological order.

One other issue perhaps is that Robert M Hazen's small book is from 2012: far less than an eye blink in geological time, but a long time indeed in science. I don't know whether an updated version is in the works.

Regardless, this is one of the most fascinating and most well-written science books I've ever read. This one will change your perspective about . . . all kinds of things.
Profile Image for Prasanna Venkatesan.
45 reviews24 followers
May 19, 2021
Absolutely captivating..
This is my first book on origin story and I am happy for having started with this book (because a strange sense of fullness and emptiness of knowledge after reading this book has made me wanting to explore more books towards this origin knowledge). I believe the author has covered everything from big bang to holocene, future probable scenarios, contribution of various factors from varied fields and how the stories/theories of origin have been proposed using various evidences by curious persons who have dedicated their lives towards establishing the known from the unknown. It was little heavy on geology side but then, given the author's support for the theory of co-evolution of geosphere and biosphere, it stands justified. Nevertheless the author has kept text simple and understandable. Recommended for everyone... A Big Thanks to the author for creating this beautiful ORIGIN STORY.
Profile Image for Noah Goats.
Author 8 books21 followers
May 31, 2017
From the creation of the universe to the eventual destruction of the planet, Hazen, emphasizing the relationship between geology and biology, sets out the entire history and future of the Earth. There are some boring bits. For example, in writing about the billion years generally considered the most boring in Earth's history (the "boring billion") he tries to sell the reader on the idea that these years were actually quite exciting... and fails. But for the most part he succeeds in making all this science both accessible and interesting. And I also appreciated the fact that when there were theories out there that were opposed the the one he preferred, he always gave them a fair shake. Even handed and well reasoned and generally enjoyable: nice book.
Profile Image for Anh.
86 reviews
August 25, 2018
Viết đẹp một cách kinh khủng. Mình không nghĩ các nhà khoa học là những người khô khan. Về mặt nào đó, họ là những người lãng mạn nhất.
P.S.: 4.5/5. Đáng lẽ cho 5, nhưng trừ 0.5 vì một đoạn nhỏ không chính xác về ảnh hưởng của biến đổi khí hậu tới dòng Gulf Stream.
Profile Image for Toni Cifuentes.
Author 9 books20 followers
July 23, 2019
Un libro ameno y entretenido para conocer cosas como:

Algún día África se dividirá en dos placas entre las que crecerá un nuevo océano.

Joyce, quien lidera los esfuerzos por construir vida en el laboratorio (trabaja en un campo de investigación más bien futurista, llamado biología sintética) consiguió hace poco un logro extraordinario en el campo: desarrolló un conjunto de miles de moléculas distintas que interactuan entre sí para formar, dentro de un tubo de ensayo, una comunidad autosustentable y en evolución. (...) si bien las moléculas mismas son copias de las originales. Joyce se dio cuenta de que un sistema químico que no hace más que producir duplicados ad nauseam (...), no es mucho más que una fotocopiadora molecular. Los sistemas vivientes naturales, por el contrario, tienen la habilidad de mutar, y al hacerlo, adquirir capacidades completamente nuevas, como explorar nuevos medios ambientes, sobrevivir a cambios ambientales inesperados, desempeñar nuevas tareas y ganarle a los vecinos en la competencia por los recursos. Así que Joyce revisó su definición (...): "La vida es un sistema químico autosustentable capaz de incorporar novedades y de experimentar evolución darwiniana".

(...) el campo magnético terrestre es enormemente variable: cada medio millón de años, en promedio, da un giro de 180 grados, y lo ha venido haciendo así al menos durante los últimos ciento cincuenta millones de años.

Una vez que se forma un cristal de circón sus átomos de uranio quedan encerrados y comienza a decaer a un ritmo estable: en promedio, la mitad de los átomos decae cada 4500 millones de años.

Así que se estima que el manto inferior contiene dieciséis veces más agua que todos los océanos.

Es muy poco probable que estos nuevos minerales se formen en un ambiente anóxico, así que la vida parece ser la responsable, directa o indirecta, de la mayor parte de las 4500 especies minerales conocidas en la Tierra.

Se fusionó la nebulosa solar y el Sol se formó. El polvo a su alrededor se aglomeró en forma de cóndrulos. Los cóndrulos se agruparon en planetésimos, y los planetésimos en la proto-Tierra y en otros cuerpos terrestres de miles de kilómetros de diámetro. -El impacto de Theia, la posterior formación de la Luna, el océano de magma incandescente que se enfrió para formar una corteza basáltica ennegrecida y picada por miles de volcanes explosivos, el mar ardiente que pronto cubrió casi todas las superficies sólidas de modo que la única tierra seca fue la cima de los volcanes más altos... todos estos acontecimientos ocurrieron a lo largo de quinientos millones de años.

Según las últimas interpretaciones, la Tierra ha experimentado un ciclo de al menos cinco agrupamientos y rompimientos de supercontinentes a lo largo de tal vez tres mil millones de años.

(...) los planetas van de la simplicidad a la complejidad mineralógica; de apenas una docena de minerales qe flotaban en el polvo y el gas que dieron origen a nuestro sistema solar a las más de 4500 especies minerales que conocemos hoy en la Tierra, dos terceras partes de las cuales no pueden existir en un mundo sin vida.

(...) el organismo multicelular mas antiguo que se conoce aparece en el registro fósil hace unos 630 millones de años, precisamente después de la segunda glaciación global de bola de nieve.

Cualquiera que haya sido la causa, la Gran Mortandad dejó un enorme agujero en la biodiversidad de la Tierra. El planeta tardó treinta millones de años en recuperase.
Profile Image for Joseph Whitt.
360 reviews5 followers
February 3, 2014
It's difficult to rate a book like this. It's not exactly a book one can "disagree" with, at least anyone who is not at worst an amateur geologist or other earth scientist. I enjoyed - that is to say I was interested - in the concepts of a living Earth and a geo-system that is actively and intimately involved in evolution of life. Hazen had me pegged as one of the many people who assume that these systems are relatively independent. I learned some things about plate tectonics that were new to me. The constantly moving inner Earth, something like a very slow lava lamp (actually quite literally!) also drew my attention as did the physical descriptions of our beloved Earth at its various ages. I simply wish I was able to grasp the entirety of his message but I do not think it is really possible in a single narrative, particularly of one with such an epic timeline of 4.5 billion years.

Throughout the book, Hazen describes geological facts in terms of a timeline. For this reader, it became increasingly difficult to keep that timeline straight. In the first place, it's a massive timeline on a scale which the entirety of human history is but a tiny speck at the end, indistinguishable and unimportant. Secondly, 530 millions years ago sounds and feels just as remote as 350 million years ago. The numbers are just so large and the pace of reading so fast that it is no small task to process the wheres and whens of all the different ideas Hazen discusses. On that note, Hazen tends to jump to other eons and for a complete novice like me, this become confusing quickly. I effectively disregarded the detail of age and concentrated on the overall issue Hazen was attempting to explain. In this way, the book became easier to read and easier to process while maintaining the essence of Hazen's narration. I'm sure I missed some details on the way, but my sanity is still intact.

Even still, I believe Hazen is a compelling and thoughtful writer. Perhaps incongruous with that though, the approach of this book was straightforward and with only a mild touch of creativity. It felt like a more approachable text book for Geology 101. Very informative, but broad in concept and delivery. In this respect, Hazen does well to make geology accessible - and interesting - to the masses.

I have rated this 3-stars principally because the subject didn't hold my interest enough. This is just an issue of personal preference. There were definite moments where I was presented ideas that I never heard prior and concepts that were utterly foreign to my preconceptions to the subject. But these moments of surprise, intrigue, and awe were not the majority but were enough to fuel the engine to continue the book until the end. I imagine those more interested in geology, the Earth, or other life/earth science would be more connected to The Story of Earth. As for me, I'm glad I read it but I'm equally glad it's over.
Profile Image for John Martindale.
750 reviews81 followers
February 21, 2014
I thought the book was well written. I know of Darwinian theory, but I have never really heard how they think the non-living earth "evolved". I wanted to hear the theories of how scientist think the big bang produced the 118 different elements and how they explain the formation of stars and planets from a singularity. Throughout the book, occasionally the author would mention various scientific experiments in which they'd try to replicate earlier earth environments to test out a hypothesis, this was interesting. I thought it fascinating that studying rocks from the moon, for example, discredited all the theories of how the moon formed up to that point, forcing them to make new theories. Hazen did teach me a thing or two about the realm of chemistry (which is so far beyond my comprehension) and how due to natural laws, if certain elements come together and undergo differing temperatures, change occurs as well as the emergence of novelty. But with that said, there still was plenty that struck me as "just so" stories. You'd think if the universe can create itself some gold, then maybe the alcomist were not so misguided in their attempts, but yeah, it is just so easily stated that exploding stars produced all the elements... ok...nice, uh... how? Is there any evidence for this other than they know this just "had to happen"? How can any of this be verified? It seems a lot of these claims simply can't be tested.

Concerning the formation of life from non-living matter, one has to love the anthropomorphic language the author used, for example he was talking about lifeless material having to "learn" to reproduce itself... uh...yeah. Despite his attempts to make this plausible, I thought he failed miserably. He didn't even give the slightest acknowledgement to the mind-numbing complexity of the living cell and the unfathomable amount information and how fully working living machines are required to make it all work. This section of the book was kind of like hearing a contractor say if all the building material is heaped on the ground, then it's obvious, that given enough time and tornadoes to mix it all up, it will form itself into the Taj Mahal. Not only this, but it will also learn how reproduce itself, to evolve and adapt to it's environment. For the author, its a no-brainer, merely combining the building blocks, the right environment and enough time, and astronomically complex, information rich, self-reproducing and evolving creatures will pop out from non-living material, just like babies out of a womb. If this isn't self-delusion, I dunno what is.

The author did have a good imagination, the book does make for quite the story. It is fun imagining the black moon with molten lava spewing out, rapidly spinning so close to the earth that it filled the night sky.
Profile Image for Mag.
383 reviews55 followers
February 25, 2015
It's a fantastic treatise that argues that minerals and rocks are an intimate part of evolution. Evolution is a fundamental process of the universe, not just in living organisms, but everywhere, at every level. We don't perceive rocks in our notion of evolution but they, just like elements evolving to become compounds and then minerals, have evolved.
Rocks are an integral part of life- they came from life and became life.
Profile Image for Dave Schey.
179 reviews11 followers
September 16, 2012
Great and interesting read even if you have limited knowledge of geology. Hazen spends most of the book talking about the lesser-known Pre-Phanerozoic Eon (the first 4 billion years of Earths history). Fascinating read!
Profile Image for Юра Мельник.
309 reviews30 followers
August 17, 2019
Бездоганна у фактологічному наповненні але трохи нуднувата.
Profile Image for Yuliia Koshyk.
496 reviews28 followers
January 2, 2022
Мене якось запитали, як я можу вірити в те, що після смерті нічого немає; як можна не вірити в те, що ми маємо певний сенс життя.

Після читання таких книг — дуже просто. І чим більше я читаю подібних речей, тим простіше я вчусь сприймати світ довкола.

Мені справді легше повірити в те, що ми — результат мільйонів випадковостей в історії всесвіту, а чийсь розумний задум. А особливо після вражень, які лишають після себе такі книжки.

Подібні книги про історію Землі, Всесвіт, космос, еволюцію справляють на мене надзвичайно сильне враження.

Ми — частина складного світу: впорядкованого та хаотичного водночас, логічного та творчого, красивого і потворного. Перед тим, як ми прийшли у це життя, наша планета і світ довкола неї видозмінювався таку кількість часу, яку людському розуму нереально осягнути.

Скільки ж усього ми ще не знаємо, як мало ми дослідили про цей світ. Які ми насправді маленькі в масштабах всесвіту з нашими проблемами, мріями, планами, віруваннями.

Але разом з тим ми безвідносно унікальні, бо живемо на неймовірній планеті, котра завдяки мільйонам збігів та обставин змогла подарувати нам життя.

Вражаючий науково-популярний текст, який я проковтнула за день. Про виникнення всесвіту, Зе лі, Місяця, інших планет, про формування океанів, морів, бактерій і більш складного життя.

І замовила собі ще три подібні книги в @ksd_bookclub. Хіба це не найкращий критерій натхненності прочитаного?😂
Profile Image for Rafael Silva.
8 reviews2 followers
September 27, 2020
Se pudéssemos viajar no tempo e ver como era a terra durante todos os 4,5 bilhões de anos voltaríamos com um livro de descrições semelhante a esse com as anotações como escrito pelo autor. Repleto de paisagens que para nós seriam quase alienígenas. Quando não "infernais" nos primordios da terra, mergulhamos nas aguas do Siluriano e vemos recifes de corais semelhantes aos de hoje, porém com anéis de crescimento que correspondiam aos dias mais curtos daquela época em que as noites e dias passavam mais rápido. Vamos também a Terra enferrujar e se sufocar, a vida nascer e quase tudo morrer talvez dezenas de vezes, horizontes preenchidos com vastas florestas de samambaias do Cretáceo, o Sol desaparecer e nos sufocar, as gelerias derreterem e inundar até as maiores montanhas de hoje, os continentes se formarem ... a coevolução da Terra e seus minerais com a vida... Ao final do livro há fatos para aqueles que ainda acham que a calamidade da mudança climática ainda não é uma emergência. Aprendendo com a história do que já aconteceu na Terra podemos, talvez, prever o que está para acontecer. E é muito pior do que a gente imagina.
Profile Image for Jrobertus.
1,069 reviews29 followers
March 15, 2019
How interesting could a history of the earth’s geology be? Well this wonderful book is a page turner. Hazen writes well and this book unfolds like a thriller. He narrates the evolution of earth from a black molten orb to the current time. His descriptive language is very evocative and carries you to these distance times, at least as our best and brightest have reconstructed it from the geological record. He steps through subsequent epochs using mineral and fossil evidence to create a fascinating story. We see the rise of life, the evolution of photosynthesis, the accumulation of oxygen, the repeated cycles of glaciations, the drifting of cratons to form continents and supercontinents and on and on. Our earth is dynamic on a LOOOONG term scale and will continue to be so. He ends with an extrapolation of future earth with some strong warnings about human induced climate change and the nature of global tipping points. This is a terrific read for scientists and laymen as well.
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