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The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and… (edition 2013)

by Neil Shubin

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152578,635 (3.86)19
Member:davesmind
Title:The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People
Authors:Neil Shubin
Info:Pantheon (2013), Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:paleontology, geology, read in 2013

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

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A look at the interrelationships between life on earth and the cosmos itself. Our bodies carry the secrets of our history; our bodies literally betray their origin in the stars. Material recycled from the rocks works its way through living organisms. The author begins at the beginning of the earth, and works forward to the present. Clear, concise language and interesting information. Even as a long-time biologist, there are still things I can learn from a book like this. Well written, straightforward, it is a quick and easy read. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Mar 25, 2014 |
In The Universe Within, Neil Shubin reveals the connection between the evolution of the cosmos and the evolution of the human body.

Just as the history of the earth is written in the rocks, so too is the universe’s 14-billion-year history written in the human body. Starting at the smallest level, with our very molecular composition, Shubin explores the question of why we are the way we are, tracing the formation of the planets, the moon, and the globe of Earth through the development of the organs, cells, and genes that make up human life. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
Neal Shubin is the guy who found the fossils of Tiktaalik, the “fish with hands,” a possible link between sea and land animals. His last book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, was all about how humanity developed out of earlier forms.

In The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets and People, Shubin takes a look at the bigger picture. Yes, it does get bigger than 3.5 billion years; in this case, he’s looking at how puny little humans are actually part of the more than 14 billion-year history of the universe.

The key here is that Shubin—like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for instance, and the late Carl Sagan—has a real knack for making science not only understandable but amusing and interesting. He writes anti-fables, but the narrative remains fabulous.

Reviewed on Lit/Rant: http://litrant.tumblr.com/post/51781909883/the-antidote-to-mythology ( )
  KelMunger | Jun 5, 2013 |
As Shubin traced the 3.5-billion-year history of evolutionary biology in Your Inner Fish, here he traces the ~14-billion-year history of … evolutionary cosmology? … from the big bang and coalescence of our solar system, through the separation of Earth’s crust into continents that created the oceans which released oxygen, to the evolution of life as we know it, practically to the point in time of reading this LibraryThing screen today. It’s a science ballet whose cast includes almost every scientific specialty, plus science history and biography and personal experience. And it’s fascinating.

I remember how gobsmacked I was when I learned that the material of our bodies originated in stars, and I felt a dozen similar occasions of awe here while reading about the right-place-right-time fortuitousness of life on Earth. For example, this from the long-ago:

Since {a mammalian fetus} receives all of its oxygen from the mother, there needs to be a way that oxygen can be transferred from the mother’s blood. The transfer is facilitated by a steep gradient between the concentration of oxygen in the maternal blood and that of the fetus: under these conditions, oxygen will travel into the fetus. Importantly, the oxygen content of the mother’s blood has to be sufficiently high to enable this transfer in the first place. This constraint means that mammals with a placenta do not easily develop above fifteen thousand feet altitude. Tellingly, the oxygen {above fifteen thousand feet} is equivalent to that in the atmosphere at sea level 200 million years ago, before the Atlantic Ocean formed {and increased atmospheric oxygen, making mammalian life possible}.

And this, about evolution right now:

In the developed world {…} most evolutionary pressure is on aspects of fertility: when we have offspring and how many we have. In the developing world things are very different: passing on one’s genes is about mortality, particularly that of children. In one world, evolutionary success is derived from the age at which people have babies; in the other, such success is derived from survival itself. Socioeconomic, cultural, and technological differences mediate the ways evolution acts in human populations.

Shubin’s scope is enormous and he covers quite a bit of it in ~200 pages of simple, captivating language; my only quibble is a bit of disorganization -- maybe the result of the survey nature of the material -- that made it difficult for me to neatly file the info into memory. But he whets the appetite for more, which for me will be David Christian's Maps of Time.

(Review based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.) ( )
3 vote DetailMuse | Mar 18, 2013 |
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, beginning with the big bang. It also includes some science history with personality filled stories of how plate tectonics and other scientific theories were first hypothesized, and it gives a taste of how current scientists in in the author’s field of biological sciences work, for instance dropping to all fours to hunt for tiny fossils that shed light on the evolution of our Earth. The tone is enthusiastic, and the endnotes include lots of suggestions for further reading. My copy of the book is decked with post it flags marking sections I have already reread several times, often sharing them with whoever happens to be around me at the time. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Dec 28, 2012 |
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CONTENTS: Rocking our world -- Blasts from the past -- Lucky stars -- About time -- The ascent of big -- Connecting the dots -- Kings of the hill -- Fevers and chills -- Cold facts -- Mothers of invention.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307378438, Hardcover)

WITH BLACK-AND-WHITE LINE DRAWINGS THROUGHOUT

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 hands, heads, and jaws—and the structures in fish and worms that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. In The Universe Within, with his trademark clarity and exuberance, Shubin takes an even more expansive approach to the question of why we look the way we do. Starting once again with fossils, he turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe’s fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies. As he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes, Shubin makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked our own bodies.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Shubin shows how the entirety of the universe's fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies as he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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