Life on A Young Planet

Life on A Young Planet

The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Book - 2015
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Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty.

The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how the biological diversity that surrounds us came to be. Moving from Siberia to Namibia to the Bahamas, Knoll shows how life and environment have evolved together through Earth's history. Innovations in biology have helped shape our air and oceans, and, just as surely, environmental change has influenced the course of evolution, repeatedly closing off opportunities for some species while opening avenues for others.

Readers go into the field to confront fossils, enter the lab to discern the inner workings of cells, and alight on Mars to ask how our terrestrial experience can guide exploration for life beyond our planet. Along the way, Knoll brings us up-to-date on some of science's hottest questions, from the oldest fossils and claims of life beyond the Earth to the hypothesis of global glaciation and Knoll's own unifying concept of ''permissive ecology.''

In laying bare Earth's deepest biological roots, Life on a Young Planet helps us understand our own place in the universe--and our responsibility as stewards of a world four billion years in the making.

In a new preface, Knoll describes how the field has broadened and deepened in the decade since the book's original publication.

Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2015, c2003
Edition: New Princeton science library paperback edition
ISBN: 9780691165530
Branch Call Number: 576.83 K755L 2015
Characteristics: xv, 277 pages, 8 unnumbered of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm


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Sep 11, 2017

The author would probably dispute what I am about to say.

The cover resembles an abstract painting, and that indicates where this book seems to go: “to me, the scientific account of life’s long history abound in both narrative verve and mystery. …Dinosaurs take me back …to Mesozoic forests patrolled by astonishing beasts – if I can’t share the awe that Tyrannosaurus inspires in my son, it is, quite simply, a failing of maturity.” The author is careful to point out that science is not necessarily dry (of course, scientists already know that) and that life seems to spring from some primordial wellspring of wonder and creativity. He recounts his own adventures in remote parts of the world, seeking fossils, and explains the current view of the origins of life on earth. The writing style is somewhere between "scholarly" and “popular” (there needn’t be a difference, after all) with scientific “jargon” explained succinctly as the book proceeds. He traces evolution from the “earliest glimmers of life” through the “Oxygen Revolution” (the result of photosynthetic cyanobacteria) to the origins of eukaryotic cells and the Cambrian Explosion. Along the way he provides examples, “what-if” scenarios offered by his and competing theories (in science, no theory is really ever complete) and a lot of pictures and charts. Many of these, especially the color plates, again resemble abstract art and sculptures – though this is not in any way a “religious” book, the subtext seems to be that life is God’s art and it should awaken a sense of awe in all of us. (The author would probably deny this statement of intent.) When he adds his final chapter about implications for life on other planets, the argument is finished, though as an epilogue he suggests that we might never know what such life is like. At any rate, this is a good book for both the scientific and the artistic enquiring mind.

May 08, 2015

bio: . . .

Jan 02, 2013

I found this a really interesting book! It covers a period of earth's life history that is usually skipped over as unknown and/or uninteresting. But the long story is beginning to be pieced together through genetics and field work studying ancient rocks. I give this book five stars! It really helps us to understand today's world and our place in it.


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