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A New History of Life

Narrated by: Stuart Sutherland
Length: 17 hrs and 46 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The story of our world and the different living things that have populated it is an amazing epic with millions of species, exotic settings, planet-wide cataclysms, and surprising plot twists. 

These 36 lectures tell the all-embracing story of life on Earth - its origins, extinctions, and evolutions - in a manner that assumes no background in science. At half an hour per lecture, you’ll cover the entire 4.54-billion-year history of Earth in 18 hours, averaging 70,000 years per second! 

Professor Sutherland notes that if the story of Earth is compared to the height of the Washington Monument, then all of human history is the thickness of a sheet of paper balanced at the top. He devotes most of these lectures to the incredible happenings beneath that piece of paper, including stirring episodes such as Earth’s “snowball” phase, which should have been permanent according to some theories; the Cambrian explosion, after which life’s complexity soared in an explosion of genetic diversification; and the age of giant insects, where dragonflies had 30-inch wingspans and cockroaches reached 20 inches in length. By the time you reach the origin of humans in Lecture 35, you’ll appreciate our species in the widest possible context. Why does the Earth have continents? What causes periodic mass extinctions? How did animals move from water to land? What are the oldest fossils? Experience the thrill of scientists searching for answers to questions such as these. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • nicolas
  • 2019-05-10

Great lecture!

Really wonderfully done. Professor Sutherland is a really great story teller. And that’s ultimately what this is, a story!

The only drawback is that this is a lecture where a lot of the times he is referring to images that he is showing. This isn’t Professor Sutherland‘s fault, this is a video series for the great courses, but just listening to it sometimes can be a little frustrating because you want to see what he is talking about. But again, that’s not no fault of his.

Overall outstanding. Highly recommend

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • B. Bartosh
  • 2019-06-17

Get the video version

Like evolution itself, this course takes some time to build up steam but becomes pretty impressive when it does. My only caveat is that while I ordinarily prefer the audio versions of Great Courses so that I can listen to them anywhere, this really is a course where you need the visual accompaniment. The professor frequently shows examples of the creatures he is talking about and I felt like I was missing out with just his vague descriptions of them. He is, however, a good storyteller.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-06-08

Good but flawed

This presenter is an excellent teacher. However, the recording was of a class heavy in visual aids which don’t come across so well Iwhen listening. Also he really wimps out on climate change at the end.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Conrad Barski
  • 2019-06-19

Staggering in both Depth and Breadth

This is simply the best lecture series I've ever head- Professor Sutherland did an immense amount of preparation for every lecture, filling each and every minute with specific details about the evolution of organisms that simply doesn't exist in this form anywhere else, and with lots of new, recent information included with every lecture. There are specific details in this series on single cell evolution, plant evolution, arthropod evolution, geology, fossil dating, etc etc that I just haven't heard before at this level of detail, in such an accessible manner. Additionally, controversial topics (such as the extinction events and human evolution) are handled in the best way possible, receiving a careful, objective treatment that presents all the evidence and allows the listener to come to their own conclusion.

Warning: this lecture series is like the "War and Peace" of evolutionary history, you will be clobbered with lots of detailed information (of the highest quality) if you choose to listen to this series. Also, other reviewers are correct that the lack of video to accompany the lectures is a drawback, but regardless of this limitation it is still so, so good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • New Lush Wallaby
  • 2019-06-09

A wonderful and very well presented course.

This course is very interesting and easy to follow but I have to say that, after listening to the audio version and very much enjoying it, I immediately subscribed to the video version and watched it all the way through. This course offers much more visual material than most of The Great Courses which I've read or watched and I strongly recommend the video version for this one. That said though, it was great both ways.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ken Mitchell
  • 2019-06-05

Comprehensive and cohesive

This is the best treatment of the topic I’ve seen. The author doesn’t over-focus on any one group or hypothesis. He does make a compelling story of the biosphere’s history. Well done! The only negative for me was the time sequence skipped about a bit more than I’d prefer.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Clayton
  • 2019-04-04

Engaging and deep.

Credible and dignified, but lots of passion still gets through. A balanced, truly scientific approach.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Glacierjay
  • 2019-07-15

Never updated video sountrack for audio

I wanted to like it, but narrator keeps referring to things he's showing in video

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • night owl
  • 2019-05-07

Too detailed

Too detailed and scientific for me. I might have liked it more at one time. Now I find the over detailed description of early life over tedious. I usually love great courses lectures fascinating but not this time.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful