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The Origin and Evolution of Earth

From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence
Narrated by: Robert M. Hazen
Length: 25 hrs and 15 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Astronomy
4.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This course chronicles the history of Earth and life on Earth from the point of view of the minerals that made it all happen. A major theme is how minerals and life coevolved, leading to the unprecedented mineral diversity on our world compared to the other planets in the solar system. Professor Hazen tells this epic story in 48 action-packed lectures that take you from the big bang to the formation of the solar system to the major milestones that marked the evolution of Earth and life. He also looks ahead at what to expect millions to billions of years in the future.

It's easy to think that the green Earth dominated by life that we experience today is just as it's always been. But Professor Hazen introduces you to a succession of starkly different Earths, starting with the black, basalt-covered planet of 4.5 billion years ago, and progressing through blue, gray, red, and white phases as Earth, minerals, and life developed in concert.

Major episodes covered in these lectures include the formation of the moon from the collision of a Mars-sized body with the early Earth; the Great Oxidation Event, which was sparked by the earliest photosynthetic life and is responsible for Earth's iron and other important mineral deposits; the formation of the first continents; the start of plate tectonics more than 3 billion years ago; the repeating cycles of supercontinent formation; the Cambrian explosion of life, resulting in the first animal shells, bones, and teeth; the great episodes of mass extinction, including the dinosaurs; and the rise of humans - along with much else.

Most impressively, Professor Hazen is a pioneer in the study of mineral evolution, which is a unique lens through which to view the development of Earth. He tells the story with authority and with a rare gift for making you see the world in a new, intriguing way.

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

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

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very engaging

Interesting professor. he also has a television program examining the same subject called Life's Rocky Start

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  • Brian
  • 2015-03-18

The Best

I was amazed to learn how sophisticated research tools have become so effective in uncovering the origins of our universe. As a physician I take for granted how our research tools are used in the study of life sciences--but never fully appreciated the close link between earth science and biology. Professor Hazan is a fabulous lecturer. His passion and enthusiasm is matched by his knowledge and creativity. Highly recommended.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Blokoe_Geo
  • 2014-05-01

Utterly Fantastic

Where does The Origin and Evolution of Earth rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

By far the best. As a professional geologist I was amazed at how accessible he made some of the more difficult concepts of geology. He also demonstrated very clearly the two-way relationship that the geosphere and biosphere have with each other. Make no mistake, this is a long book, but definitely worth it.

Any additional comments?

From this single lecture series, you will have a very strong fundamental understanding of the physics of the early universe, stellar formation, the formation and evolution of the Earth's geology and geologic processes, and a good foundation of biological evolution. I read a lot of popular science magazines and books and there is not a single location where an educated layman could possible leave with so many concepts wound neatly together from various disciplines. It is masterful.

37 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Aslak
  • 2016-07-24

"I know geology!"

This audiobook exemplified "Don't judge a book by it's cover". I bought it in a bit of hurry and only read the title. Had I read the description I would have never bought it.

Let me explain.

Like many people I think geology and rocks are boring. Thus a description of a book telling me it is the main focus of the content would instantly make it a "nah, I'll pass". But that, in this case, would have been a monumental mistake.

The first third of the book is indeed a little rocky, it is basically a crash-course in geology and mineralogy told via the evolution of earth pre-life. This would normally put me off in a major way, and I frequently considered just putting the book down and storing it away under "Mis-guided purchases".

After the crash-course, when I had learned enough to actually begin to see the connections to "real life" and the grander mechanisms, when I had the large picture put together, I was increasingly happy about sticking with the book. I felt very much like Neo from the matrix waking up knowing kung-fu. And the last 2/3 of the book were a tie-in of geology to biology, somewhat persuasive to someone like me who had not really considered it before.

Never judge a book by it's cover. I bought this book intending and hoping to learn about the evolution of life. And I did, very much so. Thoroughly and from beginning to recent times. But more-so I learned about the canvas that life used to evolve. Earth. And THAT was a lesson I had neither expected nor knew I needed.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard
  • Randburg, South Africa
  • 2014-03-09

Absolutely loved it

On a subject that could be as dry as the very rocks he speaks about, the author brings this science alive and accessible to a lay audience. Each episode is fascinating and compelling and the delivery of the author is superb.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Pauline
  • 2014-10-24

Very Informative series,

Any additional comments?

While detailed, it was very interesting and keep me engaged. I highly recommended this course to anyone interest in the origins of earth

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda Bell
  • 2014-10-21

In depth & fasinating!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Oh, yea!He is brilliant & interesting.

What other book might you compare The Origin and Evolution of Earth to and why?

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey by Carl Sagan.

He makes the most complicated theories sound like a suspense book!

Have you listened to any of Professor Robert M. Hazen’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Nope, but next month I'll get his Origins of Life

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

His voice, his excitement throughout.

Any additional comments?

Fantastic!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2016-01-27

Dense, but flawed biology

The topic is dense but fascinating, and I am not being tested on mineral names, so I feel free to forget them. But early in the chapter on bio minerals he makes a huge mistake, and this is the only bit of the book I know enough about to spots flaws in, so it is a bit worrying. He seems to be an expert mineralogist, but he said he was talked out of taking biology in undergrad, and well.

While talking about the origins of eukaryotes, he starts waxing enthusiastically about the endosymbiosis theory of the origin of the nucleus, which he claims is almost universally accepted. This is not true. It isn't even a common minority opinion. Anyway, the nucleus holds the DNA and is an unlikely spot for endosymbiosis.

The two membrane bound organelles widely thought to be endosymbiotic in origin are mitochondria and chloroplasts.

And this isn't a small slip up; he goes on about the importance of the nucleus and of endosymbiosis repeatedly.

Anyway, that is a small slip up in his larger argument, but a worrying one

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Katey
  • 2015-04-26

Great lecturer

Hazen's expertise in and love for his subject were clearly evident in these lectures. The subject matter was very new to me and while I will need to listen a second time to fully grasp much of the nuance of the concepts, I never thought I would find geology so interesting. I plan to seek out his "Origins of Life" course next. I highly recommend this course.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 2014-02-02

Loved it

This is one course that makes me want to listen to more courses by Professor Hazen. While I don't subscribe to some models he explains, it provided me with an alternative possibility of the history of the Earth.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Kazuhiko
  • TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States
  • 2017-01-21

A great storyteller AND scientist

Many of the scientists who teach in The Great Courses series are not necessarily good speakers, but this professor is an exceptionally good storyteller. Many of the scientists in the series also talk about academic things that are not essential to the material, but not this professor. This made it easy for me to absorb the material.

When I was growing up, minerals and living organisms were taught separately in schools, with no teacher mentioning their connections. This book gave me totally different perspectives, and now the systems of earth makes a much better sense, and it does in the context of this universe. Knowing this has made me a much happier person. But knowing all of this, and understanding that how small the probability would be for an animal like human to figure out how the universe and earth evolved, I feel so sad that humans' activities can hasten their own end by accelerating climate change, before we understand more.

Towards the end of this, however, I felt that I have a bit different view about climate change than the author does. Yes, Earth will keep going without humans. Yes, the Sun may die in a couple of billion years and end us all. But what a precious period (for humans) we are living now, when we get to learn all of this. Why aren't we trying harder to make our civilizations last even a few hundred years longer? But I thank this professor for teaching this great class and making me feel this way.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful