A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters by Dr. Henry Gee, a Review!

***Update***:
-Catch our interview with Dr. Henry Gee right here!
-The books debut date has been moved from the 2nd to the 9th.

Are you on Academia.edu? Check this article out for me on there, and participate in the discussions!

Dr. Henry Gee, a Senior Editor at the esteemed, and one of the oldest scientific journals in the world, Nature, is coming out with a new book! This book, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters, Is a wonderful telling of, well us, and everything you see around you, and how you got here.

In A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, Henry Gee zips through the last 4.6 billion years with infectious enthusiasm and intellectual rigor. Drawing on the very latest scientific understanding and writing in a clear, accessible style, he tells an enlightening tale of survival and persistence that illuminates the delicate balance within which life has always existed.

How we got here. Understanding, and learning this is a key to understanding where we are today, and where we are going tomorrow.

The history of this planet, of Earth, in one book! While of course, with the vast amount of time that is covered, it is impossible to go into detail in just about anything, but the author maintains a well-paced timeline of important events that summarize just what is going on to our planet at the time. From the start of our galaxy to the end of our planet’s long and tenuous life, this book covers everything in a well explained and honestly, just fun way. Reading this book is easy, aside from the names of all the unique species of animals discussed, but for those unfamiliar with scientific lingo if you break it down you start to see patterns and pick up on the names. This book was written for everyone in mind, and I think that Dr. Gee does a wonderful job at conveying all of this information. So, let’s get on with our review! 

To start the book, we begin with the start of it all. At least all that we know as we currently understand it, the Big Bang. Illustrated with words beautifully, the cosmos and how it works are explained eloquently and in a way that makes such ideas as physics and astronomy easy to understand. It brings the stars down to the readers and makes them feel the cosmic dust in their bones, or at least that’s how I felt! From there, we go through the physical formation of the Earth as a planet, from the molten rock that it started as, to the burning Hell hole that it was, as acid filled the air. To the start, finally, 3.4 bya, when life finally started. It started small, single-celled organisms in the seas, living off of the basic nutrients that were available. We follow their lives through the eons and epochs of earth’s history, once again guided by a voice that becomes all too familiar, and one feels that they are in a time machine, with a tour guide explaining all that you see before you. It is unlike any other book on this time period I have ever read, and I would suggest anyone who is looking for understanding the ideas of how Life in general began, this is a good place to start. 

Skipping ahead, we go through time, from one great extinction to another, and we learn of some of the fantastic beasts and creatures that lived in-between them. Their rise and fall. We discuss the dinosaurs, these amazing creatures, and how they evolved into the titans that they were. We explore ideas and continue on through time, viewing it all like a window passing by, we see the dinosaurs die. We see the world go through the tumult as it had never been through before. The asteroid that wiped the earth out, would be the key in setting up our deep ancestors for success, which eventually would lead to us. 

Bringing us to the third section that I have divided this book into, we see the rise of mammals, and other small creatures after the remnants of the dinosaurs’ ashes covered the Earth. And yet, as is the key idea that I believe this book is trying to convey, is Life found a way. Despite all of the challenges that it had faced up until that point, Life was able to continue, and find new ways to grow to extremes and diversify in ways it had never done before. Towards the end of the book, we finally come to where we come in, and what a small section there is about us. This is appropriate, for, in the grand scheme of geologic time, we have, to take a word from the title, left a pithy mark on this planet. From there, we go into the future, discussing how Humanity’s population will finally begin to drop in 2100, and how after a few tens of thousands of years after that, we will be extinct, like so many other organisms that have gone before us. 

If one continues to read, past the end of the book, and into the epilogue the tone changes, it is not all death and despair, and Dr. Gee even points out that he is only discussing life on THIS planet, not denying it could be found elsewhere, or that even we humans, despite how challenging may be able to find a habitable location elsewhere in this galaxy and beyond. I share a slightly more hopeful view, I think our species, as inventive as it is, will find a way, as it always has. For better or worse we are a species that is always on the edge, on the edge of immense technological power, or on the edge of complete destruction. When Humans are pushed to extreme lengths and life or death situations, as a species we seem to find a way. And I do not see that coming to an end any time soon. A (Very) Short History of Life non-Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters is an excellentbook I would recommend to all readers who find themselves interested in the history of Earth. From the extremely distant past and the start of life itself, to what may be our last battle on this planet, it is poignant and critical to understand where we are now, and why we have the challenges that we face today. In the scheme of things, we are a small blip, but as Dr. Gee says, and as is quoted in the book, this just makes it an even more convincing time to give life everything we have got. 

10/10

Once its available (it may be in your country already) tomorrow, be sure to grab a copy from your local book stores, or here on amazon and other book sellers!

Be sure to catch my interview with Dr. Henry Gee which comes out later this week! We will discuss the book, what its about, and some great topics! Its going to be great!

Thanks, as always, there is always more to learn!

Seth Chagi

Published by sethchagi

I am a Paleoanthropology Student, so far with two degrees, in Anthropology and Human Behavioral Science, pursuing my PhD. I love to read (like a lot) and write, I love my family, and I adore anthropology! Remember, never stop exploring and never stop learning! There is always more to learn!

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