The Story of Earth The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 4/26/2012
  • Publisher: Viking Adult

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Earth evolves. From first atom to molecule, mineral to magma, granite crust to single cell to verdant living landscape, ours is a planet constantly in flux. In this radical new approach to Earth's biography, senior Carnegie Institution researcher and national bestselling author Robert M. Hazen reveals how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere-of rocks and living matter-has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos. With an astrobiologist's imagination, a historian's perspective, and a naturalist's passion for the ground beneath our feet, Hazen explains how changes on an atomic level translate into dramatic shifts in Earth's makeup over its 4.567 billion year existence. He calls upon a flurry of recent discoveries to portray our planet's many iterations in vivid detail-from its fast-rotating infancy when the Sun rose every five hours and the Moon filled 250 times more sky than it does now, to its sea-bathed youth before the first continents arose; from the Great Oxidation Event that turned the land red, to the globe-altering volcanism that may have been the true killer of the dinosaurs. Through Hazen's theory of "co-evolution," we learn how reactions between organic molecules and rock crystals may have generated Earth's first organisms, which in turn are responsible for more than two-thirds of the mineral varieties on the planet-thousands of different kinds of crystals that could not exist in a nonliving world. The Story of Earth is also the story of the pioneering men and women behind the sciences. Readers will meet black-market meteorite hawkers of the Sahara Desert, the gun-toting Feds who guarded the Apollo missions' lunar dust, and the World War II Navy officer whose super-pressurized "bomb"-recycled from military hardware-first simulated the molten rock of Earth's mantle. As a mentor to a new generation of scientists, Hazen introduces the intrepid young explorers whose dispatches from Earth's harshest landscapes will revolutionize geology. Celebrated by the New York Times for writing "with wonderful clarity about science . . . that effortlessly teaches as it zips along," Hazen proves a brilliant and entertaining guide on this grand tour of our planet inside and out. Lucid, controversial, and intellectually bracing, The Story of Earth is popular science of the highest order.

Author Biography

Robert M. Hazen is the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University and a Senior Scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory. The author of numerous books—including the bestselling Science Matters—Hazen lives with his wife in Glen Echo, Maryland.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Birth The Formation of Earthp. 7
The Big Thwack The Formation of the Moonp. 31
Black Earth The First Basalt Crustp. 53
Blue Earth The Formation of the Oceansp. 77
Gray Earth The First Granite Crustp. 102
Living Earth The Origins of Lifep. 127
Red Earth Photosynthesis and the Great Oxidation Eventp. 154
The "Boring" Billion The Mineral Revolutionp. 181
White Earth The Snowball-Hothouse Cyclep. 206
Green Earth The Rise of the Terrestrial Biospherep. 232
The Future Scenarios of a Changing Planetp. 257
Epiloguep. 281
Acknowledgmentsp. 285
Indexp. 280
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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