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The Universe Within: The Deep History of the Human Body

4.3 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307473271
ISBN-10: 0307473279
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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Universe Within: The Deep History of the Human Body
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  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
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  • The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Walt Whitman yawped, “I contain multitudes,” and in Your Inner Fish (2008), Shubin confirmed him by demonstrating how the evolution of life on earth is inscribed in the human body. Now Shubin shows that all creation, from the big bang on, is packed in there, too. Hard to swallow? Well, ingestion had little to do with it. But analogize rocks and bodies, both of which bear “the signature of the great events that shaped them.” Shubin relates the discoveries of eight such events and their signatures. The big bang gave us the atoms of our bodies. The formation of the solar system, by allowing earth so much water, helped determine our size, shape, and functionality. The “big whack” that gouged the moon out of the earth established the rhythms of everything from days and months to each person’s sleep cycle and cell division. The manufacture of oxygen by single-celled creatures licensed the growth of bigger ones, such as ourselves, and also their aging. Plate tectonics set the limits of our habitation, from the womb to the Tibetan plateau. Catastrophes besides the moon-gouging shaped our innate adaptability. The global carbon cycle that enabled the ice ages colored our vision. Climate change molded our genes. In short, universal history made us what we are. Wow. --Ray Olson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“This book is, quite literally, cosmic: a profound story told with Shubin’s usual clarity and passion.”
     —Oliver Sacks, author of Hallucinations

 
“What is special about the book is its sweep, its scope, its panorama—how physics, biology, geology, chemistry, and seemingly every other science are brought to bear on the most intricate details of human life. . . . Shubin makes it all seem rather glorious.”
     —The Wall Street Journal
 
“An illuminating account of how life on earth is shaped by the rhythms of the cosmos. . . . [A] dazzling excursion into life, the universe, and everything.”
     —Times Literary Supplement

“A new, fresh way of telling the story of life, the universe and everything. . . . Shubin illuminate[s] the story of discovery in unexpected and hugely enjoyable ways.”
     —The Guardian (London)
 
“Shubin shows that all creation, from the big bang on, is packed in [the human body]. . . . In short, universal history made us what we are. Wow.”
     —Booklist (starred review)
 
 “Shubin illuminates, with a Carl Sagan–like clarity and elegance, the specifics behind the Joni Mitchell lyric ‘We are stardust.’”
     —Time Out Chicago
 
“Even those familiar with the basic underpinnings of how we evolved will find The Universe Within engaging. It is laced with Shubin’s own fossil-hunting adventures and filled with colorful tales of historical figures.”
     —Scientific American 
 
 “The Universe Within gives us an appreciation of how we are just small specks and small moments in time. But it also challenges us to take steps to protect our environment so our world can last a little longer.”
     —BookPage
 
“Shubin shares the findings of some of the great scientific specialists —as well as those of a few unsung heroes. But he also explains how a generalist’s appreciation of their work is still possible, simply by looking inside the human body.”
     —New Scientist
 
“An exhilarating ride through the workings of science and . . . a fascinating glimpse into the vast universe’s many constituents . . . To read The Universe Within is to arrive at all sorts of wonders.”
     —Book Browse  
 
“Wonderful . . . We need writers [like Shubin] who can make deeper connections between people and the natural world around them, as well as showing how that interrelatedness has played out over the deep time of geology.”
     —The Seattle Times
 
 “A volume of truly inspired science writing . . . Shubin deftly balances breadth and depth in his search for a ‘sublimely beautiful truth.’”
     —Publishers Weekly
 
“Engrossing . . . An intelligent, eloquent account of our relations with the inanimate universe.”
     —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307473279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307473271
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

NEIL SHUBIN is provost of The Field Museum as well as a professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago, where he also serves as an associate dean. Educated at Columbia, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley, he lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book covers a lot of ground, starting with the Big Bang and going through the history of life on Earth. Although much of the material may have been written about before, the author has an original slant that makes the narrative quite fascinating.

Neil Shubin sees our bodies as time capsules that carry the signature of great cosmic and earthly events. For example, written inside us is the birth of the stars. Certain elements in our bodies derive from supernovae. Certain of our organs are shaped by the workings of planets and the action of seas. The particles that make us have traveled billions of years across the universe and will be part of other worlds when Earth is gone...

All this is very appealing, and made me feel very much a citizen of the universe.

The narrative is occasionally interrupted by scenes of Shubin fossil hunting and rock gathering in the Arctic. This is a nice personal touch. And because Shubin is himself fossil hunter, he understands the passion of scientists. The book is full of tales of major scientific discoveries. What I particularly liked was the emphasis on the inspired individuals behind the discoveries, like the self-taught naturalist who went bankrupt mapping the geology of Britain, or the behind-the-scenes woman data analyst who first noticed that the ocean floor was expanding.

Shubin shows how lunatic-fringe ideas eventually became proven scientific fact, and discredited visionaries died, only to have their ideas "discovered" more successfully generations later. This is a lot of fun.

I'm writing this review from the point of view of someone woefully ignorant of science. For me, it was a great way to catch up on what's been transpiring in the universe for the last 13.7 billion years. And learn what the future may hold.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is probably best characterized as a broad overview of how the Earth, and life on earth, arrived as its current state. Like his previous 'inner fish' book, Shubin emphsizes how life as we know it has been shaped by the physical and chemical nature of the changes from the big bang to now. The really great thing about his earlier book is that it provides deep insight into the evidence of evolution... basically how higher life forms must carry evidence of their heritage from lower life forms. And in this book why life depends on the creation of heavier elements than those found in the early universe, and conditions on a changing Earth.

The broader scope of this book reduces the depth of coverage, and frankly depth is not possible in a book of such limited page count. The science is descriptive only and suitable for an audience looking for an 'entry level' overview of the subject. Any one with a serious interest in science will feel a bit let down. It's like trying to summarizes the plays of Shakespeare in a single performance.

On the other hand, the end notes provide references to excellent books on the subject matter of each chapter... books that provide greater depth that will satisfy the more academically inclined. I've read most of them and they are indeed well chosen. Since the few illustration in this book are all black and white, it seems perfect for the Kindle reader.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brilliantly evoking the spirit of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos", eminent vertebrate paleobiologist and evolutionary developmental biologist Neil Shubin has written the most succinct introductory overview I have read of the history of life on Earth and how it has been influenced by Earth's geological history and even, the history of the cosmos, in his long-awaited follow-up to "Your Inner Fish", "The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets and People". This is a book which belongs on the shelves of anyone professing even a vague interest in science, conveying the wonder and excitement of science from the author's unique perspective as an eminent evolutionary biologist. Shubin emphasizes the importance of scientific discovery through asking the right questions and taking, all too often, the risk of connecting the dots in order to explain what may be originally quite inexplicable, interspersing his own autobiographical trajectory as an accomplished field paleobiologist with the careers of scientists in fields as diverse as astrophysics and geology across the vast depths of historical time. What Newton said in attributing his scientific success for being able to "stand on the shoulders of giants", is a perspective that is demonstrated repeatedly in Shubin's terse tome, of which the most noteworthy example (Chapter Six "Connecting the Dots") is the development of the theory of plate tectonics from meteorologist Alfred Wegner's vague concept of continental drift to geophysicist J.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People by Neil Shubin

"The Universe Within" is a fun journey to what connects us to the cosmos. Professor Shubin the author of the best-selling "Your Inner Fish" provides readers with a wonderful and accessible book that connects the dots to our human origins. Using his background in paleontology and the converging knowledge from biology and physics; we end up with an enjoyable instructive book that is perfect for the layperson. This 240-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1.Rocking Our World, 2. Blasts from the Past, 3. Lucky Stars, 4. About Time, 5. The Ascent of Big, 6. Connecting the Dots, 7. Kings of the Hill, 8. Fever and Chills, 9. Cold Facts, and 10. Mothers of Invention.

Positives:
1. Great science writing. Professor Shubin is an excellent author who is able to convey the main points to a general audience.
2. Well-researched and engaging book. This book covers many areas of science with ease, from the big bang until the present.
3. Professor Shubin shares his firsthand adventures with readers which make for an enjoyable read.
4. Great use of illustrations, maps and photos that add value to book.
5. The main idea of this book, made plainly clear, "All the galaxies in the cosmos, like every creature on the planet, and every atom, molecule, and body on Earth are deeply connected. That connection begins at a single point 13.7 billion years ago".
6. Good explanation of how rocks tie us to the past.
7. Many great stories of scientists behind important discoveries.
8. The importance of properties of light. How chemistry evolved.
9.
Read more ›
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