********** 10 Stars!
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From Publishers Weekly
Knoll, a paleontologist at Harvard, has spent most of his life examining and making sense of microscopic Precambrian fossils from around the world. In a book so well written that nonspecialists and specialists alike will find much to savor, he captures both the excitement of scientific discovery and the intricacies of scientific interpretation. He addresses two of the biggest questions of biology and paleontology-how did life begin and why was there an explosion of life forms at the start of the Cambrian Era. His evenhanded explanations draw heavily from the work he, his graduate students and his collaborators from around the world have performed. Unlike other recent offerings (e.g., Snowball Earth by Gabrielle Walker and In the Blink of an Eye by Andrew Parker), Knoll is not uncomfortable with taking a middle ground, claiming that conclusive answers are not yet within our grasp. He constructs a case for the importance of "permissive ecology," a situation in which "life and environment evolved together, each influencing the other in building the biosphere we inhabit today." Recognizing that his view is neither as flashy nor as controversial as others, he says, "The absence of a definitive punch line may disappoint some readers, but as a paleontologist, it is why I get up in the morning. For scientists, unanswered questions are like Everest unclimbed, an irresistible lure for restless minds." Readers interested in substance will certainly not be disappointed. 33 color illus., 25 b&w photos, 47 line illus. FYI: Knoll has been chosen by CNN and Time magazine as "America's Best" paleontologist.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
[Knoll] captures both the excitement of scientific discovery and the intricacies of scientific interpretation.
Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty.
The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how the biological diversity that surrounds us came to be. Moving from Siberia to Namibia to the Bahamas, Knoll shows how life and environment have evolved together through Earth's history. Innovations in biology have helped shape our air and oceans, and, just as surely, environmental change has influenced the course of evolution, repeatedly closing off opportunities for some species while opening avenues for others.
Readers go into the field to confront fossils, enter the lab to discern the inner workings of cells, and alight on Mars to ask how our terrestrial experience can guide exploration for life beyond our planet. Along the way, Knoll brings us up-to-date on some of science's hottest questions, from the oldest fossils and claims of life beyond the Earth to the hypothesis of global glaciation and Knoll's own unifying concept of ''permissive ecology.''
In laying bare Earth's deepest biological roots, Life on a Young Planet helps us understand our own place in the universe--and our responsibility as stewards of a world four billion years in the making.