Epic Of Evolution / Edition 1

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How did everything around us-the air, the land, the sea, and the stars-originate? What is the source of order, form, and structure characterizing all material things? These are just some of the grand scientific questions Eric J. Chaisson, author of the classic work Cosmic Dawn, explores in his enthralling and illuminating history of the universe. Explaining new discoveries and a range of cutting-edge ideas and theories, Chaisson provides a creative and coherent synthesis of current scientific thinking on the universe's beginnings. He takes us on a tour of the seven ages of the cosmos, from the formless era of radiation through the origins of human culture. Along the way he examines the development of the most microscopic and the most immense aspects of our universe and the complex ways in which they interact.

Drawing on recent breakthroughs in astrophysics and biochemistry, Chaisson discusses the contemporary scientific view that all objects-from quarks and quasars to microbes and the human mind-are interrelated. Researchers in all the natural sciences are beginning to identify an underlying pattern penetrating the fabric of existence-a sweepingly encompassing view of the formation, structure, and function of all objects in our multitudinous universe. Moreover, as Chaisson demonstrates, by deciphering the scenario of cosmic evolution, scientists can also determine how living organisms managed to inhabit the land, generate language, and create culture.

Epic of Evolution offers a stunning view of how various changes, operating across almost incomprehensible domains of space and nearly inconceivable stretches of time and through the evolutionary combination of necessity and chance, have given rise to our galaxy, our star, our planet, and ourselves.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Columbus Dispatch - Gary Budzak

In clear prose, Chaisson simplifies complex subjects.

Astronomy Now - Bill Barlow

A vivid picture... Even the most knowledgeable of readers can learn... This is one epic I can recommend without hesitation.

Northeastern Naturalist

A current and coherent exploration of ideas.


Greatly appealing for exuding the scientific spirit that asks not merely what things exist but why they exist.

Columbus Dispatch
In clear prose, Chaisson simplifies complex subjects.

— Gary Budzak

Astronomy Now
A vivid picture... Even the most knowledgeable of readers can learn... This is one epic I can recommend without hesitation.

— Bill Barlow

Science Books and Film

A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.

Science Books & Film

A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.

Publishers Weekly
Chaisson attempts to explain the origin of the universe and the evolution of everything in it, in nontechnical terms. With such a huge topic, it's hardly surprising that he paints with broad strokes and glosses over specifics. Nonetheless, his writing is clear and his overview will both educate and entertain the average reader. Chaisson (The Hubble Wars), head of the Wright Center for Science Education at Tufts, structures his book by following the chronology of change and development in the universe, beginning with the creation of atomic particles 15 billion years ago at the time of the Big Bang. Subsequent chapters describe the evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, chemical interactions, life and human culture. Chaisson does a good job of explaining two overarching concepts. First, "all ordered systems seen in nature differ not in kind but only in degree, namely, the degree of complexity." Second, he repeatedly and articulately describes the nature of the scientific method, demonstrating how science differs from other ways of understanding the world. Given the never-ending public controversy over evolution, this point is particularly appropriate for the generalist audience. Photos and illus. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231135610
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 500
  • Product dimensions: 1.11 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Chaisson holds research professorships in the departments of physics, astronomy, and education at Tufts University, where he directs the Wright Center for Science Education. He is the author of Cosmic Dawn: The Origins of Matter and Life; Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature; and several other titles. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Prologue : cosmological overview 1
1 Particle epoch : simplicity fleeting 47
2 Galactic epoch : hierarchy of structures 79
3 Stellar epoch : forges for elements 132
4 Planetary epoch : habitats for life 190
5 Chemical epoch : matter plus energy 248
6 Biological epoch : complexity sustained 298
7 Cultural epoch : intelligence to technology 369
Epilogue : a whole new era 433
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