Origin Story (a Big History of Everything)

With some solemnity, we’re told life is built from billions of intricate molecular nanomachines.

Once you get your noodle around this, David Christian rather pleasingly touches on our acceptance of climate change, why our planet above it and within in its gaseous atmospheres is apparently withering from the greenhouse effect.

We learn when the Earth was young, the sun emitted 30 per cent less energy than today.

Greenhouse levels of levels of gases – water vapours, methane and carbon dioxide – belched up through a mantle through volcanoes or were ferried in by asteroids.

At least that’s how Christian has quoted the famous astronomer, Carl Sagan.

The conclusion then to be drawn is if the sun emitted 30 per cent less energy then, how much is now getting through with the thinning patina of gases in Earth’s atmosphere?

One theory is that something called Gaia, writes Christian, is regulatory and was keeping Earth ‘life-friendly’, in other words a sort of thermostat.

This is but one small segment of a big history to quote the sub-title. Humans have become astonishingly diverse, the author says, and we are more homogenous than our closest relative-primates, which are facing extinction, just as homo sapiens asserted authority over Neanderthal Man.

We learn the human brain uses 16 per cent of available energy, though accounting for 2 per cent of the body’s mass. In general, evolution opts for more brawn and less brain.

Relatively to body size, primates have larger brains than whales and elephants. Primates therefore are able to assimilate and are better at utilising knowledge about their surrounds. An exceptional read.

Origin Story (a Big History of Everything). By David Christian - Hbk £20.00

-Phil Campbell (Guest Reviewer)

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