The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People
by Neil Shubin
Pantheon Books, 2013 (($25.95))
Biologist Shubin's grand tour of human origins goes beyond the well-worn Carl Sagan line, “We're made of star stuff.” Shubin, whose last best seller discussed how humans evolved from fish, focuses on our molecular composition as it relates to Earth and the cosmos: our bodies are mostly hydrogen, which formed during the big bang; carbon came from the fusion reactions inside stars; algae most likely gave rise to the oxygen we breathe. 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, such as Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered a way to measure a star's distance from Earth, and Galileo's lesser-known writings on how gravity dictates an organism's shape.