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A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us [Hardcover]

Sidney Liebes , Elisabet Sahtouris , Brian Swimme
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Oct 1998
Imagine a walk where every step forward transports you a few million years in time. Just such a mind–expanding premise inspired this landmark book, developed from the acclaimed "Walk Through Time" exhibit on tour around the world.

Here, in one lavish volume, is the remarkable drama of the history of the universe and life on Earth. Travel from the furious blast of the Big Bang to the first pulse of life, and on through the rich pageant of life′s evolution from primordial microbes to the rise of Homo sapiens. Span 15 billion years to discover life′s greatest mysteries emerging. Over 130 beautiful four–color illustrations and an absorbing narrative highlight significant events and themes in Earth′s life story. The original exhibit itself is re–created as a timeline that runs throughout the book, pinpointing key stages in the evolutionary drama and where they fall in the vast sweep of time.

One result is a new appreciation of the rich complexity of the life processes of the planet aeons before the appearance of large–scale plants and animals. On the mile–long scale of the original "Walk," for example, microbial life appears 4,000 feet in the past and remains the sole life–form for most of the mile. Humans appear merely three feet ago. The last ice age concludes only one–tenth of an inch in the past, and the world′s population currently doubles each half a thousandth of an inch.

By relating life′s story according to the accurate timeline of evolution, A Walk Through Time highlights just what latecomers we humans are to Earth′s family of life, and showcases the surprising ingenuity and stamina of the microbial life that preceded us and still supports the life all around us. The book also reveals the stunning effects the human species has wrought in so short a span of time, precipitating what may become the largest species extinction in 65 million years.

All along the way, we are informed of the most important recent discoveries. We explore the exuberant creativity of microbial life–forms and learn about their surprisingly cosmopolitan lives, interconnected in a teeming web of symbiotic relationships described as the first World Wide Web of information exchange. We learn about the many mysteries being unraveled as we probe the code of DNA; how the universe coalesced into galaxies and planets; and how microscopic animals can survive in such superheated environments as deep–sea vents and deep inside the Earth. Most importantly, we learn that we can no longer perceive Earth as an inert lump of rock with an assembly of different life–forms, but must understand that our planet comprises one comprehensive, intricately woven life system.

Those who take this walk through time will gain a new understanding of the wondrous history of how life developed, a feeling of awe and inspiration for the complexity and beauty of the processes that have made life possible over billions of years, and a greater appreciation for the growing impact the human species is having on the future of all the myriad forms of life, including our own.

Imagine taking a walk where every step transports you a few million years through time! A Walk Through Time takes you on just such a journey. In addition to the informative main text, which tells the lively story of the evolution of life, the book contains the original text and illustrations of the acclaimed "Walk Through Time" exhibition on tour around the world. This innovative exhibition tells the story of life′s evolution in a mile–long walk highlighting the major developments.

In the book, the text of the exhibition runs along the bottom of the pages, along with a timeline to show how many millions of years have passed. Beautifully written and lavishly illustrated, A Walk Through Time allows you to both savor the astonishing story of life′s evolution through the engaging narrative of the main text and to enjoy the exhibition in the comfort of your own home.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (14 Oct 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471317004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471317005
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 18.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 948,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

Every step you take in A Walk Through Time moves you millions of years forward in Earth's history. Inspired by the idea of a one-mile stroll through the evolution of life, Sidney Liebes recruited some terrific writers and artists to create a travelling museum exhibit; A Walk Through Time summarises the experience in book form, with the help of fascinating photos and intelligent, enjoyable text. The most profound realisation along this temporal journey is just how small a part human history plays in the big time line. In the museum exhibit, where one foot equals one million years, human presence takes up all of one-thousandth of an inch; in the book's time line, we merit barely a speck. Our tiniest living fellows--the bacteria and blue-green algae, the amazing arthropods, the merging microbes--are the real stars of the show. Readers are treated to intriguing views of bizarre organisms like tardigrades, velvet worms, and lichens ("Taking everything we know about algae and fungi, we still never would have predicted the outcome of their synergy"), along with the microbes that once ruled the earth. Only at the very end of the line, long after the development of sexual reproduction, after the great Cretaceous extinction, after the development of flight and fur, will you find humans. Taking this walk is a great lesson in perspective, a cautionary tale about hubris and longevity that every human should read. --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com

From the Publisher

Advance praise for _A Walk Through Time_:
"A valuable new way to conceive of the immensity of geologic time and of organic evolution that has occurred within it and life on Earth. It has broad appeal to the public and will be a useful guide for educators as well." --E. O. Wilson

"My _Walk Through Time_ was an unforgettable experience, awe inspiring and humbling... rich in scientific fact and, unexpectedly, exquisite humor." --Jane Goodall


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
There are many views of the origin of life, and diverse paths to experiencing awe, wonder, and gratitude for the universe and the gift of life. Read the first page
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Concordance
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Way to View Life's History 17 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Keith Cowing, Editor of the Astrobiology Web: I grew up in Meriden Connecticut in the 1960's, and like most boys, was fascinated by dinosaurs. Lucky for me, we lived an easy half hour drive from the Peabody Museum at Yale University. One of the most prominent features at the museum for half a century is a large mural by Rudolph F. Zallinger high above the Great Hall of Dinosaurs. This mural was often used in a number of Time-Life books (which I devoured) to depict the march of time and evolution of life. As such, this mural - and its linear format -long ago became fixed as the mental template with which I view and interpret the history of life on Earth. In the Summer of 1997 I had the opportunity to attend a Gordon Conference on the origin of life. One of the poster sessions featured a rather unusual presentation: a series of images describing the origin and evolution of life on Earth - from inorganic chemistry to humans. The pictures were arrayed in a linear fashion in the hallway outside the meeting room. This was a small version of Sid Liebes' wonderful 'Walk Through Time ... from stardust to us; A Five Billion Year Walk' exhibit. When implemented in its full-blown configuration (one mile long) one can spend a leisurly hour or so walking through time. Now Sid and his co-authors have managed to capture this exhibit in a book. 'A Walk Through Time' captures that exhibit in a portable format - with a text deftly designed to both teach the novice as well as entertain the seasoned biologist. Topics range from the formation of the very elements that compose our star, our planet, and ourselves through the formation of our solar system - and Earth. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
When I first picked up the book, I feared it would be no more than a long National Geographic article on the earth; a collection of semi tired aphorisms about the wonder of nature and the virtue of diversity, ideas which as yet have not inspired action from conviction. I wondered if yet another book, another long article with pictures on the nature's wonders would really matter. After all, what approach to extolling nature's majesty is not frayed with over use? Sermons on nature temporarily draw our minds into sharp focus then loose their hold on our individual and our cultural consciousness. After brief focus we quickly return to the casual, unconcerned, blind mode of stewardship as if the message of the wonder of nature was never thought nor said. What new could this book offer? Could this book tell the earth story differtly? Was reading still another thicket of pages with worn out words a waste of time? I decided to find out.
Written by a physicist, and a mathematically trained cosmologist and an evolutionary biologist I figured it may offer a new twist. After all, this earth we are so careless with is poorly treated because we poorly understand it. We poorly understand it because it is more complex than we can understand and comprehend. We see the creation as matter when it is system. Our religions have taught that creation was in the past, and the earth as static. Yet we know now that creation is perpetual and the earth a flux. Even modern minds see the earthly creation as the materialization of only one or a few of the many processes that have brought it and us to this hour. We are blind to the broad and majestic array of material and process which we call earth and which dances before us and within us.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The latest in evolution science made beautiful. 12 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
"A Walk Through Time" is a stunning tale of the history of the universe from the very beginnings to the present. Accompanied by photos and graphs on every page, I was able to see my own evolution and interconnections with all elements of the universe as never before. Particularly fascinating were explorations of how distinctions between animate and inanimate are blurring, and of how every aspect of Earth - soil, rock, water, and air are permeated and altered by living creatures. We are kin to all. With disturbing evidence, the book describes how humans are now precipitating what could become the greatest extinction of species in the last 65 million years and these effects threaten the diversity and stability of life for 10's of millions of years into the future. With detail and clarity, the book describes what science has recently discovered and where our understandings are incomplete. Like the planet itself, our story will continue to evolve. And the story told has the power to unite humanity in our commitment to the future.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Walk Through Time is a Treasure 25 Jan 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I find the book,A Walk Through Time to be a treasure. The beautiful illustrations depicting the evolution of life are compelling and instructional. We live in an age where story telling is now recognized as being vital to understanding. This book, in text and pictures, tells the most important story of all...our story. My first response after reading A Walk Through Time was that it must be shared with the school children. It will help teach the understanding of connectedness, something that has long been missing in many science classes. I suggest that anyone orderering a copy, order an extra one to donate to your local school. Jane Stavoe Mt Prospect, Illinois
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The interconnected web of existence 19 Jan 2000
By Dave Kinnear - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A Walk Through Time - From Stardust to Us - The evolution of Life on Earth.
A Walk Through Time (AWTT) is an incredibly well done book, from all aspects. The artwork and printing make it suitable for display and the content challenges us to re-think our position in the world and the decisions we are making.
The explanation of evolution is both plausible and understandable to the lay person. Yet the mystery of life is not diminished or hidden, so there is more than enough room for those who understand our existence through their love of God.
Beginning more than 5,000 MYA (5,000 Million Years Ago, or 5 Billion Years Ago) we are told, the "universe did indeed begin in an explosion of energy powerful enough to send all matter flying apart for billions of years into the future." From that starting point, AWTT traces with considerable detail the evolution of our living earth of which we are a part. And everywhere the mystery of "the life force" is to be found.
One can read the prose or follow the exhibition text along the bottom of the pages, or take in both to re-enforce what is being explained. Sidney Liebes managed to convince HP of the merits of creating a 1mile "walk through time." That project is staffed by volunteers and has been presented in a dozen venues in three countries. The "exhibition text" mentioned above is from that project.
The final paragraph of the book summarizes the challenge for our existence in this totally interconnected web of life. "Is it possible that a sense of awe, wonder and humility, of origins, place, possibilities, and recovery of a belief in the sacredness of nature, can, and perhaps must, become operational imperatives in guiding humanity into the future? Rather than pondering the illusive purpose of life, can we not accept and appreciate the gift, live the life we are given, respect all life, and preserve options for the future. Though none of us has the power to control the future, each of us is free to determine how we will contribute to the circumstance out of which the future will evolve."
Perhaps the purpose of life is simply to ensure that life continues. Then there is much in this book to set us on the right path.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Way to View Life's History 17 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Keith Cowing, Editor of the Astrobiology Web: I grew up in Meriden Connecticut in the 1960's, and like most boys, was fascinated by dinosaurs. Lucky for me, we lived an easy half hour drive from the Peabody Museum at Yale University. One of the most prominent features at the museum for half a century is a large mural by Rudolph F. Zallinger high above the Great Hall of Dinosaurs. This mural was often used in a number of Time-Life books (which I devoured) to depict the march of time and evolution of life. As such, this mural - and its linear format -long ago became fixed as the mental template with which I view and interpret the history of life on Earth. In the Summer of 1997 I had the opportunity to attend a Gordon Conference on the origin of life. One of the poster sessions featured a rather unusual presentation: a series of images describing the origin and evolution of life on Earth - from inorganic chemistry to humans. The pictures were arrayed in a linear fashion in the hallway outside the meeting room. This was a small version of Sid Liebes' wonderful 'Walk Through Time ... from stardust to us; A Five Billion Year Walk' exhibit. When implemented in its full-blown configuration (one mile long) one can spend a leisurly hour or so walking through time. Now Sid and his co-authors have managed to capture this exhibit in a book. 'A Walk Through Time' captures that exhibit in a portable format - with a text deftly designed to both teach the novice as well as entertain the seasoned biologist. Topics range from the formation of the very elements that compose our star, our planet, and ourselves through the formation of our solar system - and Earth. As the book continues, it describes the deposition of the ingredients for life on Earth, life's appearance, diversification, and expansion across this planet - all in a sequential fashion. A chronological timeline on the bottom of each page helps callibrate your movement across time. When you put the book down, you're left with a clearer appreciation for how fast life appeared (as soon as it could), how long it remained in a relatively simple state, how fast evolutionary explosions could transform Earth's biota, and how infinitesimally small our own tenure on Earth truly is. Moreover, using this book to look at the world now and then back at our heritage, it also becomes clear that this planet is still overwelmingly populated by simple organisms similar to those which ruled the Earth for billions of years. Life is both innovative and conservative at the same time. If there was ever a book designed for an Astrobiology (or Biology) course for non-majors dealing with the origin, evolution, and distribution of life on this planet, this is it. Highly recommended.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The latest in evolution science made beautiful. 12 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"A Walk Through Time" is a stunning tale of the history of the universe from the very beginnings to the present. Accompanied by photos and graphs on every page, I was able to see my own evolution and interconnections with all elements of the universe as never before. Particularly fascinating were explorations of how distinctions between animate and inanimate are blurring, and of how every aspect of Earth - soil, rock, water, and air are permeated and altered by living creatures. We are kin to all. With disturbing evidence, the book describes how humans are now precipitating what could become the greatest extinction of species in the last 65 million years and these effects threaten the diversity and stability of life for 10's of millions of years into the future. With detail and clarity, the book describes what science has recently discovered and where our understandings are incomplete. Like the planet itself, our story will continue to evolve. And the story told has the power to unite humanity in our commitment to the future.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting dance through time. 15 Jan 2001
By Keith A. Chandler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I never had the opportunity to see the "Walk Through Time" exhibition, initiated by Sidney Liebes and supported by Hewlett-Packard, but it must have been a marvelous experience. What rivets my attention in this book, however, even more than the beautiful pictures of the exhibit, is the text written by Elisabet Sahtouris, who expresses her own "cosmovision" with an incomparable eloquence and vitality. While her words are grounded solidly in the most advanced theoretical and empirical evolutionary science, she takes the reader not on a walk but an exciting dance through time. If I were asked to recommend just one book that best told the story of how the universe conspired to bring us into being this would be it. It's a real "roots" story but the roots are not merely those of a particular individual or family or species but of all life, reaching back to the point where time itself loses meaning.
Keith Chandler, author of Beyond Civilization
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Walk Through Time is a Treasure 25 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I find the book,A Walk Through Time to be a treasure. The beautiful illustrations depicting the evolution of life are compelling and instructional. We live in an age where story telling is now recognized as being vital to understanding. This book, in text and pictures, tells the most important story of all...our story. My first response after reading A Walk Through Time was that it must be shared with the school children. It will help teach the understanding of connectedness, something that has long been missing in many science classes. I suggest that anyone orderering a copy, order an extra one to donate to your local school. Jane Stavoe Mt Prospect, Illinois
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