Sunday, October 23, 2022

Earth Centrism - A Student's Bibliographic Resource - (2/2)

Appreciating Earth’s Evolutionary Pageant and Our Animal Nature

Students Resource Bibliography

©2022 Citizenschallenge

The previous post is my summary of an “Earth Centrist” outlook on life and our human condition, a perspective that acknowledges Earth as our fundamental touchstone with reality.  

This Earth Centrist's perspective can’t be attained by reading a description of it - unless it already resonates within you thanks to your own previous inquiry and inclination.  That's because each of us must engage in our own learning effort.  

That is, living your moment and doing the homework and drawing your own conclusions from the evidence you’ve been able to gather.  Your deeper understanding emerges out of your own efforts. 

Since I’m no scholar, I’ve done my learning by way of some wonderful science communicators, mostly real scientists giving lectures via YouTube along with writing articles and books, with a few talented writers and science documentarians in the mix.   

I’ve put together a bibliographic list of my favorites, and of course, it's geared to the intelligent high schooler or early college student, and for other informed enthusiasts such as myself.  It follows a natural progression from matter forming followed by mineral evolution & our planet evolving a "global heat and moisture distribution engine," to geology and biology combining forces, on to the mysteries of complex dynamic living creatures.  Then on to the greatest show on Earth with life's collective consciousness spectrum.  

Since my bandwidth is limited by my crowded day to days filled with other obligations, I'm sure I’m missing many awesome gems.  So please do share should you believe you know of some presentations worth adding to this collection.

Featuring:  Sean Carrol, NOVA/NASA, Robert Hazen, Robert RohdeRichard AlleyNick Lane, David QualmenCarl Woese, Lynn Margulis, Tsutomu Wantanabe, Angela Hessler, Svante Pääbo, Mark Solms, Antonio Damasio, Susan Greenfield, Jim Al-Khalili.  Finishing with introductions to David Attenborough’s incomparable tour of the evolution of Earth’s living creatures: "Life on Earth", and James L. Sadd’s wonderful introduction to the fundamentals of geology: "Earth Revealed."

I've found my first addition to this list in an amazing lecture by Mike Levin"Non-neural, developmental bio-electricity as a precursor for cognition" it adds a new dimension of insights into the evolution of consciousness and mind, that fits right into my overall theme of Earth's pageant of evolution. 
Another must addition to this list, was written by professor and historian of science and technology James Poskett: "Horizons: The Origins of Modern Science.  In it Poskett "recasts the history of science, uncovering the vital contributions of scientists the world over to what is truly a global story."  The first couple chapters are down right thrilling, with the book then settling into an enthralling exposition of facts and enlightening surprises.  A must read, if the history of human curiosity and development of science is your thing.

© 2022 Citizenschallenge

Mysteries of Modern Physics by Sean Carroll

Darwin College Lecture Series (January 29, 2020) m/watch?v=rBpR0LBsUfM

Sean Carroll series: The Biggest Ideas in the Universe

Sean Carroll (March 19, 2020)


Earth From Space - NOVA / NASA (February, 2013)

Natural World (July 15, 2014)

The groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth.


Evolution of Minerals on Earth

Robert Hazen

Mineral evolution posits that the mineralogy of terrestrial planets and moons evolves as a consequence of varied physical, chemical, and biological processes that lead to the formation of new mineral species. The novelty of mineral evolution is epitomized by the new questions it raises about the history of mineralogy. ...

We concluded that the first mineral was diamond—pure carbon condensed from the expanding atmospheres of energetic stars. Approximately a dozen “ur-minerals,” including nitrides, carbides, oxides, and silicates, condensed as micro-crystals at temperatures greater than 1500°C. The central question of mineral evolution is thus how a dozen phases with 10 essential elements were transformed to the >5000 minerals with 72 essential elements we see today. …

… A principal conclusion of mineral evolution is that sequential stages of mineral evolution arise from three primary mechanisms: (1) the progressive separation and concentration of the elements from their original relatively uniform distribution in the presolar nebula; (2) the increase in range of intensive variables such as pressure, temperature, and the activities of H2O, CO2, and O2; and (3) the generation of far-from-equilibrium conditions by living systems. The sequential evolution of Earth’s mineralogy from chondritic simplicity to Phanerozoic complexity introduces the dimension of geologic time to mineralogy and thus provides a dynamic alternate approach to framing, and to teaching, the mineral sciences. …


The Emergence of Life on Earth - Robert Hazen

UCTVSeminars (Mar 15, 2012)

The Story of Earth: How Life and Rocks Co-Evolved

Robert Hazen, Carnegie Science (July 29, 2014)

Mineral Evolution and Ecology and the Co-evolution of Life and Rocks

Robert Hazen, Simons Foundation (March 11, 2015) 



Carnegie Science, The Deep Carbon Project, Robert Hazen

Symphony in C: Carbon & the Evolution of (Almost) Everything

Principal Investigator and Executive Director of the Deep Carbon Observatory, Robert M. Hazen, has crafted a delightful exploration of carbon.

W.W. Norton & Company, June 2019

Hazen, both a scientist and musician, uses his knowledge of musical compositions as a muse to explain the complexities of carbon and why it is so important to life on Earth. Symphony in C in segmented into four movements, each of which explores carbon’s multi-faceted characteristics, as epitomized by the classical elements of the ancients—Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. 

The Deep Carbon Project - Ninety percent of Earth’s carbon resides inside the planet, yet we are only just beginning to understand the many ways deep carbon impacts the oceans, atmosphere, and life at the surface.

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global community of more than 1000 scientists on a ten-year quest to understand the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in Earth.


“Earth’s Carbon Cycle” - Robert Rohde PhD

Robert Rohde - May 22, 2019


"The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Climate History"  R. Alley

Dan Moutal  (December 10, 2012)

Richard Alley - 4.6 Billion Years of Earth’s Climate History: The Role of CO2  

National Academy of Sciences (June 1, 2015)

Origins and The Vital Question

Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life

by Nick Lane (2015)

Origin of the eukaryotic cell

MoleCluesTV  (June 27, 2017)

How Energy Flow Shapes The Evolution of Life

Gresham College  (February 14, 2018)

Energy and Matter at the Origin of Life

Cambridge SciSoc (November 23, 2021)

How the Krebs cycle powers life and death

The Royal Institution  (August 4, 2022)

Mindscape 198 | Nick Lane on Powering Biology

Sean Carroll (May 23, 2022)


The Tangled Tree

A Radical New History of Life

By David Quammen, Simon & Schuster (2018)

In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field—the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level—is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important; we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived sideways by viral infection—a type of HGT.

In The Tangled Tree, “the grandest tale in biology….David Quammen presents the science—and the scientists involved—with patience, candor, and flair” (Nature). We learn about the major players, such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about “mosaic” creatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health.

The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB)

Carl Woese. (1928–2012) Nature, a remembrance.

The Man Who Rewrote the Tree of Life - Carrie Arnold , April 30, 2014

Carl Woese may be the greatest scientist you've never heard of. A physicist-turned-microbiologist, he studied the molecules of life—nucleic acids—but his ambitions were hardly microscopic. He created a new family tree of all life on Earth. 


Lynn Margulis (1938–2011) Nature, a remembrance

Symbiosis and cell evolution: Lynn Margulis and the origin of eukaryotes

by Antonio Lazcano, The Conversation, November 23, 2017

American biologist Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) devoted most of her professional life to demonstrate that it is in fact a pervasive mechanism uniting what would otherwise would appear as isolated biological species and lineages. Starting with her seminal assay, "On the origin of mitosing cells," published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology in 1967 (authored as Lynn Sagan), her lifelong work on eukaryogenesis and the role of symbiosis in evolution stands as a valid and authoritative contribution to science.

Lynn Margulis and the endosymbiont hypothesis: 50 years later

Molecular Biology of the CellVol. 28, No. 10, Retrospective - Conversation  : Life

Lynn Margulis 1938-2011 "Gaia Is A Tough Bitch"

MIT Press, Books by Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis (1938–2011) was Distinguished Professor of Botany at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. An evolutionary theorist and biologist, science author, and educator, Margulis was the modern originator of the symbiotic theory of cell evolution. Once considered heresy, her ideas are now part of the microbiological revolution.


Infectious Drug Resistance

By Tsutomu Watanabe, Scientific American, December 1, 1967

Bacteria can suddenly become resistant to several antibacterial drugs. The resistance is transferred from one strain to another by an "episome" that carries the genes for multiple resistance.


Tsutomu Watanabe 

Bacteriol Rev. 1963 Mar; 27(1): 87–115.

doi: 10.1128/br.27.1.87-115.1963

Resistant Bacteria Pose A New Danger

The New York Times, Oct. 18, 1970, Section E, Page 8

“Dr. Tsutomu Watanabe, of Tokyo's Keio University School of Medicine, and a pioneer in the area of drug‐resistant bacteria, is one of the scientists who felt there might be real danger.”


Evolution Matters: David Quammen and Carl Zimmer

Harvard Museum of Natural History (May 22, 2019)

Nobel prize: Svante Pääbo’s ancient DNA discoveries offer clues as to what makes us human

Love Dalén & Anders Götherström,,  October 3, 2022

Archaic Genomics -Dr. Svante Pääbo

National Human Genome Research Institute  (Apr 2, 2014)

A Neanderthal Perspective on Human Origins with Svante Pääbo - 2018

University of California Television (UCTV) (October 20, 2018)

Dr. Svante Pääbo - An Ancient DNA View of Human Origins

JapanPrize  (April 17, 2022)


Mark Solms PhD is a psychoanalyst and neuropsychologist.

Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute & …

Dr. Solms holds the position of Chair of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital (Departments of Psychology and Neurology) and is the President of the South African Psychoanalytical Association. He is also Research Chair of the International Psychoanalytical Association.

Dr. Solms founded the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society in 2000 and was a Founding Editor (with Ed Nersessian) of the journal Neuropsychoanalysis. He is Director of the Arnold Pfeffer Center for Neuropsychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, a Trustee of the Neuropsychoanalysis Fund in London, and Director of the Neuropsychoanalysis Trust in Cape Town.

Dr. Solms’ Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis can be viewed here.

I’ve written three posts focused on Dr. Mark Solms, so I’ll include those:

(6.01)  Dr. Mark Solms demystifies Chalmers' "Hard Problem" of Consciousness.

(6.02)  The Other Side of Mark Solms PhD, farmer, vintner, humanitarian.

(6.03)  Students’ Resource: A representative cross-section of Dr. Mark Solms' scientific publications.

Google Scholar, Mark Solms

Books by Mark Solms


Mark Solms, PhD: The Animal Within Us

St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute/The Schiele Clinic (October 28, 2015)

Mark Solms: A New Approach to the Hard Problem of Consciousness

NERV Online (Jul 29, 2020)

The Source of Consciousness - with Mark Solms

The Royal Institution (March 4, 2021)

What Do Our Brains Do When We're Dreaming?- with Mark Solms

The Royal Institution (Jul 22, 2021)

Consciousness and the Mind Body Connection – Professor Mark Solms

The Weekend University (March 25, 2022)


Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain 

by Antonio Damasio (2012)

The Whispering Mind: The Enduring Conundrum of Consciousness 

World Science Festival (January 24, 2014)

Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain

Microsoft Research (September 7, 2016)

Antonio Damasio & Dan Siegel - Mind, Consciousness, the Body, and Relationships

BrainMind Summit (April 7, 2020)

Antonio Damasio, "Feeling & Knowing: Making Minds Conscious”

Harvard Science Book Talks and Research Lectures (Jan 28, 2022)


The Neuroscience of Consciousness - Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE

The University of Melbourne, (November 28, 2012)

The House of Wisdom

How Arabic science saved ancient knowledge and gave us the renaissance

By Jim Al-Khalili (2012)


About the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, people with print disabilities, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.

We began in 1996 by archiving the Internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral - but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it. Today we have 25+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine and we work with 950+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.


Memories, an appreciation of science (March 13, 2015)


The following focuses on our global climate engine, a key to making our planet livable to begin with:

January 6, 2016

{1} Our Global Heat and Moisture Distribution Engine

January 9, 2016

{2} Co-evolution of Minerals and Life | Dr Robert Hazen

January 14, 2016

{3} Evolution of Carbon and our biosphere - Professor Hazen focuses on the element Carbon

January 23, 2016

{4} Evolution-Considering Deep Time and a Couple Big Breaks

February 6, 2016

{5a} The Most Beautiful Graph on Earth - A. Hessler

February 7, 2016

{5b} Earth's Earliest Climate - By Angela Hessler

February 14, 2016

{6} Evolution of Earth's Atmosphere - easy version

February 18, 2016

{7} Our Global Heat and Moisture Distribution Engine, visualized

February 19, 2016

{8} Atmospheric Insulation Explained - appreciating our climate engine

Life on Earth: A Natural History by David Attenborough

According to WIKI: Life on Earth: A Natural History by David Attenborough is a British television natural history series made by the BBC in association with Warner Bros. Television and Reiner Moritz Productions. It was transmitted in the UK from 16 January 1979.

During the course of the series presenter David Attenborough, following the format established by Kenneth Clark's Civilisation and Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man (both series which he designed and produced as director of BBC2), travels the globe in order to trace the story of the evolution of life on the planet. Like the earlier series, it was divided into 13 programmes (each of around 55 minutes' duration). The executive producer was Christopher Parsons and the music was composed by Edward Williams.

Highly acclaimed, it is the first in Attenborough's Life series of programmes and was followed by The Living Planet (1984). It established Attenborough as not only the foremost television naturalist, but also an iconic figure in British cultural life.


1)  ”The Infinite Variety” January 16, 1979

The episode begins in the South American rainforest whose rich variety of life forms is used to illustrate the sheer number of different species. Since many are dependent on others for food or means of reproduction, David Attenborough argues that they could not all have appeared at once. He sets out to discover which came first, and the reasons for such diversity. He starts by explaining the theories of Charles Darwin and the process of natural selection, using the giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands (where Darwin voyaged on HMS Beagle) as an example. Fossils provide evidence of the earliest life, and Attenborough travels a vertical mile into the Grand Canyon in search of them. 

By the time he reaches the Colorado River bed, the geological strata are 2,000 million years old—yet there are no fossils. However, the "right rocks" are found on the shores of Lake Superior in Canada, where wafer-thin slices of flint, called chert, reveal filaments of primitive algae. Also, the micro-organisms that flourish at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming appear to be identical to the Earth's oldest fossils. 

The evolution of single-celled creatures, from simple cyanophytes to more complex ciliates, and then from multi-celled sponges and jellyfish to the many variations of coral and its associated polyps, is discussed in detail. The fossilised remains of jellyfish are shown within the Flinders Ranges of Australia, and are estimated to be 652 million years old.

#2)  "Building Bodies” January 23, 1979

The next programme explores the various sea-living invertebrates. In Morocco, the limestones are 600 million years old, and contain many invertebrate fossils. They fall broadly into three categories: shells, crinoids and segmented shells. 

The evolution of shelled creatures is demonstrated with the flatworm, which eventually changed its body shape when burrowing became a necessity for either food or safety. It then evolved shielded tentacles and the casings eventually enveloped the entire body: these creatures are the brachiopods. The most successful shelled animals are the molluscs, of which there are some 80,000 different species. Some are single-shelled such as the cowrie, while others are bivalves that include the scallop and the giant clam. One species that has remained unchanged for millions of years is the nautilus: it features flotation chambers within its shell, which in turn formed the basis for the ammonites

Crinoids are illustrated by sea lilies, starfish and sea urchins on the Great Barrier Reef. Segmented worms developed to enable sustained burrowing, and well-preserved fossils are found in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. These developed into trilobites and crustaceans, and the horseshoe crab is shown nesting in vast numbers on Delaware Bay. While the robber crab breeds in the sea, it is in all other respects a land animal and Attenborough uses it to exemplify the next evolutionary step.

#3)  "The First Forests" January 30, 1979

This installment examines the earliest land vegetation and insects. The first plants, being devoid of stems, mainly comprised mosses and liverworts. Using both sexual and asexual methods of reproduction, they proliferated. Descended from segmented sea creatures, millipedes were among the first to take advantage of such a habitat and were quickly followed by other species. Without water to carry eggs, bodily contact between the sexes was now necessary. 

This was problematical for some hunters, such as spiders and scorpions, who developed courtship rituals to ensure that the female didn't eat the male. Over time, the plants' cell walls strengthened and they grew taller. 

Ferns and horsetails were among the first such species. Insects then evolved wings to avoid climbing and the dragonfly (which once had a wingspan of 60 centimetres) is one of the most successful. The elaborate wingbeats of the damselfly are shown slowed down 120 times. 

Some plants, like the cycad enlisted the insects to transport pollen, while others, like the conifer, spread spores. Over a third of forests contain conifers and the giant sequoia of California is the largest living organism of any kind: it grows to a height of 112 metres. The conifer secretes resin to repair its trunk, and this survives as amber. Within it, insect specimens have been found that are 200 million years old. In fact, at this time, every insect known today was already in existence.

#4)  "The Swarming Hordes" 6 February 1979

This episode details the relationship between flowers and insects. There are some one million classified species of insect, and two or three times as many that are yet to be labelled. Around 300 million years ago, plants began to enlist insects to help with their reproduction, and they did so with flowers. 

Although the magnolia, for instance, contains male and female cells, pollination from another plant is preferable as it ensures greater variation and thus evolution. Flowers advertise themselves by either scent or display. Some evolved to produce sweet-smelling nectar and in turn, several insects developed their mouth parts into feeding tubes in order to reach it. However, to ensure that pollination occurs, some species—such as the orchid—have highly complicated mechanisms that must be negotiated first. Others, such as the yucca and its visiting moths, are dependent on one another. 

Hunters, such as the mantis, are camouflaged to match the flowers and leaves visited by their prey. Since an insect's skin is chitinous, it has to shed it periodically in order to grow, and the caterpillar, its chrysalis or cocoon and resulting butterfly or moth is one of the more complex examples. Termites, ants and some bees and wasps overcame any limitations of size by grouping together and forming superorganisms. The green tree ants of south-east Asia are shown to display the most extraordinary co-operation when building their nests.

#5)  "Conquest of the Waters"  February 13, 1979

This program looks at the evolution of fish. They have developed a multitude of shapes, sizes and methods of propulsion and navigation. The sea squirt, the lancelet and the lamprey are given as examples of the earliest, simplest types. Then, about 400 million years ago, the first backboned fish appeared. 

The Kimberley Ranges of Western Australia are, in fact, the remnants of a coral reef and the ancient seabed. There, Attenborough discovers fossils of the earliest fish to have developed jaws. These evolved into two shapes of creature with cartilaginous skeletons: wide ones (like rays and skates) and long ones (like sharks). However, it is the fully boned species that were most successful, and spread from the oceans to rivers and lakes. To adapt to these environments, they had by now acquired gills for breathing, a lateral line to detect movement and a swim bladder to aid buoyancy. 

Coral reefs contain the greatest variety of species, many of which are conspicuously coloured to ward off predators or attract mates. Their habitat, with its many hiding places within easy reach, allows them to remain so visible. However, the open ocean offers no such refuge, so there is safety in numbers—both hunters and hunted swim in shoals and have streamlined bodies for pursuit or escape. Most species that live below the thermocline, in the freezing depths of the ocean, have never been filmed, and these are largely represented by still photographs.

#6)  "Invasion of the Land" February 20, 1979

The next installment describes the move from water to land. The fish that did so may have been forced to because of drought, or chose to in search of food. Either way, they eventually evolved into amphibians. Such creatures needed two things: limbs for mobility and lungs to breathe. The coelacanth is shown as a fish with bony fins that could have developed into legs, and the lungfish is able to absorb gaseous oxygen

However, evidence of an animal that possessed both is presented in the 450-million-year-old fossilised remains of a fish called a eusthenopteron. Three groups of amphibians are explored. The caecilians have abandoned legs altogether to aid burrowing, newts and salamanders need to return to the water to allow their skins to breathe, but it is frogs and toads that have been the most successful. 

Attenborough handles a goliath frog, the largest of the species, to demonstrate its characteristics. Their webbed feet form parachutes that turn them into "dazzling athletes", and some can leap over 15 metres—100 times their body length. In addition, their vocal sacs ensure that mating calls can be heard from up to a mile away. 

Poison dart frogs deter predators by means of venom, and one such example could kill a human. Various methods of breeding are examined, including laying eggs in rivers, depositing them in other damp habitats for safety or, as with the Brazilian pipa, embedding them within the skin of the parent itself.

#7)  ”Victors of the Dry Land" February 27, 1979

This episode is devoted to the evolution of reptiles. They are not as restricted as their amphibian ancestors, since they can survive in the hottest climates. The reason is their scaly, practically watertight skin. The scales protect the body from wear and tear and in the case of some species of lizard, such as the Australian thorny devil, serve to protect from attack. 

The horned iguana from the West Indies is also one of the most heavily armoured. The skin is rich in pigment cells, which provide effective means of camouflage, and the chameleon is a well-known example. Temperature control is important to reptiles: they cannot generate body heat internally or sweat to keep cool. Therefore, they rely on the sun and areas of shade. The reptiles were the first vertebrates for whom internal fertilisation was essential, so they developed the watertight egg, which hatches fully formed young. The age of the dinosaurs is explored, and Attenborough surmises that it may have been climate change that led to their abrupt demise. Those that survived were water-dwellers, and the bull Nile crocodile is the largest reptile alive today. 

Snakes evolved when burrowing lizards lost their legs but returned above ground. The boa, puff adder and sidewinder demonstrate methods of locomotion, the egg-eating snake has an extreme example of a hinged jaw, and the lethal diamondback rattlesnake is described as the most efficient at despatching its prey.

#8)  "Lords of the Air" March 6, 1979

This program focuses on birds. The feather is key to everything that is crucial about a bird: it is both its aerofoil and its insulator. The earliest feathers were found on a fossilised Archaeopteryx skeleton in Bavaria. However, it had claws on its wings and there is only one species alive today that does so: the hoatzin, whose chicks possess them for about a week or so. Nevertheless, it serves to illustrate the probable movement of its ancestor. 

It may have taken to the trees to avoid predators, and over time, its bony, reptilian tail was replaced by feathers and its heavy jaw evolved into a keratin beak. Beaks come in a variety of shapes depending on a bird's feeding habits: examples given include the pouched bill of a pelican, the hooked beak of the vulture and the elongated mouth of the hummingbird

Attenborough hails the tern as one of the most graceful flyers and the albatross as a skilled glider. The swift is shown as one of the fastest: it can fly at 170 km/h. Birds communicate through display and/or song, and the elaborate courtship rituals of New Guinea's birds-of-paradise are shown. All birds lay eggs, and the range of different nesting sites and parenting skills is explored. 

Finally, Attenborough visits Gibraltar to observe migratory birds. These rely on thermals when flying overland and use height to conserve energy when crossing oceans. It is estimated that some 5,000 million southbound birds cross the Mediterranean Sea each autumn.

#9)  "The Rise of the Mammals" March 13, 1979

This installment is the first of several to concentrate on mammals. The platypus and the echidna are the only mammals that lay eggs (in much the same manner of reptiles), and it is from such animals that others in the group evolved. 

Since mammals have warm blood and most have dense fur, they can hunt at night when temperatures drop. It is for this reason that they became more successful than their reptile ancestors, who needed to heat themselves externally. Much of the program is devoted to marsupials (whose young are partially formed at birth) of which fossils have been found in the Americas dating back 60 million years. 

However, because of continental drift, this kind of mammal flourished in Australia. Examples shown include the quoll, the Tasmanian devil, the koala, the wombat and the largest marsupial, the red kangaroo. The thylacine was similar to a wolf but is now thought to be extinct. In 1969, bones of creatures such as a 3-metre-tall kangaroo and a ferocious marsupial lion were found in a cave in Naracoorte, South Australia. The reason for these animals' extinction is, once again, thought to be climate change

Finally, Attenborough describes the most prolific mammals—those that originated in the Northern Hemisphere and give birth to fully formed young. He states, "The placenta and the womb between them provide a degree of safety and a continuity of sustenance which is unparalleled in the animal world.”

#10)  ”Theme and Variations" March 20, 1979

This episode continues the study of mammals, and particularly those whose young gestate inside their bodies. Attenborough asks why these have become so varied and tries to discover the common theme that links them. Examples of primitive mammals that are still alive today include the treeshrew, the desman and the star-nosed mole. Insect eaters vary enormously from the aardvark, giant anteater and pangolin to those to which much of this programme is devoted: the bats, of which there are nearly 1,000 different species. These took to flying at night, and it is possible that they evolved from treeshrews that jumped from tree to tree, in much the same way as a flying squirrel. Most bats use sonar to hunt and navigate, and ultrasound to communicate. 

However, some of their prey, such as the lacewing and tiger moth, have developed techniques to confuse and evade them. Aquatic mammals superseded sea-going reptiles such as the plesiosaur. The whales' immense size is related to the retention of body heat. 

The dinosaurs' growth was limited by the strength of their bones but the whales only rely on water to support their weight, and so have been able to grow into the world's largest animals. Some of those shown include humpbacks, narwhals, killer whales and dolphins. The latter use echolocation in much the same way as bats, and Attenborough observes one finding objects in the water even after it has been blindfolded.

#11)  ”The Hunters and Hunted" March 27, 1979

This program surveys mammal herbivores and their predators. The herbivores began to populate the forests when the dinosaurs disappeared, and many took to gathering food at night. 

To prepare for winter, some store it in vast quantities, some hibernate and others make do as best they can. However, the carnivores joined them, and when a drying climate triggered the spread of grass, they followed their prey out on to the plains

Grass is not easily digestible and most animals that eat it have to regurgitate it and chew the cud. Out in the open, the leaf-eaters had to develop means of protection. A few species turned into burrowers: examples include the blind mole-rat, which is completely underground, and the prairie dog, which is not. The capybara—the largest rodent—spends much of its time in the water. Those that evolved long legs and hooves, such as the zebra and impala, seek safety in speed, while larger creatures, such as the rhinoceros, rely on their armoured hides. 

The elephant is the world's largest land animal and is virtually invulnerable. Cheetahs and lions are attracted by those that herd in large numbers, like wildebeest. The cheetah uses its considerable speed while the heavier lion is a social predator, mostly using co-operation and stealth to capture its victims, and its methods are explored in detail. 

Meanwhile, a pack hunter, such as the hyena, has immense stamina and will eventually wear down its quarry, easing the kill.

#12)  “Life in the Trees" April 3, 1979

The penultimate installment investigates the primates, whose defining characteristics are forward-facing eyes for judging distance, and gripping hands with which to grasp branches, manipulate food and groom one another. 

The program begins in Madagascar, home to the lemurs, of which there are some 20 different types. Two examples are the sifaka, which is a specialized jumper, and the indri, which has a well-developed voice. Away from Madagascar, the only lemur relatives to have survived are nocturnal, such as the bushbaby, the potto and the loris. The others were supplanted by the monkeys and a primitive species that still exists is the smallest, the marmoset

However, Attenborough selects the squirrel monkey as being typical of the group. Howler monkeys demonstrate why they are so named—their chorus is said to the loudest of any mammal—and their prehensile tails illustrate their agility. However, such tails are not characteristic of monkeys that inhabit Africa and many of them, such as vervets and baboons, are just as happy on the ground. Others have moved elsewhere, and the macaques of Koshima in Japan have learned to wash their food before eating. 

Most apes have taken to swinging from trees, and their feet are just as versatile as their hands. They include the orangutan, the gibbon, the chimpanzee and the primate with whom Attenborough has arguably his most famous encounter, the mountain gorilla.

#13)  ”The Compulsive Communicators" April 10, 1979

The final episode deals with the evolution of the most widespread and dominant species on Earth: humans. 

The story begins in Africa, where, some 10 million years ago, apes descended from the trees and ventured out into the open grasslands in search of food. They slowly adapted to the habitat and grew in size. Their acute sense of vision led to them standing erect to spot predators, leaving their hands free to bear weapons. 

In addition, the primitive apemen (Anthropopithecus) also had stones that were chipped into cutting tools. Slowly, they grew taller and more upright, and their stone implements became ever more elaborate. Furthermore, animal hunting expeditions required a degree of co-operation to achieve a successful outcome. 

Therefore, Attenborough argues, such foresight, teamwork and planning must have meant some skill at communication. Homo erectus gradually spread from Africa and reached Europe some 800,000 years ago, where a drop in temperature led to him inhabiting caves. Such creatures evolved further and learned to use flint for weapons, animal skins for clothing, and fire for warmth and preparing food. Their brains became fully formed and, using the walls of their caves as a canvas, they painted and eventually learned to write. Homo sapiens had arrived. 

However, Attenborough warns, just because humans have achieved so much in such a comparatively short period of time, it may not mean that they will be around forever.

1997 Revision

A shortened series, using the footage and commentary from the original, was aired in 1997, edited down to three episodes: 

early life forms, plants, insects, and amphibians in the first; 

fish, birds and reptiles in the second; 

and mammals in the third.

A hardback book, Life on Earth by David Attenborough, was published in 1979 and became a worldwide bestseller. Its cover image of a Panamanian red-eyed tree frog, was taken by Attenborough himself,[5] became an instantly recognizable emblem of the series. It is currently out of print.

Available at,,

Earth Revealed: Introductory Geology

Professor James L. Sadd

Earth Revealed: Introductory Geology, originally titled Earth Revealed, is a 26-part video instructional series covering the processes and properties of the physical Earth, with particular attention given to the scientific theories underlying geological principles. The telecourse was produced by Intelecom and the Southern California Consortium, was funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project, and first aired on PBS in 1992 with the title Earth Revealed. All 26 episodes are hosted by Dr. James L. Sadd, professor of environmental science at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. (Wikipedia)

ANNENBERG FOUNDATION learner series:  Earth Revealed

A video instructional series on geology for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 26 half-hour video programs.

This series shows the physical processes and human activities that shape our planet. From earthquakes and volcanoes to the creation of sea-floor crusts and shifting river courses, Earth Revealed offers stunning visuals that explain plate tectonics and other geologic concepts and principles. Follow geologists in the field as they explore the primal forces of the Earth. This series can also be used as a resource for teacher professional development.


Module I: Introduction (February 17–24, 1992)

1 Down to Earth

Surface conditions of the planets Venus and Mars are compared with those of Earth, and scenes of Earth's living landscapes lead into a discussion of how unique Earth truly is. Major topics addressed in the series, including plate tectonics, natural resources, seismology, and erosion, are introduced in this program.

2 The Restless Planet

Early Greek astronomers believed that Earth was the center of the universe. However, this notion changed dramatically over time, especially after the invention of the telescope. This program traces the development of astronomical theory with discussions of the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. Unique characteristics of Earth are also discussed.

Module II: Plate Tectonics: The Unifying Model (March 2, 1992-April 13, 1992)

3 Earth’s Interior

Oil wells do more than just produce oil — they serve as windows to Earth's interior. This program introduces the topic of geophysics, exploring methods of studying what lies beneath Earth's surface. Geophysicists use seismic wave studies, variations in temperature, magnetic fields, gravity, and computer simulations to create models of deep structures.

4 The Sea Floor

The mysteries of the ocean floor lie hidden under enormous pressure and total darkness. This program looks at the research submersibles and indirect methods used to study the bottom of the sea, providing a glimpse of volcanic activity, formations such as the continental shelf and mid-ocean ridges, and life forms that thrive at extreme depths.

5 The Birth of a Theory

In the 1960s, earth scientists developed the theory of plate tectonics. This program traces the development of plate tectonics, beginning with the contributions and methods of geologist Alfred Wegener. Sea-floor spreading, continental drift, paleomagnetism, and the primordial supercontinent Pangaea are some of the topics covered.

6 Plate Dynamics

This program examines the movement and interaction of tectonic plates, which account for a vast array of geologic formations and phenomena — from California's San Andreas Fault to the Rift Valley of eastern Africa. The program covers convergent boundaries, subduction, hotspots, and the debate over what drives plate motion.

7 Mountain Building

This program erodes the myth of the mountain as a solid, permanent structure. Animations are used to illustrate the process of orogeny (mountain building) through accretion and erosion, as well as the role of plate tectonics, the rock cycle, and how different types of rock are formed in the course of mountain building.

8 Earth’s Structures

A visit to the Grand Canyon lays the foundation for this exploration of rock layers and deformation. The program covers sedimentation, major structures, the methods used to examine them, and how petroleum may be trapped inside them. It also looks at tectonic force and the different types of stress involved in the formation of geologic structures.

9 Earthquakes

Showing actual footage of earthquakes and their aftermath, this program discusses the forces that fuel these massive events. Faults, waves, and the transfer of energy from the epicenter are explained, and histories of the seismograph and Richter scale are presented. The program also describes devices being developed to study — and eventually predict — earthquakes.

Module III: Geologic Time and Life (April 20–27, 1992)

10 Geologic Time

To illustrate the immensity of geologic time, the entire span of Earth's existence is compressed down to a year. The timeline of major geologic events is superimposed onto the year for a condensed view of Earth's evolution. A relationship between this timeline and that of life on Earth is established, with fossils and radiocarbon dating playing a major role in the discovery.

11 Evolution Through Time

The fossil record reveals much about the diversity and development of species. This program examines the traces left by early plants, animals, and single-celled organisms and follows the progression of life forms over time. Connections are drawn between atmospheric gases, climate change, rock formation, biological functions, and mass extinctions.

Module IV: The Rock Cycle (May 4, 1992-June 15, 1992)

12 Minerals: The Materials of Earth

Minerals have been indispensable to human civilization. This program looks at the variety of minerals, their atomic and crystalline structures, and their physical properties such as hardness and luster. Petrologists' methods of sectioning rocks are shown, and gems, precious metals, ore excavation, and the value of silicates are discussed.

13 Volcanism

Volcanoes provide clues about what is going on inside Earth. Animations illustrate volcanic processes and how plate boundaries are related to volcanism. The program also surveys the various types of eruptions, craters, cones and vents, lava domes, magma, and volcanic rock. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens serves as one example.

14 Intrusive Igneous Rocks

Most magma does not extrude onto Earth's surface but cools slowly deep inside Earth. This magma seeps into crevices in existing rock to form intrusive igneous rocks. Experts provide a graphic illustration of this process and explain the types and textures of rocks such as granite, obsidian, and quartz. Once again, plate tectonics is shown to be involved in the process.

15 Weathering and Soils

The Cleopatra's Needle obelisk in New York City's Central Park is severely weathered after only 75 years, whereas the dry climate of Egypt has preserved similar structures in that country for millennia. This program shows how weather, climate, chemicals, temperature, and type of substrate factor into rock and soil erosion. Environmental connections are also considered.

16 Mass Wasting

Anyone undertaking a building project must understand mass wasting — the downslope movement of earth under the influence of gravity. Various factors in mass wasting, including the rock's effective strength and pore spaces, are discussed, as are different types of mass wasting such as creep, slump, and landslides. Images of an actual landslide illustrate the phenomenon.

17 Sedimentary Rocks: The Key to Past Environments

This program returns to the Grand Canyon: its exposed layers of sedimentary rock allow scientists to peer into the geologic past. The movement of sediment and its deposition are covered, and the processes of lithification, compaction, and cementation that produce sedimentary rocks are explained. Organic components of rock are also discussed.

18 Metamorphic Rocks

The weight of a mountain creates enough pressure to recrystallize rock, thus creating metamorphic rocks. This program outlines the recrystallization process and the types of rock it can create — from claystone and slate to schist and garnet-bearing gneiss. The relationship of metamorphic rock to plate tectonics is also covered.

19 Running Water I: Rivers, Erosion and Deposition

Rivers are the most common land feature on Earth and play a vital role in the sculpting of land. This program shows landscapes formed by rivers, the various types of rivers, the basic parts of a river, and how characteristics of rivers — their slope, channel, and discharge — erode and build the surrounding terrain. Aspects of flooding are also discussed.

20 Running Water II: Landscape Evolution

The Colorado River is a powerful geologic agent — powerful enough to have carved the Grand Canyon. This program focuses on how such carving takes place over time, looking at erosion and deposition processes as they relate to river characteristics and type of rock. The evolution of rivers is covered, along with efforts to prevent harmful consequences to humans.

21 Groundwater

Approximately three-quarters of Earth's surface is covered by water. But most fresh water comes from underground. Topics of this program include aquifers, rock porosity and permeability, artesian wells, the water table, cave formation, sinkholes, and how groundwater may become contaminated.

22 Wind, Dust and Deserts

Land in arid climates is shaped in particular ways. This program shows how deserts are defined by infrequent precipitation and how desertification relates to proximity to the equator, proximity to mountains, and ultimately plate tectonics. Images of landscapes illustrate how wind creates features such as dunes, playas, blow-outs, and even oases.

23 Glaciers

Many of the world's most beautiful landscapes were made by glaciers. This program shows how, explaining glacial formation, structure, movement, and methods of gouging and accumulating earth. The program provides images of glaciers and glacial landforms such as moraines, and discusses how study of glaciers may help us understand ice ages and the greenhouse effect.

24 Waves, Beaches and Coasts

This program shows the dynamic interaction of two geologic agents: rocky landmasses and the energy of the ocean. Aspects of waves — their types, parts, movement, and impact on the shore — are illustrated. The program also covers shoreline characteristics, currents, sea barriers, tides, and how the greenhouse effect could impact sea level and coastal lands.

25 Living With Earth, Part I

Scenes of San Francisco before the Loma Prieta earthquake introduce this program addressing how humans are learning to cope with earthquakes. Various groups and agencies are studying the San Andreas Fault and the damage caused along its path to better understand how earthquakes ravage the land. Methods of studying earthquakes are reviewed.

26 Living With Earth, Part II

Since the nineteenth century, humans have turned to the Earth for energy sources to fuel their industry. This program discusses where oil comes from, how it is extracted, and how it is converted into energy. The effects of oil drilling and the burning of fossil fuels are also addressed, and the potential of alternative energy sources is considered.


K-12 educators, students, and lifelong learners may access Annenberg Learner resources for free at Please sign up for the Annenberg Learner newsletter for the latest information about Learner programming and availability, as they are subject to change.

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Oct 11, 2021

Michael Levin PhD

Director of the Allen Discovery Center - Tufts University

Plenary Talk by Michael Levin on "Non-neural, developmental bio-electricity as a precursor for cognition: Evolution, synthetic organisms, and biomedicine" at the Virtual Miniature Brain Machinery Retreat, September 16, 2021.


Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology. This video was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant 1735252. 

WYSS Institute Harvard 


Here's a broader list of the books I've listened to & read, and that I'd recommend to any interested student of Earth & life & yourself:

The Deep History of Ourselves: The for billion year story of how we got conscious brains

Joseph LeDoux

The Vital Question: Energy, evolution, an the origins of complex life

Nick Lane

Oxygen: The molecule that made the world

Nick Lane

Symphony in C: Carbon and the evolution of (almost) everything

Robert M. Hazen

The Tangled Tree: A radical new history of life

David Quammen

A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the making of planet, life, and you

Sean B. Carroll

The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks: Tales of important geological puzzles and the people who solved them

Donald R. Prothero

Origins: How Earth’s history shaped human history

Lewis Dartnell

The Dawn Of Everything: A new history of humanity

David Graeber & David Wengrow

Metazoa: Animal lie and the birth of the mind

Peter Godfrey-Smith

The House of Wisdom: How Arabic science saved ancient knowledge and gave us the renaissance

Jim Al-Khalil

Horizons: The global origins of modern science

James Poskett

Life’s Ratchet: How molecular machines extract order from chaos

Peter M. Hoffman

Life’s Engines: How microbes made Earth habitable

Paul G. Falkowski

The Universe Within: Discovering the common history of rocks, planets, and people

Neil Shubin


The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the source of consciousness

Mark Solms

Self Comes to Mind

Antonio Damasio

Consciousness Explained

Daniel C. Dennett

To Explain the World: The discovery of modern science

Steven Weinberg

Life Unfolding: How the human body creates itself

Jamie A. Davies

Life Ascending: The ten great inventions of evolution

Nick Lane

Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age gave birth to the first modern humans

Brian Fagan

Sapiens: A brief history of humankind

Yuval Noah Harari

The Story of Western Science: From the writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory

Susan Wise Bauer

The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex

Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species

Charles Darwin

Lost in Math: How beauty leads physics astray

Sabine Hossenfelder

What Is Life?: With mind and matter and autobiographical sketches

Erwin Schrödinger, forward Roger Penrose 

The Invention of Science: A new history of the scientific revolution

David Wootton

The War on Science: Who’s waging it, why it matters, what we can do about it

Shawn Lawrence Otto

What is Life?: How chemistry becomes biology

Addy Pross

First Life: Discovering the connections between stars, cells and how life began

David Deamer

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the birth of modern geology

Simon Winchester

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson

The Voyage of the Beagle

Charles Darwin


The Light Ages: The surprising story of medieval science

Seb Falk

The Intimate Bond: How animals shaped human history

Brian Fagan

Salt: A world history

Mark Kurlansky

Paper: Paging through history

Mark Kurlansky

The Rise of Yeast: How the sugar fungus shaped civilization

Nicholas P. Money

Earth Moved: On the remarkable achievements of Earthworms

Amy Steward

Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 molecules that changed history

Penny LeCouteur, Jay Burreson

Elixir: A history of water and humankind

Brian Fagan


The Log from the Sea of Cortez

John Steinbeck

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

Daniel C. Dennet

Sense and Goodness Without God: A defense of metaphysical naturalism

Richard Carrier

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