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Beginnings [Mass Market Paperback]

Isaac Asimov


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Book Description

Dec 12 2012
A wondrous excursion through 15 billion years of human and prehuman history, written by America's most popular and exciting science writer. From the explosive flash of the birth of the universe to the evolution of algae and reptiles, Asimov covers the infinite and the microscopic in rich detail. Previously published by Walker and Company.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (MM); Reissue edition (Dec 12 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425115860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425115862
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 11.4 x 18.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,510,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This volume falls somewhere between a history of science for young people and a compendium of scientific trivia. Asimov, author of A History of Physics and countless other books, discusses originsfrom human flight to viruses, earth and the solar system. He examines the beginning of civilization and the evolution of life, from single-cell organisms to modern humans. Though treated briefly, each topic is well-organized and smoothly written; Beginnings would serve nicely as a launching pad for a neophyte's interest in the sciences. Notably lacking, however, is a list for further reading.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Asimov traces the ancestry of humankind, starting with historical times and moving backward to find the origins of ancient man, hominids, mammals, chordates, microorganisms, and the universe. His discourse is capable, but superficial and unenlivened by fresh anecdotes, a la Stephen Jay Gould, or original ideas. Informed readers may be impatient with his introductory-level treatment of evolution and astronomy; others may benefit from his lucid explanations. Charles Pellegrino's Time Gate ( LJ 6/15/85) covered the same ground but offered controversial new theories. Beginnings is suitable, but not indispensable, for the public or college library. Beth Clewis, Univ. of North Carolina S.I.L.S., Chapel Hill
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, informative read! Feb. 12 2001
By J. Sias - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of my favorite books for evenings when I feel like learning something in an entertaining way. Of course, if you're looking for an exhaustive treatment of any of the varied subjects covered, you'll have to turn to the many authoritative texts out there (for example, the part about vertebrate paleontology sparked my interest enough to read an old textbook that had been sitting on my shelf a long time called "Evolution of the Vertebrates" which turned out to be excellent!).
The main charm, and ultimately the main value, of this book is not however its depth but its impressive breadth. I love the sense of mystery it is infused with. Rather than take the typical approach of starting with the Big Bang and summarizing major events after that, he actually begins with a seemingly simple topic that most people feel they know enough about -- the history of human flight. This leads into another chapter about recorded history, which leads to the bigger mystery of prehistoric civilizations, then the origin of man himself... well, you get the picture!
For anyone with a fascination for science, love of a good mystery, and fondness for the Good Doctor's deceptively simple but always informative prose, look no further than this little gem. I picked it up as an afterthough because I loved Asimov's fiction, but I've now read it three times in as many years!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent review of evolutionary history Oct. 30 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Asimov, as usual, handles these topics with a clear, concise presentation of the facts. His explanations are excellent. He provides very good, concrete arguments for the evolutionary processes which have shaped and guided our growth and development. I couldn't put it down and continually reread it.I recommend it to anyone interested in the truth about our existence.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A coprehensive course of science. Dec 23 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Azimov's Beginnings is a book every science teacher and student must read.I begin, finally, to understand all those boring highschool science classes. A masterpiece.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great way to "begin" learning about these things Feb. 11 2010
By Steve Reina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In this book on beginnings Isaac Asimov as always delivers.

Though written in 1989 it still holds up in many remarkable ways.

For those interested in further study to better understand some of the beginnings issues covered by Asimov, I would recommend the following:

1) On the beginnings of history, I would recommend Before the Dawn which traces human evolution from the perspective of genetics. Among other things you learn that evolution is still ongoing. That's why some people can drink milk while others remain lactose intolerant.

2) On the beginnings of life, I would recommend The Fifth Miracle by Paul Davies. I would also recommend The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins where you'll learn that you are cousins fifty thousand times removed from pretty much any chimpanzee. For advanced study on the origins of life, I would also recommend Mitochondria and Oxygen by Nick Lane which discuss the origins of life from the perspective of the items listed in their titles. For those wishing to go even further I would recommend Atom which picks up the story of oxygen pretty much where Lane leaves it off.

3) On the beginnings of Earth, I would recommend Rare Earth by Peter Ward. This book picks up the discussion that Asimov briefly started about the origin of continents on Earth. Interestingly enough, not only is Earth the only habitat in our solar system so far found to support life it is also (perhaps not uncoincidentally) the only place with moving continents.

4) On the beginnings of the Universe, I would recommend Origins by Neil de Grasse Tyson and also Cosmos by the late Carl Sagan (which also dates from the 1980s but like this book also basically holds up). For advanced further reading (and I mean really advanced) I would recommend Road to Reality by Roger Penrose. Perhaps more accessible, you might also find Michio Kaku's Hyperspace to your liking though you might wish to also add Kraus' Through the Mirror to your reading list (because Kaku believes in string theory whereas Kraus is skeptical about it).

Because there were important origins issues not touched on by Asimov, I would also make the following additional suggestions:

1) On the origins of human love, I would recommend Helen Fisher's Why We Love.

2) On the origins of language, I would recommend Bickerton's Language and Species.

3) On the origins of writing, I would recommend pretty much anything by Jack Goody.

4) On the origins of religion, I would recommend Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer as to issues related to the morphology of God. As to the doxology of religion I would recommend Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (yes, it does relate), Prisoner's Dilemna by William Poundstone, Jeffrey Moses' Oneness (which gives verbatim quotes of all the religions treatments of moral issues, viz: they all have a version of the golden rule, etc.), and Robert Axelrod's Evolution of Reciprocity (which shows how reciprocal ultruism naturally evolves as a matter of the survival imperative).

5) On the origins of law, I would recommend the Axelrod book I already suggested along with Unto Others.

Because of the preclusive effect foundational activities can have in terms of historical roads not taken, it is my opinion that understanding how things came to be has everything to do with understinding why they are as they are.

Our histories are ourselves.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One fan's review June 5 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Of all of Asimov's non-fiction books I've read this one was my favorite.
He concisely describes how different sciences and discoveries are connected. He does this by working backwards starting with human flight. If there is someone you know that doesn't fully undertand the way the world is interconnected, give them this book!
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