Cover image for Perfect planet, clever species : how unique are we?
Perfect planet, clever species : how unique are we?
Burger, William C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2003.
Physical Description:
345 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN281.4 .B87 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



No Marketing Blurb

Author Notes

William Burger is Curator Emeritus in the Department of Botany at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Burger (curator emer., botany, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago) offers a concise (just under 300 pages plus 33 pages of notes), extremely well written journey about this planet's history, the evolution of life, human lineage, and historical accidents that validate the book's title. The author is eminently qualified to embark on this 4-billion-year trip: he understands geology, astronomy, paleontology, anthropology, biology, especially natural history and evolution, and the origins of Western science. He writes clearly and simply and has an uncanny ability to interweave various disciplines into comprehensive explanations. The unique ingredients and conditions within and beyond making this planet so "perfect" are documented. Bacteria, the history of DNA, and diverse plant and animal life forms within the earth's positive and extensive physical conditions are particularly noteworthy. There is a comparative discussion about our planet and the continuing quest for extraterrestrial intelligence in our galaxy, also known as SETI. Later portions of the book focus on critical aspects of cephalization, bipedalism, speech and language development, and comparative higher primate events ultimately resulting in modern humans, as well as other diverse evolutions. Limited color photographs enhance the text. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. J. N. Muzio emeritus, CUNY Kingsborough Community College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 7
Introductionp. 9
1. No Ordinary Starp. 15
2. A Really Good Planet Is Hard to Findp. 35
3. The First 4,000 Million Yearsp. 57
4. Life Explodes: The Last 560 Million Yearsp. 85
5. Why Are There So Many Kinds of Plants and Animals?p. 111
6. Random Walks or Progressive Trajectories?p. 135
7. The Escalation of Intelligencep. 161
8. Building the World's Best Brainp. 193
9. An Appetite for Energy: Revolutions in Livingp. 223
10. The Origins of Western Sciencep. 251
11. Perfect Planet, but How Unusual an Odyssey?p. 271
Notesp. 295
Indexp. 329