• The Ends of the World

  • Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
  • By: Peter Brannen
  • Narrated by: Adam Verner
  • Length: 9 hrs and 57 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (1,850 ratings)

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The Ends of the World

By: Peter Brannen
Narrated by: Adam Verner
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Publisher's Summary

As new groundbreaking research suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet's history, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen takes us on a wild ride through the planet's five mass extinctions and, in the process, offers us a glimpse of our increasingly dangerous future.

Our world has ended five times: It has been broiled, frozen, poison gassed, smothered, and pelted by asteroids. In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen dives into deep time, exploring Earth's past dead ends, and in the process offers us a glimpse of our possible future.

Many scientists now believe that the climate shifts of the 21st century have analogs in these five extinctions. Using the visible clues these devastations have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside "scenes of the crime", from South Africa to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record - which is rife with creatures like dragonflies the size of sea gulls and guillotine-mouthed fish - and introduces us to the researchers on the front lines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the crime scenes of the Earth's biggest whodunits.

Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave and casts our future in a completely new light.

©2017 Peter Brannen (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about The Ends of the World

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Kid's Science Book FOR ADULTS!!

This is about as good as it gets, in terms of appealing to your inner five-year-old child that LOVED dinosaurs, while still making the logical, rational adult side of you happy.

Brannen tackles the 5 major extinctions that the Earth has experienced with the flare of a Vonnegut, while maintaining the scientific details of a Dawkins. This is a monumentally hard task, but he does it deftly. His research, descriptions, and attention to detail of the plants and animals interspersed between these cataclysms was remarkable.

After listening to more than a few dry, boring, repetitive science books, this was one I embraced like the warm sun after a cold winter's night.

The narrator was spot on as well.

147 people found this helpful

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I recommend this book frequently

This book helps to give context to our time and place on this planet. The narrator is excellent. The book offers an eloquent synopsis of historical geology from the perspective of mass extinction events, and ties everything together beautifully in the last chapters. It was written so that both seasoned geologists and everyday laymen can understand and enjoy it. 10/10, would recommend.

69 people found this helpful

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Climate change

While there is a tremendous amount of very interesting material, a significant portion is spent on climate change doomsday forecasting. This was unexpected, but perhaps I just didn't read the description and/or reviews closely enough. Anyway, be aware that you will have to wade through quite a bit of "man, are we stupid" monologs. Even with that being said, I listened to the whole thing, so that has to count for something significant!

55 people found this helpful

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Eye opening account of past catastrophes

I loved this book. At times it is very grim, but the ability of life on Earth to regenerate itself after total or partial annihilation is very uplifting. You realize that the timescales of geology and evolution are on the order of tens to hundreds of thousands of human generations. When an extinction event occurs (and it can be very sudden such as the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous period) there is no hope for any exposed species.

The author sets the current 6th extinction into context, making it clear that it is small compared to the earlier extinctions in terms of biodiversity lost. Also, the level of carbon dioxide in past eras fluctuated widely along with Earth's temperature. As did sea levels and arctic ice conditions.

I had two takeaways from this book. First, humanity needs to either develop the ability to control CO2 levels in the atmosphere, or develop a resiliency towards future climate changes.

Second, for humanity to truly survive mass extinction events, we must develop the ability to colonize other planets. However, that is firmly in the realm of science fiction and will be for a long time to come, if it will ever happen.

Hopefully we will be able to come together and develop technologies that allow us to manage our climate, in time to keep the CO2 level in the atmosphere not much higher than today.

55 people found this helpful

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Title is misleading

This book is really about modern day global warming, not the past. He only uses past global geological history as a comparison.
Really makes it harder to follow. He constantly interrupts a description of the past to make a comparison or to make a commentary on the present.

36 people found this helpful

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Trying way to hard

This book has it all. A sort of weepy narration always pregnant with heart felt descriptions to tortured comparisons. Wow the author even manages to blame the Russians. I’ve read John McPehee’s books and the “Great Dying” about the Late Permian Extinction , and this book is like neither of those. It’s a political polemic. Thumbs down

31 people found this helpful

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I doubt any geologist would be entertained by this

The narrator sounded like a third grade teacher trying way too hard to entrance his class with the wonders of the past. On the other hand that was how the book was written. It was like a Walt Disney Presents view of geology. Whether or not you agree with the author would probably determine how well you would like the book. I would have much preferred hearing the geology explained without the childish drama, allowing me to make up my own mind.

26 people found this helpful

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Amazing, Everything, Amazing

Any additional comments?

I am not a geologist or paleontologist, but the information from this book seems accurate. The author uses extremely credible sources - experts in respective fields. Also, the author appears very intelligent, but does not come across as pompous or too verbose.

This is a very well written scientific explanation of past and potential future extinctions. The author has a way with words, he blended science and love story/drama/action novel together in a way that was unforgettable. My writing seems like crap in comparison, well that's because it is, lol!

The choice of the reader/performer was spot on. Amazing voice and so easy on the ears.

It was sad when this one was over, but now I can be thankful I live in the age in which we live. This book helps reaffirm the wonders of life and the struggles the Earth has seen.

One of the better books I have ever downloaded. Bravo!

20 people found this helpful

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Only one complaint

My only real problem with this fantastic book was the delivery, what is a very interesting book became a bit too slow at times.

19 people found this helpful

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good but bit melodramatic

Learned a lot, strength was on details around extinction events. Author did go bit overboard on the global warming message. Get it but yeah what to do ... which is a bit beyond the scope of the book

19 people found this helpful