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A Song of Fire and Ice

Ask Science is back with a miniseries from author Henry Gee. Based on his new book, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, this miniseries will take you through 4.6 billion years of history with infectious enthusiasm and intellectual rigor.

By
Henry Gee
2-minute read
Episode #398
The Quick And Dirty

Subscribe to Ask Science for more episodes from this special miniseries, and make sure to read Henry Gee's A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth for more planetary history.

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My name is Henry Gee. I’m a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist. I’m also a senior editor at Nature and the author of several books. My newest book, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, comes out this November from St. Martin’s Press.

Just like this podcast, my book aims to make science easy to understand and exciting to listen to. So the publishing team behind both my book and the Ask Science podcast thought you might like to hear a bit of it.

So, over the next 5 weeks, I’ll be taking over the Ask Science podcast for a special, limited series about the evolution of life. You’ll learn about the full, rich history of life on this precious planet—from the earliest single-celled organisms to the complex creatures we share the planet with today and all the catastrophes along the way.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast, I think you’ll love this short series.

A Song of Fire and Ice

Once upon a time, a giant star was dying. After burning hydrogen for millions of years, the fusion furnace at its core was running low. Nuclear fusion did more than make the star shine. It was vital to counteract the inward pull of the star’s own gravity. When hydrogen began to run low, the star began to fuse helium into atoms of heavier elements such as carbon and oxygen. By then, though, the star was running on empty.

The day came when the fuel ran out completely. Gravity won: the star imploded. The collapse took a split second and prompted a rebound so explosive that it lit up the Universe—a supernova. In the cataclysm of one star’s death was born the seeds of something new.

For more, listen to the full episode using the player above, or your favorite podcast app.

Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Henry Gee Ask Science

Henry Gee is a senior editor at Nature and the author of several books, including Jacob’s Ladder, In Search of Deep Time, The Science of Middle-earth, and The Accidental Species. He has appeared on BBC television and radio and NPR's All Things Considered, and has written for The Guardian, The Times, and BBC Science Focus. He lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets.