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'Mass Extinction: Life on the Brink'
(Neil deGrasse Tyson / DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)

Overview: Host Neil deGrasse Tyson joins a team of investigators hot on the trail of a mass murderer — one that knocked off its victims 250 million years ago when it wiped out the majority of life on our planet. Long before the dinosaurs, at the end of the Permian Period, something triggered Earth's most profound mass extinction and reset the evolution of life on this planet.

DVD Verdict: First broadcast on PBS in November of 2006, 'Mass Extinction: Life on the Brink' isn't meant to cheer you up, by any means. Moreover, it's totally educational and sets out to warn you prepare you eve for what has come and what could easily come back once again.

Mass extinction is indeed a mystery on a global scale. Five times in Earth's past, life has been nearly extinguished, the vast majority of plants and animals annihilated in a geologic instant. What triggered these dramatic events? And what might they tell us about the fate of our world?

'Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink' joins scientists around the globe as they unravel the mysteries of two of the most dramatic mass extinctions the "K/T Extinction" that wiped out the dinosaurs, and "The Great Dying," which obliterated nearly 90% of all Earth's species.

At first glance, these two extinctions couldn't look more different. A six-mile-wide asteroid spelled near-instant doom for the dinosaurs. And as new research covered in the film reveals, massive volcanic eruptions altered the chemistry of the atmosphere and ocean to trigger "The Great Dying."

However, as different as they may well seem, these two extinctions share uncanny similarities and a message for today. Could the impact of human beings be just as devastating to the planet as a massive asteroid strike or volcanic eruptions?

So, one question it brought up to me immediately was: How do empty worlds beget new species? Well, mass extinction may be an important feature of the history of life; but the question is, how did living things diversify afterwards? That is the question Darwin's theory is supposed to answer, but the fact of extinction doesn't help us. Species go extinct, and new ones take their places. This may come as a surprise to people who believe that species never go extinct (if, in fact, there are such people); but how does it provide evidence for Darwinian evolution?

Watch this incredible hour long documentary with a cup of coffee, and then do your own research online: you'll be amazed at what you didn't know and yet should have known and been ever-prepared for, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

www.PBS.org





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