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NOVA: Life’s Rocky Start

Airs Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Sunday, May 13 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2

Living stromatolites at Shark Bay, Australia.

Credit: Courtesy of Doug Hamilton/ WGBH Boston

Above: Living stromatolites at Shark Bay, Australia.

What is the secret link between rocks and minerals, and every living thing on Earth?

Four and a half billion years ago, the young Earth was a hellish place — a seething chaos of meteorite impacts, volcanoes belching noxious gases, and lightning flashing through a thin, torrid atmosphere.

Then, in a process that has puzzled scientists for decades, life emerged. How did it happen?

On "Life's Rocky Start," NOVA joins mineralogist Robert Hazen on the rocky trail to resolve this enduring mystery.

NOVA: Life's Rocky Start Preview

What is the secret link between rocks and minerals, and every living thing on Earth?

As Hazen journeys around the globe — from an ancient Moroccan market to the Australian Outback — he advances a startling and counterintuitive idea — that the rocks beneath our feet were not only essential to jump-starting life, but then, as microbes flourished and took over the biosphere, life helped give birth to hundreds of minerals we know and depend on today.

This intriguing perspective of the co-evolution of Earth and life is reshaping the grand-narrative of our planet’s story.

In this stunning adventure through billions of years of history, the story of life on Earth is revealed as fundamentally interwoven with the epic, unfolding story of Earth itself.


This full episode is available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.


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