What would the world have been like, if George Bailey of "It's A Wonderful Life" hadn't been born?
George was lucky enough to have an angel that could roll back the tape of life and show him how things would have been different. He learned that one contingency changes everything. In "Wonderful LIfe", an homage to the American classic film, "It's A Wonderful Life", Stephen J. Gould plays the role of the angel, rolling back the tape of life a half billion years for his readers through the lens of the Burgess Shale (British Columbia), arguably the most important fossil site on the planet. His theme of contingency plays out as he discusses the many unique forms of life that might have, if things had gone differently, become the dominant forms on this planet, and how they contrast with those of today -- the one's that survived. Along the way he tells the story of the discovery and discovers of the Shale, how it was first interpreted in terms of prevalent beliefs about the origins of life, and how it has subsequently been re-interpreted in light of knowledge. So enjoy the "film", but be sure to bring along a cup of coffee and a dictionary -- with Gould's intense writing style you're likely to need both!