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Lonely Planets Hardcover – 1 Nov 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (1 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060185406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060185404
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3.2 x 26.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,594,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In Lonely Planets, astronomer David Grinspoon is buoyantly optimistic about the possibility that we are not alone in the universe. Grinspoon, who serves as principal scientist in the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute, lays out a detailed but not boring case for life on other planets, dropping authoritative quotes and goofy footnotes in equal measure. The Grinspoon family hung out with Carl Sagan and other astronomical royalty, giving young David an early appreciation for SETI and the heady astrobiological theorising of the 1970s.

In the 21st century, scientists are still split on the question of extraterrestrial life. Grinspoon believes that a "natural philosophy" approach is the key to furthering our knowledge in this field, because there is precious little evidence with which to apply the scientific method. Instead of looking for the familiar and testable, he writes, we should expect the unexpected: "Expecting to find DNA elsewhere is like expecting a Star Trek universe with humanoid aliens who speak English and insist that we join them for dinner at eight."

Lonely Planets is a substantial book, covering the origins of life on earth as well as the changes in religious and social thought that have affected the search for other planets and their theoretical inhabitants. Grinspoon's style is exuberant, even a little cocky, and the result is delightful readable. Lonely Planets lets readers share the dismay of finding out there are probably no Martians and the thrill of wondering if there might be Europans. "I think our galaxy is full of species", writes Grinspoon. "The wise ones are out there waiting for us to join them." --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes on 2 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked up "Lonely Planets" on a whim, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Grinspoon is a planetologist first, and the best part of this book lies in the author's descriptions of Venus (which he has studied intensively in his own career), Mars, Europa and other moons and planets in our solar system. Mars and Venus are probably but not certainly lifeless, but Europa--well, there's an interesting world, which may have a liquid ocean and life beneath a miles thick layer of ice. Scientists think enough of the possibility that they crashed the aging Galileo space probe into Jupiter's atmosphere rather than run the risk that it might someoday collide with (and possibly contaminate) Europa.
The balance of "Lonely Planets" reviews the history of philosophical and scientific thinking about the prospect of life on other worlds, the conditions that might give rise to life, the prospect of intelligent life evolving on other worlds (or even on this one), and the means by which "advanced" civilizations might communicate with each other.
The questions raised are thought provoking. Is life on Earth a unique phenomenon, or is it possible (likely?) that life also developed on other worlds? Is all life (or at least the life in this part of the galaxy) related by virtue of accidental or intentional "panspermia"? If life exists elsewhere, is it likely to be carbon-based, or will some other element do the trick? Does life always evolve toward intelligence as we understand it, or does it usually remain simple and gooey? If there are advanced civilizations on other worlds, why don't they call or write? Are we not cute enough (or smart enough)?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 8 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished this book and I would agree completely with William Holmes's review. The author writes in a very understandable way, not getting too technical. I liked the way he was able to offer his opinion on matters regarding "alien" life, yet was happy to put both sides of the argument as to whether we are alone, without being judgmental. He put it neatly that while the majority are reasonably confident that we cannot be the only life in the universe, if anyone suggests that they have seen anything "alien" then they are dismissed as crazy. The back end of the book, which looked at the Drake Equation vs. the Fermi Paradox, was the most entertaining bit for me. The first half of the book dealt with how life may have got started on Earth, and a look at the other bodies in our solar system. Good background to the latter, more interesting part of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith J. Lightfoot on 14 Mar. 2011
Format: Hardcover
A great read but in my opinion written by the "Company man" a debunker who tends to stick to the orthodox and ridicules and mocks the pseudo scientist. He laughs at the audience of a meeting where hundreds video clips were shown of UFO's and alien 'evidence', and his description of the 'believers' was not necessary. He dismisses the inexplicable cattle mutilations and the thousands of crop circles without any reasonable explanation and carries on as if they never happened. The book is excellent in most respects but the parts on aliens is a subject worthy of more tolerance and there is no room for giggling behind the hand.
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