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Cosmic Biology: How Life Could Evolve on Other Worlds (Springer Praxis Books) Paperback – 10 Dec 2010
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From the reviews:
“Cosmic Biology discusses the feasibility of life in the scorching cloud decks of Venus or within the volcanic violence of lo. … This neat trick holds up a mirror to our own efforts at characterising the extrasolar planets we’re now discovering. … long data tables, information dense diagrams and sections that sometimes read like expanded bullet point lists gives the volume the feel of a textbook. … a great book to push your horizons if you’re already familiar with the themes of astrobiology … .” (Lewis Dartnell, Sky at Night Magazine, August, 2011)
“The text, which is intended for nonscientists, are novel and distinctly important scientifically. … The core of the book covers case history examinations of possible biological planets, moons, and exoplanets. For those who teach about the possibility of life on other planets, this book provides an excellent introduction to these alternative worlds and, in doing so, accomplishes more than the authors’ modest claims in the preface. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.” (P. K. Strother, Choice, Vol. 48 (11), July, 2011)
From the Back Cover
It is very unlikely that little green humanoids are living on Mars. But what are the possible life forms that might exist in our Solar System and how might they have evolved?
This uniquely authoritative and imaginative book on the possibilties for alien life addresses the intrinsic interest that we have about life on other worlds - reinforcing some of our assumptions and reshaping others. It introduces new possibilties that will enlarge our understanding of the issue overall, in particular the enormous range of environments and planetary conditions within which life might evolve.
-discusses a broad range of possible environments where alien life might have evolved;
-explains why carbon-based, water-borne life is more likely that its alternatives, but is not the only possiblity;
-applies the principles of planetary science and modern biology to evolutionary scenarios on other worlds;
-looks at the future fates of living systems, including those on Earth.See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In order to get the latest on Enceladus you'll need to see the article in Physics Today, November, 2011.
It is both accessible and well-researched, providing a clean scientific approach in the same time. Illustrations and diagrams are well chosen and straightforward. A minimal knowledge of chemistry is however required to fully enjoy and get a good understanding of the authors' dissertation. Highly recommended.
The book launches with exploration of the defining features of life, and it is not as simple to pin down as one might assume; it seems the more we learn about living organisms on earth, the less clear cut it becomes. There are chapters on biochemistry, evolutionary history, ecology and earth science. This sounds cut and dried, but some thought provoking questions are slipped in along the way. What about the possibility that life forms have or can disperse from one planetary location to another (allowing us to learn the nifty term "panspermia")?
The core chapters are a systematic consideration of the potential for life to occur on various planetary bodies, and progress from near and likely, to "far out" in every sense of the phrase, both in distance and in theories about biotic presence. A context is created for each, summarizing current knowledge and theories, then inferences are advanced concerning potential biotic appearance via "seeding" versus in situ origin, possible biotic habitats, and potential biotic characteristics. Even in this version, abstracted to suit a general audience, the planetary descriptions alone are fascinating - then add in consideration of how and where life might be or has been present, and you have many possibilities to ponder. And let me add that the authors deserve a special award for their boundless eloquent and inventive ways of saying maybe, backed up by lots of qualifiers.
The final two chapters explore the extremes in divergent conclusions - earth is the only place that could support large, complex, intelligent life OR such life forms must have evolved many times in many places. Or maybe something in between. Thoughts of a physicist working on the first atomic bomb, discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, and the role of humans in controlling future evolution of life on earth; these are particularly thought provoking points, accompanied by an expanded version of "the cockroaches shall inherit the earth".
Cosmic Biology will be especially attractive to readers who treasure traditional science fiction that is honest in structuring fiction based in science; I like to think of it as being several steps beyond that. I often paused in reading, to picture these two guys together in front of white boards, alternately talking and jumping up and down to scribble ideas, and not infrequently stopping to gaze up at the night sky. Be forewarned, you may find that the reading will haunt your thoughts after you finish a section and turn out the light, as your mind is floating away from Earth like a light sail.
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