Life Everywhere: The New Science Of Astrobiology

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9780465015634: Life Everywhere: The New Science Of Astrobiology
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To many people, the main question about extraterrestrial life is whether or not it exists. But to the scientific community, that question has already been answered: It does. So confident are scientists of the existence of life on other planets that they've invested serious amounts of money, time and prestige in finding and studying it. NASA has started an Institute of Astrobiology, for instance, and the University of Washington, Seattle, began in September 1999 to accept graduate students into its Department of Astrobiology.Life Everywhere is the first book to lay out for a general reader what the new science of astrobiology is all about. It asks the fascinating questions researchers are asking themselves and one another:u What is life?u How does it originate?u How often does life survive once it arises?u How does evolution work?u What determines whether complex or even intelligent life will emerge from more primitive forms?Informed by interviews with most of the experts in this nascent subject, Life Everywhere introduces readers to one of the most important scientific disciplines of the coming century.

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Are we alone? As the search for extraterrestrial intelligence comes more and more into the mainstream, scientists like David Darling step up to explain what we know and what's possible. His book Life Everywhere explores the history and current state of the field called, perhaps unfortunately, astrobiology. Devoted neither to organisms skimming the sun's surface nor to possible signs of intelligence among celebrities--though not explicitly rejecting these phenomena--astrobiology is concerned with the basic questions of life: What is a living organism? Is it common, or likely, elsewhere in the universe? Is it worth trying to communicate across light years? Darling, an astronomer and science journalist, has a knack for explaining complexities and fine details that carries his prose forward where other authors have foundered; the reader is swept up in the enthusiasm of the researchers Darling describes. Writing of the astronomical search for signs of life far off in the galaxy, he captures the thrill of this work:

Their efforts will revolutionize astrobiology, more so perhaps than spacecraft parachuting down out of the orange sky of Titan or roving the rock-strewn deserts of Mars. The world-shaking headlines of the next twenty years will likely come from giant instruments, on the ground and in Earth orbit, gazing with far sight at the planetary systems of other stars.

Since most research germane to the field has been done here on Earth, Darling explores such hot topics as heat vents and other geothermal mini-biomes, meteoritic dissection, and, of course, SETI's radio telescope arrays. Mars, Venus, and the moons of the outer planets are all major characters, and their stories will reinvigorate most readers' excitement about the prospects of having neighbors just down the cosmic street. Ending with a set of hypotheses and brief explorations of their ramifications if shown to be true, Life Everywhere is an outstanding and thought-provoking look at what could ultimately be the most world-shaking research ever conducted. --Rob Lightner

About the Author:

David Darling has a B.Sc. in physics from Sheffield University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Manchester, England. He lectures widely and is the author of about forty science books for adults and for children. He lives in Brainard, Minnesota.

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