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Life Everywhere [Kindle Edition]

David Darling
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

To many people, the main question about extraterrestrial life is whether it exists. But to the scientific community, that question has already been answered: it does, and within our solar system. The new science of astrobiology is already being practiced at NASA's Astrobiology Institute and the University of Washington's new Department of Astrobiology. Life Everywhere is the first book to lay out what the new science of astrobiology is all about. It asks the fascinating questions researchers in astrobiology are asking themselves: What is life? How does it originate? How often does life survive once it arises? How does evolution work? And what determines whether complex or intelligent life will emerge from more primitive forms? Informed by interviews with most of the top people in this nascent field, this book introduces readers to one of the most important scientific developments of the next century.

Editorial Reviews Review

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


"A page-turning primer to a subject that will only become more contentious as time goes on." -- -- Flaunt [ 5/1/01]

Product Details

  • File Size: 616 KB
  • Print Length: 230 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0465015646
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (October 15, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,202 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended book June 9, 2001
David Darling's excellent new book does an effective job of presenting the main topics of astrobiology in a conversational writing style that is easy to read and understand. Without assuming prior knowledge on the part of the reader it clearly explains the very latest research with fascinating details and well-chosen examples that will hold the interest of experts as well as newcomers.
Life Everywhere explores the conditions assumed to exist on prebiotic Earth and the various explanations for how life arose. Supporters of the various hypotheses are lumped together as "surface, sunlight" guys (who believe in Darwin's "warm little pond") and "deep, dark" guys (who believe that life arose near hydrothermal vents). Each new discovery gives a new advantage to one team or the other. The book also discusses the possibility of life on other planets and moons in our solar system, and it gives the most convincing and clear explanation I've found for the possible role of comets in the origin of life's building materials.
The science in Life Everywhere is solid, and the treatment of opposing theories is open and even-handed, with the exception of the Rare Earth theory which, according to Dr. Darling, is a theory based more on theological conservatism than on scientific fact. Life Everywhere is not a large book, but it contains a wealth of up-to-date information about the new science of astrobiology. If you are interested in the scientific study of life's beginnings and limits and the search for life on other worlds, I strongly recommend Life Everywhere as the first book to read for anyone new to the subject. For anyone already familiar with the basics of astrobiology, this is still an interesting new look at a rapidly-evolving science.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! May 14, 2001
This is the best book on the subject I've come across. It certainly lives up to the billing given by James Kasting, of Penn State Astrobiology Center, on the cover: "A lucid and surprisingly accurate introduction to the field of astrobiology and a thoughtful response to the Rare Earth hypothesis." Chapter 6 pretty well demolishes Rare Earth and exposes its surprising creationist roots. Elsewhere, Darling explains when and where we might expect to find extraterrestrial life, what methods we'll use to detect it, the missions and projects planned over the next 10-20 years, the latest on the controversies surrounding Mars, the Martian meteorites, Europa, organic matter in space, and extrasolar planets, and the principles that might govern life wherever it appears. He manages to cram a huge amount of information and ideas into a small space and yet it's so well explained you never get lost in the detail. It's hard to believe that the "reader" who gave the book only two stars actually read it at all. I can see how it might not be popular with those who want to cling to the belief that the Earth and humans are somehow special. But the fact is this is first-class science in a first-class package.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Two things have happened in recent years to persuade most scientists that life beyond earth is not just possible, but likely. Indeed some people, including myself, believe there is, as the title of David Darling's book has it, "Life Everywhere."

Well, not in the center of the sun or on the surface of a neutron star--at least not life as we know it.

"Life as we know it." This is an important phrase that comes up again and again in discussions about astrobiology. "Life as we know it" means life with a carbon base and liquid water. David Darling considers silicone-based life and even life forms so bizarre that we wouldn't recognize them if we saw them, but basically he sticks with life as we know it in this very interesting answer to those who think that life in the universe is rare.

The two things:

(1) The discovery of extremophiles, bacteria that live in sulfurous hot springs, deep inside the earth, and at the bottom of deep oceans. Instead of deriving their energy from the sun, they are able to use heat coming from within the earth to metabolize.

(2) The discovery of scores of planets (albeit not earth-sized planets--yet) revolving around other stars.

What the first discovery means is that life doesn't have to exist or begin in conditions such as there are or have been on the surface of the earth, but can thrive in places previous thought hostile to life. That opens up a whole lot of the universe to life including parts of our solar system previously thought inimical to life, such as in an ocean under the icy crust of Europa or beneath the inhospitable surface of Mars. And the fact that planets are now clearly plentiful means that there are numerous places for life to develop.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Everywhere? October 14, 2001
The dust jacket quotes Lynn Margulis who suggests a question mark for the title. Cautioned by the question mark, this book is an excellent introduction to astrobiology. Having reviewed Rare Earth by Ward et al., and being unaware of the surrounding debate behind the book, I recommend this rejoinder as highly useful dialectic to put the full context of the argument in perspective, in fact Amazon is selling the two books together. The book also contains some interesting considerations on the issues of divergence and convergence in evolution, and might have been more explicit in suggesting or discussing the issue of the 'inevitability' of life beyond the question of natural selection.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Still an excellent introduction to the subject
Parts of this lucid and accessible book have become dated. We now have found hundreds of exoplanets including some so-called Goldilocks planets in the presumed habitable zone for... Read more
Published 4 months ago by C. Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars The best cup is half full view of astrobiology I have read so far
A positive explanation and outlook for the view that life can and probably does exist in other parts of the universe, other than earth. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Toshokan
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
I read this book cover to cover and truly enjoyed it. I loved that it provided me with a new way of thinking of science and of connecting my knowledge of both biology and chemistry... Read more
Published on August 24, 2012 by Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice change of perspective from "Rare Earth"
I think this is a good book to read after reading "Rare Earth". The writing style is definately more casual and as if you are inside the mind of Darling, compared to the more... Read more
Published on March 24, 2006 by N. Pinto
5.0 out of 5 stars Is extraterrestrial life widespread?
This book is actually in the form of a long essay defending the hypothesis that life, at least in microbial form, is widespread in the Galaxy. Read more
Published on December 21, 2004 by Jill Malter
4.0 out of 5 stars "Politically Correct"
This is one of eight books on Astrobiology which were rushed out after the publication of Joseph's revolutionary and ground breaking text, in May of 2000. Read more
Published on October 17, 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read... but beware...
I would definitely recommend to buy and read this book, but beware... this book is very thought provocing! Read more
Published on July 7, 2002 by Emmanuel Lambert
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introductory Overview
Astrobiology is THE science of the future... and the science of the past... and encompasses the study of genetics, microbiology, astronomy, evolution... and of course... Read more
Published on June 12, 2001 by Rhawn Joseph
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and authoratative
While there are many accessible books on SETI, surprisingly few have been written on astrobiology. This is undoubtedly one of the best and most current. Read more
Published on May 20, 2001 by Madeline McConnell
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