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Life Everywhere: The New Science Of Astrobiology Hardcover – April 5, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0465015634 ISBN-10: 0465015638 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First edition (April 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465015638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465015634
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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]

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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A very interesting section is Darling's critique of Ward and Brownlee's book, "Rare Earth."
Jill Malter
It is helpful to have a background in biology and my understanding of organic chemistry did make this book more meaningful.
I would definitely recommend to buy and read this book, but beware... this book is very thought provocing!
Emmanuel Lambert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By "seticentral" on June 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Case on May 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 By John C. Landon on October 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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