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Lonely Planets : The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life Paperback – Bargain Price, November 1, 2004

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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Editorial Reviews 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 theorizing 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, since 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 astronomers' search for other planets and their theoretical inhabitants. Grinspoon's style is exuberant, even a little cocky, and the result is delightful readability. 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Principal scientist at the Southwest Research Institute's department of space science, Grinspoon offers an up-to-date picture of the search for extraterrestrial life and the prospects of finding it in a universe that we now know contains other solar systems. It also covers the nearly four centuries that the search has been under way since the initial observations of Renaissance astronomers. As soon as biology joined the inquiring minds, theories multiplied thick and fast; the historiography of the scientific debate is complex and has the potential for being unbearably dull. But Grinspoon handles the wide variety of material necessary for a coherent narrative with great aplomb, marshalling material such as the charming Conversations, a 17th-century dialogue by a French astronomer in which a philosopher and a marquise debate astronomical topics. Even when he turns to physics, the author runs to phrases like "the Sun in its wild youth" to describe the energy output of various kinds of stars, making this book less a popularization than a personable chat on life, the universe and everything.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0060959967
  • ASIN: B0009K75YK
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,691,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John E. Ronner on May 15, 2012
As a longtime amateur astronomer, I realized instantly that this book on the search for life elsewhere in the universe would be one of a handful of the best astronomy-related books I've read in a lifetime (of 60 years to date!). Grinspoon's book is richly detailed, sweeping in scope, but keeps the reader moving right along through skillful pacing and tight editing. And it's authoritative, due to his solid scientific background and position in the astrobiology community. If you're intellectually hungry for this topic, prepare for a sumptuous banquet. Alas, the few years that have gone by since its publication are like a lifetime in astrobiology, and this is the book's only flaw. Fortunately, the major themes are still intact, and actually the outlook for finding extraterrestrial life is far brighter today than on the book's publication date. As one small example, the Viking lander's initial pro-Martian biology findings of the 1970s, once almost roundly scorned by skeptics, has seen dramatic attempts in recent years by some scientists at rehabilitation. It turns out that the instrument that "demonstrated" no life forms in the rock may not have been sensitive enough to find them. A similar instrument failed to detect life in a comparably inhospitable environment on earth, where we know it exists. This makes the other Viking instrument all the more intriguing -- the one that showed what may have been dramatic biological chemical reactions when the putative "bugs" were "fed" by the lander.
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By Sally Dunn on July 20, 2014
This is a book that my son has wanted for a long time. He actually knows and has worked with the author so it makes this book special to have. I believe the book is out of print? In any case, it was very difficult to find. When I saw a good used copy for sale I bought it.
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