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Talking about Life: Conversations on Astrobiology 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0521514927
ISBN-10: 0521514924
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Editorial Reviews


"The views expressed here range from the cautious to the radical, and from those rooted in hard science to the more fanciful, and the views on extraterrestrial life range from those who see it as being widespread, to those who suspect it is extremely rare, perhaps unique to Earth. There is absolutely no comfort in this book for believers in extraterrestrial UFOs, or extraterrestrial humanoids." - Magonia Review of Books, September 2010

"Chris Impey's concept for the compilation of real-life conversations with astrobiological academics and professionals is unique and, at times, fascinating. He must be applauded for the evident effort in conducting and putting together nearly forty broad ranging interviews." - Leila Battison, Astrobiology Society of Britain

Book Description

Containing candid interviews with dozens of astronomers, geologists, biologists, and writers about the origin and range of terrestrial life and likely sites for life beyond Earth, this book will fascinate anyone who has ever wondered 'Are we alone?'

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (September 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521514924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521514927
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor and Deputy Head of the Department, in charge of all academic programs. His research interests are observational cosmology, gravitational lensing, and the evolution and structure of galaxies. He has 170 refereed publications and 65 conference proceedings, and his work has been supported by $20 million in grants from NASA and the NSF. As a professor, he has won eleven teaching awards, and he has been heavily involved in curriculum and instructional technology development. Impey is a past Vice President of the American Astronomical Society. He has also been an NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar, a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, and the Carnegie Council on Teaching's Arizona Professor of the Year. He was a co-chair of the Education and Public Outreach Study Group for the Astronomy Decadal Survey of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Impey has written over thirty popular articles on cosmology and astrobiology and co-authored two introductory textbooks. His first popular book "The Living Cosmos," was published in 2007 by Random House. His second and third, called "How It Ends" and "How it Began," both on the subject of cosmology" were published in 2010 and 2012 by Norton. His most recent popular book in 2013 covering iconic NASA missions is called "Dreams of Other Worlds" and a book will be released in 2014 on his work teaching cosmology to Buddhist monks in India called "Humble Before the Void." He recently published his first novel on Amazon Kindle, called "Shadow World."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Doctor Moss on April 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Astrobiology has finally become a serious discipline, and this book provides an engaging way to get a read on the critical research questions and on where things stand today (although "today" recedes awfully quickly in this field).

Chris Impey interviews a collection of scientists and others working as researchers or speculators on topics central to astrobiology -- how life originated on earth, how likely it is to develop in other environments, how likely it is that life elsewhere would evolve intelligence, how many planets and moons might provide suitable environments, how we might detect life elsewhere, how different that life might be from what we know, and how good a position we are in to answer any of these questions.

You might think that a book composed of interviews -- dialogs between Impey and his subjects, each about 10 to 15 pages long -- would be a relatively breezy read. But it isn't. So many scientific disciplines are involved, and so many difficult and complex questions are crucial to astrobiological research that no reader could be prepared for everything that Impey and his subjects delve into. In my own case, I have a much stronger background in astronomy than in so many of the topics that appear earlier in the book -- geology, paleontology, biology, . . . I slogged through some of those earlier discussions more slowly, occasionally hitting other sources to fill in the background for some of the discussions.

I enjoyed reading the book -- it gave me just what I was looking for in terms of an understanding of where the field is today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By AKN TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Top scientists share their theories and discoveries that point to the most likely places and scenarios for where life will be found and what forms it may take.
These men and women have dedicated their lives to studying physics, astronomy, planetology, biology, evolution, genetics and have now begun to change their identities to
astrobiologists, the newest type of science.

Astrobiology is the study of life on other astral bodies than earth. The passion and depth of curiosity of these amazing people is inspiring. Some of it will be over the head of all but fellow scientists and yet, I have come away with an appreciation of the excitement in this new field. Our space program is now directing explorations with the ultimate goal of discovering life someplace else in our solar system. It has gone from being a very tentative idea a few decades ago to being a certainty among many scientists, so that Nasa is now trying to bring home samples that will prove life, most likely on Mars, Ios, Titan or Europa.

All the many possibilites have been thought out and yet it is explained that all the necessary equipment that it would take to prove a life form that is not carbon and h2o based is not yet within our means to send to another planet or moon. Therefore, unless it is similar enough to our own carbon based lifeforms, we will see it and not recognize it.
There is the possibility that some lifeforms might be methane and silicon based due to an abundance of these chemistries on many planets and therefore we won't know it when we see it.

It is expected that at some time, probably within the next hundred years, an outpost on Mars will be established where people will live, much as scientists now live in research stations at the Arctic.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. Lewis on November 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating perspectives from leaders in the field. I'm on my second time through reading it and getting more the second time.
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