- Hardcover: 315 pages
- Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (November 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060168641
- ISBN-13: 978-0060168643
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,413,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What If the Moon Didn't Exist?: Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Comins, an astronomy professor at the University of Maine, inverts the anthropic principle of cosmology--suggesting that the universe evolved in order to produce life as we know it--and envisions an array of biosystems that would likely have occurred if particular events had not taken place. The first of these, after describing how our moon was formed from the impact of an asteroid on the molten earth, posits the characteristics of life that might have evolved without the moon's influence, e.g., diminished tidal changes would have reduced the number of species. The first few of these speculations are intriguing; then the device becomes boring, relying on a kind of "wow!" response that readers of popular science will find hard to sustain. Many of these scenarios are necessarily vague. Posing a supernova explosion only 50 light years away, Comins notes that food-chain relationships would break down and nature would have to "rebuild" the "hierarchies of life." BOMC and QPB alternates; Newbridge Book Club dual selection.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The questioning title of this book sounds like the product of a child's naive curiosity. In reality, however, it is entirely possible that a moon might not have formed in Earth's orbit, and without our nearest astronomical neighbor this planet would have been a quite different world indeed. For example, without the moon's gravitational influence upon the Earth's tides, the planet would rotate considerably faster so that a day would last approximately eight hours. Astronomer Comins considers several equally plausible and equally fascinating planetary scenarios. For instance, what if the Earth had less mass? What if a star exploded near the Earth? What if the Earth's ozone layer were depleted? In doing so, he has produced a very witty, entertaining, and thought-provoking work of popular science that is appropriate for high school, public, and undergraduate library collections alike. Recommended.
- Gregg Sapp, Montana State Univ. Libs., Bozeman
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
At times he makes some rather fantastic predictions that I don't think follow from his premises. Take an example: when he's discussing the titular earth without a moon, he comes to suggest the inhabitants might develop telepathy to communicate more effectively in the dark moonless nights. When discussing an earth with an axis tilted like Uranus, he suggests there might be massive seasonal migration, so much that city walls would have to be built like boat keels to accommodate them. I appreciate this sort of speculation when I'm reading science fiction, but this book isn't supposed to be science fiction. It lends itself to a much more grounded assessment, and I think he comes to realize this in the second book of the series.
The book is also definitely a product of its time. There's an entire chapter dedicated to the depletion of the ozone layer, for instance, which was a very serious political issue before restrictions were placed on CFCs. There's some things about the science that he simply couldn't have known at the time. This book was written before the discovery of extrasolar planets, for instance, and it definitely shows. This is something that's addressed in his second book.
Because I enjoyed this book I purchased the sequel What if the Earth Had Two Moons? The latter is available on Kindle.
However, the book is not solely limited to astronomical phenomena. It also contains a very enlightening chapter on the feasibility of organisms using forms of electro-magnetic radiation other than visible light for purposes of seeing. Superman's x-ray vision will never seem quite the same once you know that his eyes would have to be ten-thousand times the size of regular human eyes in order to be able to process an image at the same level of resolution.
I would also strongly recommend this book to people who like alternate histories, or who enjoy writing "hard" science fiction. I have found it to be a very valuable reference work for my own writing.
Later chapters explore Earth with a closer moon, Earth with a 90-degree axis tilt, and an Earth with a larger sun. We also get some lovely disaster scenarios of nearby supernovas, another star passing through our solar system, and my personal favorite, the effect on Earth of the impact of a black hole, both big and small.
I confess there were a few bits that dragged for me, mostly on evolutionary impacts, but the astronomical and geological explanations were great.