Science

Lonley Planets by David Grinspoon

A fun, off-the-wall look at the current state of the search for other life in the universe. Grinspoon uses the recently coined term astrobiology to descirbe this unusual field of study. It's an odd (and up until recently, rather unfashionable) field to be in: an astrobiologist is trying to guess where, when, and how life will arise on other planets, having only one example to look at. This is a bit like someone trying to understand all life on earth by studying only a single member of a single species.

Grinspoon has a dry and offbeat sense of humor about his own work, which makes the book fun to read even if the subject matter isn't normally something you are interested in. He tackles the hard questions - like, why haven't we found other life yet? (Given what we know about life on earth, the quantity of other potentially life-bearing planets, and the long range of electromagetic signals that any intelligent life will eventually start emitting once they develop certain types of communications technology, we should have seen them by now.)

He also asks questions about how alien life and the search for it affects our culture. For example, why do so many people believe that aliens have visited the earth already, despite all evidence to the contrary?

Rating: 4 of 5
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