Life is a property of the universe. We may not know how it began or where else it exists, but we have come to know a great deal about how it relates to stars, planets, and the larger cosmos. In clear and compelling terms, this book shows how the emerging field of astrobiology investigates the nature of life in space. How did life begin? How common is it? Where do we fit in? These are the important questions that astrobiology seeks to answer.
A truly interdisciplinary endeavor, astrobiology looks at the evidence of astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry, and a host of other fields. A grand narrative emerges, beginning from the smallest, most common particles yet producing amazing complexity and order. Lucas Mix is a congenial guide through the depths of astrobiology, exploring how the presence of planets around other stars affects our knowledge of our own; how water, carbon, and electrons interact to form life as we know it; and how the processes of evolution and entropy act upon every living thing.
This book also reveals that our understanding and our context are deeply intertwined. It shows how much astrobiology can tell us about who we are—as a planet, as a species, and as individuals.
In a fascinating primer, Lucas John Mix lays the groundwork for what may become the hottest science in the latter part of this century. Through basic biology and planetary sciences, Mix muses over which worlds in our solar system might possibly harbor life and which seemingly possess environments too hostile to expect life of any kind. He investigates the conditions under which life is known to thrive and ponders whether it's inevitable that life could, or would, take hold just about anywhere the prerequisite temperatures and elements come together.
Most of this book is accessible and fascinating.
Mix does an excellent job 'assembling the larger puzzle' about life in space from the pieces provided by all the scientific disciplines.
What is life? If you are sure you know and do not want to be challenged, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! However, you will miss an extraordinarily fascinating account, told with a particularly engaging style. Is an egg alive? Maybe yes, maybe no. It is a single cell. Most cells are invisible to the unaided eye, but the largest cell is an ostrich egg, perhaps 20 centimeters across. As the author concludes, life is a great deal more confusing and wonderful than anyone suspected.
Lucas Mix has written a beautiful synthesis of the multiple sciences that make up astrobiology. He tells the story of life from the broad perspective that links discoveries in astronomy, geoscience, chemistry, and biology and connects the history of life on Earth to our prospects for finding life, perhaps very different life forms, beyond our familiar home planet.
Mix has written a book that captures the excitement of this new age of discovery that we are in the midst of today. He is systematic and thorough, an admirable accomplishment given the multidisciplinary nature of astrobiology. This makes the book valuable to the reader seriously interested in the subject. Mix's prose is very light and entertaining, making his thorough treatment of the subject an asset, rather than a liability. The casual reader will most likely enjoy the book and learn a lot from it.
- 344 pages
- 6-1/8 x 8-1/2 inches
- Harvard University Press
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