Synopses & Reviews
Maybe we really are alone. "Likely to cause a revolution in thinking" (The New York Times), "a stellar example of clear writing" (American Scientist), and "a startling new hypothesis" (Library Journal) This book, revised and with a new preface, makes us think seriously about just how populated, or unpopulated, the universe may be.
"...likely to cause a revolution in thinking..." The New York Times "...[the book] has hit the world of astrobiologists like a killer asteroid..." Newsday (New York) "...a sobering and valuable perspective..." Science "...a startling new hypothesis..." Library Journal "...Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee offer a powerful argument..." The Economist "...provocative, significant, and sweeping..." Northwest Science & Technology "...a stellar example of clear writing..." American Scientist
"...likely to cause a revolution in thinking..."
The New York Times
"...[the book] has hit the world of astrobiologists like a killer asteroid..."
Newsday (New York)
"...a sobering and valuable perspective..."
"...a startling new hypothesis..."
"...Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee offer a powerful argument..."
"...provocative, significant, and sweeping..."
Northwest Science & Technology
"...a stellar example of clear writing..."
n November 12, 2002, Dr. John Chambers of the NASA Ames - search Center gave a seminar to the Astrobiology Group at the OUniversity of Washington. The audience of about 100 listened with rapt attention as Chambers described results from a computer study of how planetary systems form. The goal of his research was to answer a dec- tively simple question: How often would newly forming planetary systems produce Earth-like planets, given a star the size of our own sun? By "Ear- like" Chambers meant a rocky planet with water on its surface, orbiting within a star's "habitable zone. " This not-too-hot and not-too-cold inner - gion, relatively close to the star, supports the presence of liquid water on a planet surface for hundreds of million of years--the time-span probably n- essary for the evolution of life. To answer the question of just how many Earth-like planets might be spawned in such a planetary system, Chambers had spent thousands of hours running highly sophisticated modeling p- grams through arrays of powerful computers. x Preface to the Paperback Edition The results presented at the meeting were startling. The simulations showed that rocky planets orbiting at the "right" distances from the central star are easily formed, but they can end up with a wide range of water c- tent.
What determines whether complex life will arise on a planet, or even any life at all? Questions such as these are investigated in this groundbreaking book. In doing so, the authors synthesize information from astronomy, biology, and paleontology, and apply it to what we know about the rise of life on Earth and to what could possibly happen elsewhere in the universe. Everyone who has been thrilled by the recent discoveries of extrasolar planets and the indications of life on Mars and the Jovian moon Europa will be fascinated by Rare Earth, and its implications for those who look to the heavens for companionship.
Table of Contents
Preface to the Paperback Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Introduction: The Astrobiology Revolution and the Rare Earth Hypothesis
Dead Zones of the Universe
Rare Earth Factors
1 Why Life Might Be Widespread in the Universe
2 Habitable Zones of the Universe
3 Building a Habitable Earth
4 Life's First Appearance on Earth
5 How to Build Animals
6 Snowball Earth
7 The Enigma of the Cambrian Explosion
8 Mass Extinctions and the Rare Earth Hypothesis
9 The Surprising Importance of Plate Tectonics
10 The Moon, Jupiter, and Life on Earth
11 Testing the Rare Earth Hypotheses
12 Assessing the Odds
13 Messengers from the Stars