FAINT ECHOES, DISTANT STARS: The Science and Politics of Finding Life Beyond Earth

Ben Bova, Author . Morrow $25.95 (335p) ISBN 978-0-380-97519-8

In 1910 the earth whirled through the tail of Halley's comet. Eight years later, in the final months of WWI, the "Spanish flu" pandemic struck, killing tens of millions worldwide. Could biological organisms in the comet's tail have made their way to Earth, causing this great outbreak of disease, like some early Andromeda strain? After all, many scientists hold to the panspermia thesis, that comets seeded the infant Earth with water—and life. But how could any organism survive the cold, radiation-drenched vacuum of space? Bova, a popular science fiction author and National Space Society president emeritus, demonstrates in this lively survey how resilient life really is. One little organism called D. radiodurans , a regular Conan the bacterium, can survive radiation that would fry any other known life form. Interstellar bodies often contain water in the form of amorphous ice, whose fluid structure is closer to that of glass than regular ice and can allow life to exist, or even come into being, inside it. Bova gives a comprehensive overview of the changing fortunes of astrobiology, so often the victim of political and economic expediencies, and lays out our species' best options for surviving our own actions as well as objects that may come zooming at us from out of the cosmos. The author sometimes lets his enthusiasm carry him into flights of hyperbole and even misstatements. Most scientists don't believe that life on earth needs to worry about the moon losing momentum and one day breaking apart above our heads. And early forms of life did colonize Antarctica, contrary to Bova's claim; the continent wasn't in a deep freeze millions of years ago. This book will excite science buffs while being accessible to general readers hoping to one day meet our extraterrestrial relations. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW . (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.