The Search for Life on Other Planets

Bruce Jakosky, Author
Bruce Jakosky, Author Cambridge University Press $59.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-521-59165-2
Paperback - 326 pages - 978-0-521-59837-8
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Scholarly but accessible, University of Colorado geology professor Jakosky's study of the possibility of extraterrestrial life has an organization that reflects its origin as an undergraduate course called ""Extraterrestrial Life."" Each chapter reads like a self-contained lecture that builds carefully on the preceding ones. Most chapters end with a section of ""concluding comments"" reminiscent of a skilled instructor's lecture summary, tying threads of evidence together yet leaving open questions for the next class period. After opening with a look at the development of and requirements for terrestrial life, Jakosky conducts a tour of the universe, steadily progressing toward more speculative venues. The first stop is Mars and the controversial evidence of bacterial life there in ancient epochs. Then it's onward to Venus, the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, and then to possible terrestrial planets in orbit around other stars. We now know that such planets are likely to exist, but are habitable environments common? Is biology rare, or is life an opportunistic and tenacious phenomenon, almost certain to spring up where conditions are right? If life appears, is intelligence a natural consequence? The excitement of those questions, says Jakosky, is not that the answers are at hand, but that the quest has moved from theory to observation and experiment. He leaves his readers eagerly awaiting the next discoveries. 64 halftones; 73 line drawings. (Aug.)
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