LONELY PLANETS: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life

David Harry Grinspoon, Author . Ecco $25.95 (440p) ISBN 978-0-06-018540-4

Principal scientist at the Southwest Research Institute's department of space science, Grinspoon offers an up-to-date picture of the search for extraterrestrial life and the prospects of finding it in a universe that we now know contains other solar systems. It also covers the nearly four centuries that the search has been under way since the initial observations of Renaissance astronomers. As soon as biology joined the inquiring minds, theories multiplied thick and fast; the historiography of the scientific debate is complex and has the potential for being unbearably dull. But Grinspoon handles the wide variety of material necessary for a coherent narrative with great aplomb, marshalling material such as the charming Conversations , a 17th-century dialogue by a French astronomer in which a philosopher and a marquise debate astronomical topics. Even when he turns to physics, the author runs to phrases like "the Sun in its wild youth" to describe the energy output of various kinds of stars, making this book less a popularization than a personable chat on life, the universe and everything. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-06-095996-8
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