The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe

Chris Impey


In Circulation

Astrobiology–the study of life in space–is one of today’s fastest growing and most popular fields of science. In this compelling, accessible, and elegantly reasoned new book, award-winning scholar and researcher Chris Impey explores the foundations of this rapidly developing discipline, where it’s going, and what it’s likely to find.

The journey begins with the earliest steps of science, gaining traction through the revelations of the Renaissance, including Copernicus’s revolutionary declaration that the Earth was not the center of the universe but simply a planet circling the sun. But if Earth is not the only planet, it is so far the only living one that we know of. In fascinating detail, The Living Cosmos reveals the incredible proliferation and variety of life on Earth, paying special tribute to some of its hardiest life forms, extremophiles, a dizzying array of microscopic organisms compared, in Impey’s wise and humorous prose, to superheroes that can survive extreme heat and cold, live deep within rocks, or thrive in pure acid.

From there, Impey launches into space, where astrobiologists investigate the potential for life beyond our own world. Is it to be found on Mars, the “death planet” that has foiled most planetary missions, and which was wet and temperate billions of years ago? Or on Venus, Earth’s “evil twin,” where it rains sulfuric acid and whose heat could melt lead? (“Whoever named it after the goddess of love had a sorry history of relationships.”) The answer may lie in a moon within our Solar System, or it may be found in one of the hundreds of extra-solar planets that have already been located. The Living Cosmos sees beyond these explorations, and imagines space vehicles that eschew fuel for solar- or even nuclear-powered rockets, all sent by countries motivated by the millions to be made in space tourism.

But The Living Cosmos is more than just a riveting work about experiment and discovery. It is also an affecting portrait of the individuals who have devoted their lives to astrobiology. Illustrated throughout, The Living Cosmos is a revelatory book about a science that is changing our view of the universe, a mesmerizing guide to what life actually means and where it may–or may not–exist, and a stunning work that explains our past as it predicts our future.

What will you learn from this book

  1. Vastness of the Universe: Impey discusses the immense scale of the cosmos and the potential for life beyond Earth, highlighting the billions of galaxies and stars that could harbor habitable planets.

  2. Search for Extraterrestrial Life: The book explores humanity's efforts to detect signs of life beyond our solar system, including the search for exoplanets in the habitable zone and the possibility of microbial life elsewhere.

  3. Astrobiology and Evolution: Impey delves into the field of astrobiology, which combines astronomy, biology, and geology to study the conditions necessary for life to arise and evolve on other planets.

  4. Technological Advances: Advances in telescopes, space probes, and techniques like spectroscopy are discussed, emphasizing their role in expanding our understanding of the cosmos and searching for life.

  5. Philosophical Implications: The search for extraterrestrial life raises philosophical questions about humanity's place in the universe and the potential impact of discovering other intelligent civilizations.

  6. Planetary Habitability: Impey explores the concept of habitability beyond Earth, considering factors like the presence of liquid water, stable atmospheres, and energy sources necessary to sustain life.

  7. Fermi Paradox: The book may touch upon the Fermi Paradox, which questions why, despite the vast number of potentially habitable planets, we have yet to detect any definitive signals of extraterrestrial intelligence.

  8. Ethical Considerations: Discussions about the ethical implications of discovering life elsewhere in the universe, including how to approach potential contact and the preservation of alien ecosystems.

  9. Astrochemistry and Origins: Exploring the chemistry of the universe and how the elements necessary for life are formed in stars and spread throughout space, contributing to planetary formation and evolution.

  10. Future Prospects: Impey may discuss future missions and technologies that could further our understanding of the cosmos and increase the likelihood of discovering signs of life beyond Earth.

Language English
ISBN-13 9781400065066
No of pages 256
Font Size Medium
Book Publisher Random House
Published Date 02 Jun 2007

About Author

Author : Chris Impey


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