A fresh take on an always fascinating subject.



If extraterrestrials exist, Darwin’s theory of evolution may provide a powerful key to determining how aliens live and behave.

As technologies used to explore the universe become more sophisticated, scientists are increasingly optimistic that life outside of Earth may exist. In this enjoyable and informative book, Cambridge zoologist Kershenbaum argues that because the theory of natural selection and the laws of biology are universal, they can be applied to habitats other than Earth to understand how complex life may evolve in those places. The author explains that much of evolution relates to predictable patterns of problem-solving, whether the result is propelling through water using fins, walking on two legs, or soaring through the air using wings. “Convergent evolution is not just a phenomenon restricted to life on Earth,” writes Kershenbaum. “The same principles that lead birds and bats to evolve similar solutions will also lead alien birds and bats to fly.” In captivating detail, the author explores how the concept of convergent evolution can be used to deduce how aliens may use language and communication, socialize, move, and develop organic and artificial intelligence. Depending on the habitat, alien life may be strikingly similar to that on Earth, or aliens may exist in a dark, wet world and communicate using electricity—just one example of how odd alien life may be even as it exists within universal physical laws. The author successfully conveys tricky subjects without sacrificing clarity or letting his narrative get buried in technical discussions, and he writes with an enthusiasm that is infectious despite the fact that his core argument—that alien life must exist—has no empirical evidence. This is a fun, rewarding journey, and by the end, his analysis teaches readers as much about life on Earth as it does elsewhere.

A fresh take on an always fascinating subject.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984881-96-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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