The best look at this subject since Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Connection (1973).

LONELY PLANETS

THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHY OF ALIEN LIFE

An exuberant, provocative look at the possibility of extraterrestrial life, what it might be like, and what it might mean.

In his opening pages, Grinspoon (Astrophysics and Planetary Science/Univ. of Colorado; Venus Revealed, 1997) lays down the history of scientific interest in life beyond Earth, from the discovery that the planets are worlds like ours to the many theories that those other worlds might be inhabited. The second section summarizes scientific opinion on ET life, especially as seen by the new discipline of astrobiology. Our knowledge about life is confined to specimens from our world, Grinspoon reminds us; discovery of even one organism on another world would dramatically alter our perspective. He points out that the Drake equation, meant to estimate the prevalence of life in the universe, depends heavily on the expected lifetime of advanced civilizations. On the other side of the debate, Fermi’s Paradox states the key problem: if intelligent life is common in the universe, why can't we detect it? Grinspoon devotes some attention to possible answers, from the worst-case scenario (we are alone in the universe) to the possibility that ETs are already here, secretly making contact with selected humans. The third portion explores the far fringes of the subject, from UFO conspiracy theories and abductions to crop circles and mutilations of farm animals. The author resists the temptation to look down his nose at the true believers, pointing out that organized skepticism often has trouble recognizing truths that don’t conform to the scientific model. He concludes with the suggestion that our civilization could be a mere stepping stone to some higher form of consciousness, and that truly advanced life forms may be immortal. Wisecracks, philosophical musings, and personal anecdotes make his text as lively as it is authoritative.

The best look at this subject since Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Connection (1973).

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-018540-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

Did you like this book?

A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more