THE SEARCH FOR LIFE ON MARS

THE GREATEST SCIENTIFIC DETECTIVE STORY OF ALL TIME

The search retains an irresistible fascination, and this enthusiastic account brings readers up to date.

A new account of the scientific quest that “promises to spring even more amazing surprises in the years to come.”

Journalists Howell and Booth, as well as most experts, agree that Martian life would likely resemble that on Earth, and earthly organisms are tough. They can thrive without oxygen or sunlight, at temperatures above boiling and below freezing, and in the presence of strong acids, toxic metals, and poisons. However, none exist without water. The good news is that Mars has water. The bad news is that its surface is bone dry. In the era before spacecraft, many observers believed in life on Mars, led by the brilliant, wealthy Percival Lowell (1855-1916), who built his own observatory, saw the iconic canals, and never doubted that they represented works of an advanced civilization. The general public—but few astronomers—agreed until the pioneering 1965 Mariner 4 flyby revealed a cratered moonlike surface, an atmosphere 1/100 thinner than ours, and a temperature of minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The authors deliver a densely detailed account of subsequent unmanned flybys, orbiters, and landers whose missions have returned an avalanche of new geological, chemical, and meteorological discoveries that thrill scientists but may overwhelm general readers. Two more landers should launch soon, and much is expected. The authors conclude that most—but not all—experts consider Mars dead except, perhaps, deep underground, where liquid water may persist. A better environment existed billions of years ago, with volcanoes providing heat and gases, hot springs, and bodies of water that lasted perhaps 100 million years. “Conditions have deteriorated from earlier states into the freezing tundra-like world we see today,” write the authors, who provide the latest on the possibility of Martian life and proof that we probably won’t know for sure until humans set foot.

The search retains an irresistible fascination, and this enthusiastic account brings readers up to date. (32 color photos)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950691-39-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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