by David Darling
This concise survey describes the increasingly mainstream field of astrobiology, the science devoted to finding extraterrestrial life. Darling discusses the issues, arguments, and experimental results that motivate astrobiologists. He points specifically to extremophiles, which are microbes that inhabit hostile environments and may be the oldest species on Earth. These life forms may have originated in the scalding ocean vents and the deep polar ice where they exist today. If so, then the terrain of Mars and Jupiter suddenly seems more realistic as the cradle of life, and extrasolar planets seem more inviting. Darling shows how recent revelations in these areas are causing astrobiologists to reconsider the conditions necessary for life to appear, how common life may be, where it may be found, and what it would be like.
Basic, 2001, 206 p., hardcover
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Copyright 2001, Science Service