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Examines each of these parameters in crucial depth and makes the argument that life forms we would recognize may be more common in our solar system than many assume.
Considers exotic forms of life that would not have to rely on carbon as the basic chemical element, solar energy as the main energy source, or water as the primary solvent and the question of detecting bio- and geosignatures of such life forms, ranging from earth environments to deep space.
Seeks an operational definition of life and investigate the realm of possibilities that nature offers to realize this very special state of matter.
Avoids scientific jargon wherever possible to make this intrinsically interdisciplinary subject understandable to a broad range of readers.
Introduction.- Definition of Life.- The Origin of Life.- Lessons from the History of Life on Earth.- Energy Sources and Life.- Building Blocks of Life.- Life and the Need for a Solvent.- Habitats of Life.- Ideas of Exotic Forms of Life.- The Future and Fate of Living Systems.- Signatures of Life.- Life Detection - Past and Present.- Opitimizing Space Exploration.- References.- Index.