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What If the Moon Didn't Exist?: Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been

What If the Moon Didn't Exist?: Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been

by Neil F. Comins

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Comins, an astronomy professor at the University of Maine, inverts the anthropic principle of cosmology--suggesting that the universe evolved in order to produce life as we know it--and envisions an array of biosystems that would likely have occurred if particular events had not taken place. The first of these, after describing how our moon was formed from the impact of an asteroid on the molten earth, posits the characteristics of life that might have evolved without the moon's influence, e.g., diminished tidal changes would have reduced the number of species. The first few of these speculations are intriguing; then the device becomes boring, relying on a kind of ``wow!'' response that readers of popular science will find hard to sustain. Many of these scenarios are necessarily vague. Posing a supernova explosion only 50 light years away, Comins notes that food-chain relationships would break down and nature would have to ``rebuild'' the ``hierarchies of life.'' BOMC and QPB alternates; Newbridge Book Club dual selection. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The questioning title of this book sounds like the product of a child's naive curiosity. In reality, however, it is entirely possible that a moon might not have formed in Earth's orbit, and without our nearest astronomical neighbor this planet would have been a quite different world indeed. For example, without the moon's gravitational influence upon the Earth's tides, the planet would rotate considerably faster so that a day would last approximately eight hours. Astronomer Comins considers several equally plausible and equally fascinating planetary scenarios. For instance, what if the Earth had less mass? What if a star exploded near the Earth? What if the Earth's ozone layer were depleted? In doing so, he has produced a very witty, entertaining, and thought-provoking work of popular science that is appropriate for high school, public, and undergraduate library collections alike. Recommended.-- Gregg Sapp, Montana State Univ. Libs., Bozeman
Donna Seaman
Comins illuminates the complex mechanics of our world through a series of powerfully visualized answers to clever "what if" questions. Most of these speculative models of alternative worlds concern the moon. Few realize how profoundly our lunar partner has affected the structure of Earth and its life-forms. Comins begins with the most dramatic option: What if the moon didn't exist? He calls this possible world Solon, in recognition of its solo orbit around the sun, and contrasts its characteristics with Earth's. For instance, Solon's rotation would be much faster without the gravitational tug of the moon, so days would be shorter and winds much stronger, generating greater rates of erosion, which means smaller mountains and ground-clinging plants. And tides would be lower, reducing the wealth and diversity of marine life. Comins goes on to more subtle possibilities: What if the moon were closer to Earth? What if Earth had less mass, or the sun were more massive? In a particularly exciting chapter, Comins describes what would happen if a black hole passed through Earth. Imaginative and stimulating.
Leads readers on a speculative scientific journey by envisioning and explaining what our planet would be like if various aspects of our physical situation had been created differently or suddenly were to change. As in his "what if" pieces in Astronomy magazine, the author uses his knowledge of geology, ecology, meteorology, botany, biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy to clearly and engagingly show the general reader how our life-sustaining planet is the result of a remarkable and delicate balance of natural phenomena. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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1st ed

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