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Life As We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (And Synthesis Of) Alien Life
     

Life As We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (And Synthesis Of) Alien Life

by Peter Douglas Ward
 

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Peter Ward is a distinguished professor, scientist, and author whose earlier book Rare Earth, with its dim view of the possibilities of complex life beyond our planet, created a rift in the science community so controversial he was featured on the front page of The New York Times. With Life as We Do Not Know It, Ward again challenges our

Overview

Peter Ward is a distinguished professor, scientist, and author whose earlier book Rare Earth, with its dim view of the possibilities of complex life beyond our planet, created a rift in the science community so controversial he was featured on the front page of The New York Times. With Life as We Do Not Know It, Ward again challenges our notions of extraterrestrial life with a significantly revised look at life in the universe and a novel hypothesis about the origins of life on Earth.

A principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which funds a program to study “life as we do not know it”—investigating the possibility of life on other planets or, more controversial, creating non-DNA life in the laboratory—Peter Ward presents the latest data on the range of life that are scientifically possible on Earth and beyond. Authoritative and eye opening, Life as We Do Not Know It is sure to provoke wonder and heated debate among both professional researchers and lay readers alike.

Editorial Reviews

Peter Ward's 2002 book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe threw cold water on notions that aliens are everywhere. In Life as We Do Not Know It, he offers further, more optimistic observations on extraterrestrial life and presents his own radical hypothesis about the origins of life on earth. Even more provocatively, he discusses his work as a principal investigator on a little known NASA-funded program that seeks to create non-DNA life in a laboratory. His participation in this cutting-edge research enables Ward to specify where others can only speculate.
Publishers Weekly
Ward's Rare Earth (coauthored with Donald Brownlee) suggested the unlikelihood of our finding an alien race as complex and evolved as humankind; if such beings exist, they're too far away for us to make contact with. But what about more basic forms of life right here in our solar system? Ward, an investigator with NASA's Astrobiology Institute, believes researchers might be taking the wrong approach by looking only for earthly DNA-based life forms. Truly alien life, he argues, might have completely different origins; even Earth has untold numbers of viruses composed entirely of RNA, and scientists have created similar genetic material in laboratories, so who's to say silicon-based life-forms are impossible? After introducing readers to the building blocks of life and the new ways they might be arranged, Ward speculates on what types of microbes we might find on other planets and their satellites. He recommends that future manned space expeditions include paleontologists and biochemists to follow up on suggestive evidence collected by space probes. The science is neatly laid out, and readers willing to follow his daring, scientifically based speculations will find their imaginations spurred. (On sale Nov. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ward (biology, earth & space sciences, astronomy, Univ. of Washington; The Life and Death of Planet Earth), a principal investigator at a NASA-funded research program investigating alien life forms, has written a fascinating and enlightening book that critically examines the arguments and evidences for the probability of life-as we know it or do not know it-existing elsewhere in this solar system. He discusses the major components and general characteristics of known terrestrial biological entities, the plausibility that RNA preceded DNA, the status of viruses in our living world, the new discoveries of organic forms at volcanic vents on the ocean floor, and other possible evolutionary pathways for life. His rational speculations give special attention to astrobiology's panspermia hypothesis (the notion that life came from space) and focus on Mars, Europa, and Titan as being promising sites for life forms of some nature, making the crucial distinction between carbon-based earth life and alien life. He even offers a new classification system for the tree of life that is open both to non-Earth and synthetic life forms. This informative and unique book is highly recommended for all academic and public science collections.-H. James Birx, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670034581
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/03/2005
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.03(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Peter Ward, a recognized authority on mass extinctions, is professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. His books include Gorgon, Future Evolution, The End of Evolution, and, with Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth and The Life and Death of Planet Earth. He has also appeared in numerous TV documentaries for PBS, Discover, and The Learning Channel.

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