Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013
By Kadri
Astrobiology, History, and Society
Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery
Edited by Douglas A. Vakoch

Rating: 8/10

Astrobiology is a field covering different topics that otherwise don't seem to mesh too well such as astronomy, biology, chemistry and even geology and philosophy. Astrobiology as an established and serious field hasn't been around for long, but theories about life somewhere other than on Earth have been around for centuries.

In this book you can find out about the first philosophers, writers and scientists who were interested in the possibility of life on other planets and get to know the reasons why it was considered possible by them and what actually led to their depictions of life elsewhere in literature. For example you can find out that some places where considered habitable because of similarities to Earth, for instance the fact that the first telescopic observations showed hills on the Moon - that obviously means that it's another world and when there are hills, then couldn't these dark areas there be seas? And when there are seas then there's water and naturally there also has to be life!

And then there are the unlikelier places - the Sun and other stars - there were scientists who considered even those habitable, but just why did they think so, you can find out in this book.

The history of astrobiology is interesting - seeing how astronomers have been quite enthusiastic about life in the solar system, but then as times change and the equipment evolves the possibility for life disappears - first it leaves the Moon, then the closer planets, Mars and Venus until scientists seem to share  a pessimistic view that life arising anywhere is not likely. You can feel the possibilities slipping away from you and leaving the Earth alone in a lifeless Universe.

You can then continue by reading about the modern outlook to astrobiology and how scientists are searching the for evidence of life and how could life even evolve somewhere.

However history is just one part of this book. Another important part is  how would first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization impact human society, for example would it affect different religions or would it have a different impact on third world countries?

The recent depictions of extraterrestrial life in movies and literature is also given a small part in here.

Overall this book makes for really interesting reading if you're interested in extraterrestrial life and astrobiology.
What I found particularly surprising was, that in this book you can also find out about astrobotany - plant-life on other planets doesn't seem to come up in many books about extraterrestrial life, so learning more about that from "Astrobiology, History and Society" was great.


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