Life as We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life

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9780143038498: Life as We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life

An engrossing and revelatory first look at the search for alien life—on Earth and beyond

For the past twenty years, Peter Ward has been at the forefront of popular science writing, with books such as the influential and controversial Rare Earth. In Life as We Do Not Know It, Ward, with his signature blend of eloquence, humor, and learned insight, vividly details the latest scientific findings, cutting-edge research, and intrepid new theories on the subject of alien life and the possible extraterrestrial origins of life on Earth. In lucid, entertaining, and bold prose, Peter Ward once again challenges our notions of life on earth (and beyond).

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About 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.

From 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)
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