Book reviews

‘The Cosmic Zoo – Complex Life on Many Worlds’ by Dirk Schulze-Makuch, William Bains

Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Book reviews | 0 comments

The key question in astrobiology is whether we are likely to find life beyond Earth, and the authors of this book, who are clearly optimistic about the answer, put forward strong arguments to support their optimism. Whether you agree with them or not, this book will help you think critically about the possibility of life beyond Earth, and about the likelihood of complex life being common in the universe, in direct contrast to the Rare Earth hypothesis. It will also remind you of how astonishing wonderful life on our planet is. The authors, Schulze-Makuch and Bains, are scientists well-versed...

Read More

‘Cosmology in Theological Perspective’ by Olli-Pekka Vainio

Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Book reviews | 0 comments

Cosmology covers the origin and development of the cosmos as a whole. In astrobiology circles, this usually refers to a branch of astrophysics, but the term also applies to theology. How do we understand the universe and what rules do we use when proposing models? Olli-Pekka Vainio tackles these questions in Cosmology in Theological Perspective: Understanding Our Place in the Universe. Vainio provides a great introduction, suitable for academics interested in the intersection of astrobiology and theology. Vainio covers many issues that arise when thinking about the role of life in the...

Read More

‘The Equations of Life: The Hidden Rules Shaping Evolution’ by Charles Cockell

Posted by on Nov 20, 2018 in Book reviews | 0 comments

Charles Cockell opens this book with a picture of a small, blind bundle of subterranean fluff (a.k.a., a Lesser Mole Rat), with the simple caption P = F / A, and for approximately half the book, no explanation of why. At its core, this is a book of formula of the biological. How do the principles of physics govern all life? What are the mathematical formulae that dictate evolutionary pathways? If we understand these principles, do we then understand why Lesser Mole Rats are the way that they are? For a popular science book, this book is very brave. In the acknowledgements to ‘A Brief History...

Read More

‘Deep Life: The Hunt for the Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond’ by Tullis C. Onstott

Posted by on Jan 31, 2017 in Book reviews | 0 comments

Deep Life is an account of the rise of the field of geobiology from a barely considered pseudoscience in the early 20th century to the keystone of astrobiology it is today. Professor Onstott was there for the majority of this journey, and his perspective on these events gives a fascinating insight into the makings of the field we know today. The first-person perspective is often a blessing, with Onstott’s passion for his subject coming across wonderfully in his writing. On the other hand it can sometimes be limiting, with the adoption of a strict chronological narrative meaning that subjects...

Read More

‘Nobody Owns the Moon’ by Tony Milligan

Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in Book reviews | 0 comments

Is the exploration of space justified by our natural wanderlust? Are we morally obliged to terraform other planets in order to avert stagnation or extinction on Earth? Should we worry about the socio-economic consequences of asteroid mining, or the aesthetic damage done by the extraction of Helium-3 from the moon? Such questions have vexed sci-fi writers and space scientists for decades, but the apparent imminence of a new space age powered by private enterprise has given them fresh urgency. Tony Milligan, an ethicist at King’s College, London, is one of the many philosophers and social...

Read More

‘Planetary Rovers: Robotic Exploration of the Solar System’ by Alex Ellery

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Book reviews | 0 comments

Springer (Jan 2016); Hardback; £117 In the Preface, the author writes, “…The target audience for this book is anyone who requires an intimate and detailed knowledge of planetary rovers and how they are likely to evolve in their capabilities in the near future.” And this is exactly what the book delivers; an awesome breadth and depth of knowledge into a technology that enables human exploration of other planets. The reader is introduced to the role of Macro-Rovers (>100 kg), Mini-Rovers (50 – 100 kg), Micro-Rovers (10 – 50 kg) and tethered Nano-Rovers all of which need to operate in extreme...

Read More