Book reviews

‘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...

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‘Goldilocks and the Water Bears’ by Louisa Preston

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Book reviews | 0 comments

A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales. Marie Curie’s quote offers an apropos guide for Dr Louisa Preston’s book. In Goldilocks and the Water Bears, astrobiologist and planetary geologist Preston tackles the science of astrobiology, a science that “has yet to prove its subject matter exists”. Us ing the latest discoveries, Preston takes readers on a lively tour of the search for life in the Universe, its many potential forms, and the challenge for its detection in the Solar...

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‘Earth: Evolution of a Habitable World’ (2nd Edition) by Jonathan I. Lunine, Cambridge University Press (2013)

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Book reviews | 0 comments

I naively obtained this large, beautiful book thinking I was going to read a story of the Earth’s history. In fact, it is – probably more usefully – a story of methods and measurements. We begin with the basics of the Earth in space, the scale of the universe, magnetism and light: with every step, Lunine takes us through how we know about each of these, who discovered them and when. We go on to use science from many different disciplines to study Earth’s history: the atomic structures of amino acids; radioactivity and isotopes; the histories of other planets and moons in the Solar System;...

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‘The Big Bang and God: An Astro-Theology’ by Theodore Walker Jr. and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Palgrave Macmillan (Sept. 2015)

Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Book reviews | 0 comments

Astrobiology challenges us to ask – and attempt to answer – framing questions about life in the universe. How far does life extend in space and time? Is life integral to existence, or just an accident? Theodore Walker, Jr. and Chandra Wickramasinghe tackle a very narrow slice of this problem. Their focus and transparency are commendable, but by the end, they have only built a bridge from fringe science to contentious theology. From the outset, the authors are clear about their framework. For subject matter, they have chosen the convergence of panspermia, panpsychism, and panentheism....

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‘The Drake Equation: Estimating the Prevalence of Extraterrestrial Life through the Ages’, ed: Doug Vakoch, Matthew Dowd, Cambridge University Press

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Book reviews | 0 comments

‘The Drake Equation: Estimating the Prevalence of Extraterrestrial Life through the Ages’, ed: Doug Vakoch, Matthew Dowd, Cambridge University Press

This is a marvellous book. It fills a real need, is well written, enthralling, useful and inspiring. It really made my day to open this book, and I look forward to many hours of learning and enjoyment to come. Even non-experts have heard about the Drake Equation, so the book is not only for experts, but knowledge about it is also useful when talking to a non-expert audience. The Drake Equation for ’N’, the estimate of how many civilisations there may be currently detectable in our Galaxy, has been a remarkable heuristic (something that enables learning) tool for SETI (the Search for...

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‘Planetary Sciences’ by Imke de Pater & Jack J. Lissauer, Cambridge University Press (2015)

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in Book reviews | 0 comments

By its very nature, astrobiology is an interdisciplinary field. To the undergraduate coming directly from a background almost exclusively in biology, the sudden influx of planetary science knowledge required can be overwhelming. As a result, a work like Imke de Pater and Jack J. Lissauer’s Planetary Sciences is invaluable. While the incredible number of graphs, charts and formulae filling the book can at first appear daunting, the text is written at an undergraduate level and is easy to understand for those with no formal training in the planetary sciences. Covering an impressively wide...

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