Book reviews

‘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....

Read More

‘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...

Read More

‘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...

Read More

‘Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe’ by Charles S. Cockell

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

As far as textbooks go, a tome on astrobiology is a peculiarly difficult beast to get right. The interdisciplinary science of astrobiology is very broad, reaching across many different fields, and so not only does a textbook need to balance this breadth of diverse subject matter with the meaningful depth of coverage of each topic, but it also has to be comprehensible for students from very different backgrounds. Yet Cockell pulls this trick off admirably well in this latest textbook introducing the field. ‘Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe’ is based on...

Read More

‘One Plus One Equals One: Symbiosis and the evolution of complex life’ by John Archibald

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

One Plus One Equals One by John Archibald is a very interesting and entertaining book about endosymbiosis. It gave a historical overview of the topic, from how scientists first discovered microbes to the questions that remain unanswered at present. At the same time, the author introduces and explains thoroughly a lot of basic concepts in biology throughout the story. These include the original proposals for the tree of life and how it changed multiple times over the past couple of centuries. Similarly, fundamentals in cellular and molecular biology are addressed very well. In this way, the...

Read More

‘Living with the Stars’ by Karel Schrijver and Iris Schrijver

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Book reviews | 0 comments

‘Living with the Stars’ by Karel Schrijver and Iris Schrijver

Astrobiology, and the search for life beyond the Earth, is deeply interdisciplinary and combines elements of biology with planetary science and physics and astronomy. In this new book, the marital partnership of Karel and Iris Schrijver combine their backgrounds as a physician and an astrophysicist (a fusion they jokingly refer to as an ‘astrophysician’) to explore all the ways that humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, is inextricably linked to the fabric of the planet we live on, as well as the surrounding cosmos as a whole. Through its chapters, ‘Living with the Stars’ covers many...

Read More