‘How To Build A Habitable Planet’ by Charles Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Posted on Mar 27, 2014 in Book reviews | 0 comments

k9691An expanded and revised edition of the original published in 1984, Charles Langmuir works with the same author Wally Broecker to bring this popular text up-to-date with the latest research and scientific ideas.

Presented somewhere between the level of a textbook and a popular science book, How To Build A Habitable Planet covers a wide range of disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy and astrobiology.  Spanning 21 chapters it starts with detailed theory on the formation of the galaxies and stars and how these attributed to the elements found in later generations of stars and their planets. After moving on to the formation of the planets and the organic and inorganic molecules found at the surface, there are several chapters detailing the geology of the terrestrial planets all the while linking these processes back to the subject of habitability. The latter end of the book discusses the origin of life, the rise in oxygen, how catastrophes and climate changes affect habitability and the impact of humanity. The final chapter looks to Venus, Mars and beyond in a discussion in the ultimate question: are we alone in the Universe?

Many of the chapters start with an explanation of the basic ideas and theories that will be discussed in the remainder of the chapter and then build on these and go into detailed subsections. This is where the book comes into its own as a textbook.  Some chapters can go into detail quite quickly with the possibility of leaving behind those that have not previously studied the subject at hand, whereas other chapters take longer to get into the more detailed sections of the subject. The typeface style can be a bit distracting at times, but this doesn’t take away from the immense detail and research that has gone into this text.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a well-informed exploration of the theories behind building a habitable planet. Although complex in some places, it is still accessible to many and is overall a very useful addition to any astrobiologist’s library.

Reviewed by: Samantha Rolfe, The Open University

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