The Living Cosmos

Our Search for Life in the Universe

Chris Impey, Central 576.839 I34L 2007, Random House

A bit dated, a few howlers, skimmed.

p151 "Slightly later, and you would have plowed into the Asteroid Belt and been ground into harmless boulders."

p160 a graph of hypothetical radiation flux (not actual data) from solar flares and distant stellar "cataclysms" over the last 4.5 billion years, attributed to John Scalo at the University of Texas (Austin). This may have been presented at an astronomical meeting, but I cannot find it in papers by Scalo between 1995 and 2005. I'd sure like to see Scalo's methods for producing this graph, and I would love to see a citation of a Scalo paper in Impey's book, so I can look for evaluations of that paper by others.

p190 Impey doesn't seem to understand the Rare Earth argument, and he imputes motivations to Ward and Brownlee's work that are missing from the book and the authors themselves. We have since come across many more additional factors that add to the "rareness" question:

p195 "water in the recent past." The Mars Global Surveyor images that were interpreted as "gullies and runoff channels" are also what bone-dry dust does, as recent (2017) papers claim.

p202 Richard Mathies at UCB, biolab on silicon chip 1000x more sensitive to amino acids.

Mars contamination briefly addressed by note 15 on page 330, mentions 1967 UN treaty and NASA's planetary protection officer.

Note 20 page 314 "Atomic clocks flown at high altitude actually tick slower than identical clocks at sea level." NO, it goes the other way.

... etc. I don't have time to wade through the rest, especially given the lack of tracable citations so I can look for forward connections to recent research.

Overall, I was hoping for more from the time I spent on this book, including better editing and fact checking. Dr. Impey's newer books seem better.

LivingCosmos (last edited 2019-10-05 19:21:42 by KeithLofstrom)