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Lucky Planet

Why Earth is Exceptional—and What That Means for Life in the Universe

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Why Earth’s life-friendly climate makes it exceptional—and what that means for the likelihood of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life

We have long fantasized about finding life on planets other than our own. Yet even as we become aware of the vast expanses beyond our solar system, it remains clear that Earth is exceptional. The question is: why? In Lucky Planet, astrobiologist David Waltham argues that Earth’s climate stability is what makes it uniquely able to support life, and it is nothing short of luck that made such conditions possible. The four billion year-stretch of good weather that our planet has experienced is statistically so unlikely that chances are slim that we will ever encounter intelligent extraterrestrial others. Citing the factors that typically control a planet’s average temperature—including the size of its moon, as well as the rate of the Universe’s expansion—Waltham challenges the prevailing scientific consensus that Earth-like planets have natural stabilizing mechanisms that allow life to flourish.

A lively exploration of the stars above and the ground beneath our feet, Lucky Planet seamlessly weaves the story of Earth and the worlds orbiting other stars to give us a new perspective of the surprising role chance plays in our place in the universe.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 27, 2014 – Waltham, astrobiologist and geophysicist at the University of London, addresses the pressing question: How common is intelligent life in the universe? He examines the conditions necessary for life to begin and evolve into more complex forms, along the way exploring cosmological matters, such as star and planet formation, geological and meteorological concerns, as well as the nature of life itself. His basic, unsurprising premise is that vast amounts of time are required to produce intelligent life, but he goes further to explain that maintaining a relatively stable planetary climate for the bulk of that time is both essential and rare. "If this book has a theme, it is that climate is destiny." Earth, as he shows, has a multiplicity of factors that have yielded a stable climate and, he argues, it is unlikely that a similar combination of conditions will appear very often. There are an enormous number of planets in the universe, but only a small percentage will have the requisite conditions. Waltham's somewhat depressing conclusion is that "advanced civilizations elsewhere are inevitable, but they will also be so far away that we will never be able to communicate with them or even observe influences they may have on their galactic neighborhoods."
Lucky Planet
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  • $17.99
  • Level: Grades 8-17
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Astronomy
  • Published: Apr 08, 2014
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Seller: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Print Length: 208 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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