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The Rock From Mars

A Detective Story on Two Planets

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Description

In this riveting book, acclaimed journalist Kathy Sawyer reveals the deepest mysteries of space and some of the most disturbing truths on Earth. The Rock from Mars is the story of how two planets and the spheres of politics and science all collided at the end of the twentieth century.
It began sixteen million years ago. An asteroid crashing into Mars sent fragments flying into space and, eons later, one was pulled by the Earth’s gravity onto an icy wilderness near the southern pole. There, in 1984, a geologist named Roberta Score spotted it, launching it on a roundabout path to fame and controversy.
In its new home at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the rock languished on a shelf for nine years, a victim of mistaken identity. Then, in 1993, the geochemist Donald “Duck” Mittlefehldt, unmasked the rock as a Martian meteorite. Before long, specialist Chris Romanek detected signs of once-living organisms on the meteorite. And the obscure rock became a rock star.
But how did nine respected investigators come to make such startling claims about the rock that they triggered one of the most venomous scientific battles in modern memory? The narrative traces the steps that led to this risky move and follows the rippling impact on the scientists’ lives, the future of space exploration, the search for life on Mars, and the struggle to understand the origins of life on Earth.
From the second the story broke in Science magazine in 1996, it spawned waves of excitement, envy, competitive zeal, and calculation. In academia, in government agencies, in laboratories around the world, and even in the Oval Office–where an inquisitive President Clinton had received the news in secret– players of all kinds plotted their next moves. Among them: David McKay, the dynamic geologist associated with the first moon landing, who labored to achieve at long last a second success; Bill Schopf of UCLA, a researcher determined to remain at the top of his field and the first to challenge McKay’s claims; Dan Goldin, the boss of NASA; and Dick Morris, the controversial presidential adviser who wanted to use the story for Clinton’s reelection and unfortunately made sure it ended up in the diary of a $200-an-hour call girl.
Impeccably researched and thrillingly involving, Kathy Sawyer’s The Rock from Mars is an exemplary work of modern nonfiction, a vivid account of the all-too-human high-stakes drive to learn our true place in the cosmic scheme.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jan 30, 2006 – When geologist Robbie Score spied the little green rock lying on the bluish-white Antarctic landscape on a December day in 1984, she had no idea it would change her life, provoke fierce controversies among scientists around the world and challenge humankind's view of ourselves. Her discovery was the meteorite from Mars that captured the world's attention in 1996 when NASA scientists claimed that minuscule structures deep within it were the fossilized remains of ancient Martian life. As former Washington Post science writer Sawyer relates, the aftermath wasn't pretty. Supporters and doubters quickly circled their wagons and showed that world-class scientists don't always play well with others. Actually, as Sawyer tells readers, the nanostructures were the least convincing evidence for life. Other evidence - equally tiny magnetic structures similar to those made by bacteria here on Earth - was much stronger. Many readers probably are under the impression that the claims have been debunked, but the author explains that using more sophisticated instruments and techniques, supporters actually have bolstered their case, although without future geological samples from Mars, we may never know if life ever flourished or still exists there. This book is an engrossing read for science buffs and general readers alike. (On sale Feb. 14)
The Rock From Mars
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Astronomy
  • Published: Feb 14, 2006
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 416 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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