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.
It's not possible to like science books and not like this book. He's a geologist and not an expert on a lot of the topics he's explaining and therefore explains the topics better than an expert. He'll tell you about the expansion of the universe, the moon, the solar system, rotation of the earth around the sun and its axis, "canals" on Mars, historical climate, global warming and geological oddities about the earth.
He approaches all of his statements as a scientist should, and if he says something that is not on firm foundation, he lets the reader know.
The author thinks the specialness of intelligence on earth is a much rarer event than most other scientist think. He shows this by looking at the problem in three ways: criticizing the principal of mediocrity, embracing anthropomorphic logic, and showing how we know earth's climate has been incredibly stable for the last 500 million years and has been remarkably stable sense life started about 3 billion years ago and how that is not probable in the observable universe.
The author mostly rejects the Gaia hypothesis and would embrace a 'psuedo-Gaia" hypothesis. He argues that it takes things to be just right for the emergent property of Gaia to have happened and due to a host of very special "Lucky" happenstance they did happen here on earth.
My only real complaint about the book is that he could have written a book twice as long because he has enough more material to work with than what he presented. Regardless, even if you don't believe the intelligent live on earth is very hard to replicate in the rest of the observable universe he explains different areas of science so that anyone can learn from this book and enjoy.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
What would have made Lucky Planet better?
Interesting topic here,and I am an avid reader of layman science. But I didn't like this book. The book does make occasional points but it's darn hard work to get to them. There's just so many blind alleys and only somewhat related digressions that I grew impatient listening to a book only half the length of the usual book I buy. The author also treats the reader as though she/he has never remotely heard of any of the ideas or theories covered, adding to the tedium. There are better ways to introduce ideas to the uninformed while keeping the interest of the rest of us. Finally, the narrator sounded quite amateur, putting way too much "oh wow!" emphasis all over the place, while adding unnatural cadence. Frankly, I had to stop listening at the 6hour mark.
Would you ever listen to anything by David Waltham again?
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Richard Dadd?
2 of 2 people found this review helpful