|The Search for Life Continued: Planets Around Other Stars|
Astrobiology is a complex, wide-ranging subject embracing biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, engineering, chemistry, computer modelling and, probably, a dozen other subjects I’ve not even thought of. It’s impossible for anyone to be truly expert in all these aspects and it takes a real optimist to attempt a synthesis. Barrie Jones is the quintessential optimist and makes a damn good attempt in this semi-popularization. The book’s organization is very much that of a textbook but the style and atmosphere invoke the best kind of popular science book; one that introduces you to new vistas.
There are a few places where Barrie’s synthesis doesn’t quite get it right. I think he should be much clearer on the, very profound, differences between the last common ancestor and the origin of life. The very phrase last common ancestor implies that there were earlier common ancestors and it is clear that Barrie Jones understands this very well. Nevertheless, I did feel that he could have spelt it out more explicitly as some students might become a little confused if they did not read his text carefully enough. I also found one completely incorrect statement (woodlice are not descended from trilobites!) but, given the vast range of topics covered by this book, one howler can, I think, be forgiven. Moving on quickly to where the book hits all the right buttons, I was astonished by the clarity of his descriptions for exoplanet finding techniques. I now recommend this text to students on Planetary Geology courses at Royal Holloway as the best and the most accessible (translation: non-mathematical) place to read up on exoplanet detection.
|Last Updated on Friday, 23 January 2009 11:38|