STARRED REVIEW
June 12, 2018

Is there anyone out there?

By Adam Frank

Are we alone in the universe? Is there life on other planets? These are questions astronomers, philosophers and theologians have been asking for centuries. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of intelligent life on Mars and Venus was entertained. Once scientists determined this was not the case, they began to look elsewhere in the cosmos. Their discoveries have been amazing; uncovering the realization that countless other planets are out there, many that could be in the “habitable zone” in their orbit around a sun—just like Earth.

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Are we alone in the universe? Is there life on other planets? These are questions astronomers, philosophers and theologians have been asking for centuries. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of intelligent life on Mars and Venus was entertained. Once scientists determined this was not the case, they began to look elsewhere in the cosmos. Their discoveries have been amazing; uncovering the realization that countless other planets are out there, many that could be in the “habitable zone” in their orbit around a sun—just like Earth.

In Light of the Stars, astrophysics professor and science writer (About Time) Adam Frank cleverly links Earth’s current climate change with the possibilities of life on other planets. He postulates that “humanity and its project of civilization represent a kind of ‘cosmic teenager,’” lacking the maturity to take responsibility for our actions and future. He stresses the importance of our global societies to adapt and become fully sustainable as human activities continue to strain the Earth’s resources and climatic systems.

This is not a new concept. What is revolutionary is Frank’s contention that other worlds have likely evolved enough to create intelligent civilizations, and the knowledge gleaned from studying other planets can be used to reach the necessary level of maturity to face our future. He discusses the groundbreaking work of famous thinkers and researchers, from Greek philosopher Epicurus and Renaissance-era Copernicus to modern-day astrophysicists Carl Sagan and Frank Drake. One breakthrough after another is covered in fascinating detail; not only in astronomy and physics but also in the history of life on our planet, particularly its geology and the numerous climate shifts it is gone through during the past five billion years.

Providing multiple levels of fascinating science, Light of the Stars proposes a novel theory of how astrobiology and the study of life on other planets can help us understand climate change and civilization on Earth.

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Light of the Stars

Light of the Stars

By Adam Frank
Norton
ISBN 9780393609011

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