Title: First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth
Author: Marc Kaufman
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Non-Fiction, Space/Science
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When you first saw the title of this book, you probably thought ALIENS?!? And you’d be right…sort of. Marc Kaufman, a science writer and editor for The Washington Post, discusses the possibility of finding life on planets beyond Earth – in other solar systems, as well as our own.
Kaufman discusses the science behind finding life and all the difficulties that come with it. From locating planets in other solar systems – still an indirect and difficult process – to evaluating our definition of “life”, the author tackles every facet of this fascinating discussion. He also relates it back to Earth – what can the search for life on another planet tell us about our own origins? How does the prospect of alien life affect our understanding of ourselves?
The author takes the reader to the harshest climates – caves, the depths of the ocean, Antarctica’s frozen wastelands – to show how life can survive, and even thrive in these difficult surroundings. If it’s possible on Earth, then why can’t it be possible on another planet? Scientists point to Mars, with its polar ice caps and ice underneath its surface, as one of the most likely places for life to be hiding on another planet. And if there is actually life on another planet just within our solar system, think about what that might mean for its prospects within the vastness of space.
Kaufman writes in very clear, crisp prose for the lay audience. He doesn’t use difficult scientific terms, nor does he confuse the reader with overly complicated concepts. He is clear and concise, but also very engaging. First Contact is never difficult or dry, and kept my attention from beginning to end.
I can’t say enough great things about First Contact – it’s engaging, interesting, and focuses on many different aspects about the search for life on other planets. Kaufman ties everything together very neatly, so that the reader gets a broad, yet detailed picture of this exciting area of scientific research.