Author(s): Louisa Preston
Today we know of only a single planet that hosts life: the Earth. But across a Universe of at least 100 billion possibly habitable worlds, surely our planet isn't the only one that is just right for life? As Goldilocks was searching for the perfect bowl of porridge, Astrobiologists are searching for conditions throughout the Universe that are just right for life as we currently know it to exist. With the Earth as our guide the search has begun for similar worlds sitting at the perfect distance from their Sun - within the aptly named Goldilocks Zone - that would enable them to keep water as a liquid on their surface and therefore support a thriving biosphere. The Earth is littered with carbon and pulses with energy, which combined with its flowing water allows life to exist beneath our thick protective atmosphere. In just over four billion years, life on Earth has evolved from a single-celled organism to an upright humanoid with the capacity to understand its place in the Universe and undertake missions to other worlds searching for a biological neighbour. What might life look like on these other worlds?
It is possible to make best-guesses using facts rooted in biology, physics and chemistry, and by studying 'extremophiles' on Earth, organisms such as the near-indestructible water bears that can survive in the harshest conditions that Earth, and even space, can offer. In this book, we'll take a tour of the astrobiological Universe, exploring what life is made of, what it needs to originate and thrive, how resilient and adaptable it can be and what is next for humanity as it steps off the Earth and into the realms of the unknown. Goldilocks and the Water Bears is a tale of the origins and evolution of life, and the quest to find it on other planets, on moons, in other galaxies, and throughout the Universe.
Across a Universe of at least 100 billion habitable, earth-like worlds, life cannot be restricted solely to the Earth. Or can it? Read this book to find out the hows and whys of astrobiology - the study of extraterrestrial life.
An expert romp through the science of extraterrestrial life. -- Adam Rutherford, scientist, writer and presenter of BBC Radio 4's Inside Out Louisa is that rare breed - a brilliant academic who can effortlessly communicate her subject with clarity, authority and warmth to us all. A fascinating overview of what is simply the most profound and exciting story in science. -- Dallas Campbell, science broadcaster and television presenter Just the right book to expertly guide you through the scientific quest to answer the ultimate question; are we along in the University? -- Lucie Green, space scientist, television presenter and author of 15 Million Degrees Our species has gone from fantasising about life on other worlds to actively looking for it - this book provides great background on clues scientists are using, and what makes the chase so exciting. -- Bobak Ferdowsi, Flight Director, Mars Science Laboratory
Louisa Preston is an astrobiologist, planetary geologist and unashamed lover of water bears. Her research focuses on places on Earth in which life is able to survive despite extreme conditions; such habitats provide clues on what alien life-forms might look like, and where we should search for them. Having worked on projects for NASA and the Canadian, European and UK Space Agencies, the only thing Louisa enjoys more than devising ways to find extra-terrestrial life is writing and talking about it. She has published numerous articles and academic papers, and regularly appears on radio and television shows, such as the BBC's The Sky at Night. She is a TED fellow, and spoke about the search for life on Mars at the 2013 TED Conference. Louisa has spent most of her life in one of two Londons - one in Ontario, and one in the UK - but she currently lives with husband, son and cat in Kent. Goldilocks and the Water Bears is her first book. @LouisaJPreston
1. Welcome to the world of Astrobiology... 2. Carbon and Water-based Life Forms 3. How to Create a Planet Fit for Life 4. The Origins of Life 5. Alien worlds on your doorstep 6. Extremophiles: It's all relative 7. Life within the Solar System and Beyond 8. Extraterrestrial worlds: life, but not as we know it 9. Is there anyone out there? 10. The next generation