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Astrobiology, the study of life and its existence in the universe, is now one of the hottest areas of both popular science and serious academic research, fusing biology, chemistry, astrophysics, and geology. In this masterful introduction, Lewis Dartnell explores its latest findings, and explores some of the most fascinating questions in science. What actually is ‘life’? Could it exist on other planets? Could alien cells be based on silicon rather than carbon, or need ammonia instead of water? Introducing some of the most extreme lifeforms on Earth - those thriving in boiling acid or huddled around deep-sea volcanoes - Dartnell takes us on a tour of the universe to reveal how deeply linked we are to our cosmic environment, and shows why the Earth is so uniquely suited for the development of life.
This book addresses all those interested in the origins, development and fate of intelligent species in the observable part of our universe. In particular, the author scrutinizes what kind of information about extraterrestrial intelligent life can be inferred from our own biological, cultural and scientific evolution and the likely future of mankind. The first part of the book provides the necessary background information from space and life sciences, thus making the book also accessible to students and the scientifically educated layman. -The first book of its kind that goes beyond the popular science level.
Evolution and the Emergent Self is an eloquent and evocative new synthesis that explores how the human species emerged from the cosmic dust. Lucidly presenting ideas about the rise of complexity in our genetic, neuronal, ecological, and ultimately cosmological settings, the author takes readers on a provocative tour of modern science's quest to understand our place in nature and in our universe. Readers fascinated with "Big History" and drawn to examine big ideas will be challenged and enthralled by Raymond L. Neubauer's ambitious narrative. How did humans emerge from the cosmos and the pre-biotic Earth, and what mechanisms of biological, chemical, and physical sciences drove this increasingly complex process? Neubauer presents a view of nature that describes the rising complexity of life in terms of increasing information content, first in genes and then in brains. The evolution of the nervous system expanded the capacity of organisms to store information, making learning possible. In key chapters, the author portrays four species with high brain:body ratios—chimpanzees, elephants, ravens, and dolphins—showing how each species shares with humans the capacity for complex communication, elaborate social relationships, flexible behavior, tool use, and powers of abstraction. A large brain can have a hierarchical arrangement of circuits that facilitates higher levels of abstraction. Neubauer describes this constellation of qualities as an emergent self, arguing that self-awareness is nascent in several species besides humans and that potential human characteristics are embedded in the evolutionary process and have emerged repeatedly in a variety of lineages on our planet. He ultimately demonstrates that human culture is not a unique offshoot of a language-specialized primate, but an analogue of fundamental mechanisms that organisms have used since the beginning of life on Earth to gather and process information in order to buffer themselves from fluctuations in the environment. Neubauer also views these developments in a cosmic setting, detailing open thermodynamic systems that grow more complex as the energy flowing through them increases. Similar processes of increasing complexity can be found in the "self-organizing" structures of both living and nonliving forms. Recent evidence from astronomy indicates that planet formation may be nearly as frequent as star formation. Since life makes use of the elements commonly seeded into space by burning and expiring stars, it is reasonable to speculate that the evolution of life and intelligence that happened on our planet may be found across the universe.
Examines each of these parameters in crucial depth and makes the argument that life forms we would recognize may be more common in our solar system than many assume. Considers exotic forms of life that would not have to rely on carbon as the basic chemical element, solar energy as the main energy source, or water as the primary solvent and the question of detecting bio- and geosignatures of such life forms, ranging from earth environments to deep space. Seeks an operational definition of life and investigate the realm of possibilities that nature offers to realize this very special state of matter. Avoids scientific jargon wherever possible to make this intrinsically interdisciplinary subject understandable to a broad range of readers.
This book addresses important current and historical topics in astrobiology and the search for life beyond Earth, including the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The first section covers the plurality of worlds debate from antiquity through the nineteenth century, while section two covers the extraterrestrial life debate from the twentieth century to the present. The final section examines the societal impact of discovering life beyond Earth, including both cultural and religious dimensions. Throughout the book, authors draw links between their own chapters and those of other contributors, emphasizing the interconnections between the various strands of the history and societal impact of the search for extraterrestrial life. The chapters are all written by internationally recognized experts and are carefully edited by Douglas Vakoch, professor of clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute. This interdisciplinary book will benefit everybody trying to understand the meaning of astrobiology and SETI for our human society.
Der Entschluß, ein Buch über den Ursprung (bzw. die Ursprünge) des - bens zu verfassen, setzt voraus, daß man von diesem wissenschaftlichen „großen Problem“ noch immer fasziniert ist, wenn auch die erste intensive Beschäftigung mit dieser Thematik mehr als drei Jahrzehnte zurückliegt. Experimentelle Arbeiten über Protein-Modellsubstanzen unter den si- lierten Bedingungen der Urerde führten zur Entstehung eines der ersten deutschsprachigen Bücher über „Chemische und Molekulare Evolution“, das ich mit Klaus Dose (Mainz), von dem auch die Initiative ausging, v- faßte. Die enorme Erweiterung und Differenzierung dieses Forschungsgebietes führte in den letzten Jahren zur Gründung eines neuen, interdisziplinären Wissenschaftszweiges, der „Exo-/Astrobiologie“. Sie verfolgt das we- gespannte, ehrgeizige Ziel, das Phänomen „Leben“ im gesamten Kosmos zu erforschen. In den folgenden Kapiteln wird ein Überblick über die vielfältigen - mühungen von Wissenschaftlern gegeben, Antworten auf die Frage nach dem „Woher“ des Lebens zu finden. Dabei ist über Erfolge, aber auch Mißerfolge sowie über Diskussionen und gelegentlich harte Kontroversen zu berichten. Es soll aber auch deutlich dargestellt werden, wie viele of- ne Fragen und ungeklärte Rätsel noch auf eine Antwort warten. Es sind - ren mehr, als gern eingestanden wird! – Die Fülle an wissenschaftlichen Publikationen macht es leider unmöglich, über alle Bereiche dieses int- disziplinär ausgerichteten Teilgebietes der Naturwissenschaften mit gl- cher Ausführlichkeit zu berichten.

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