The Life of Super-Earths by Dimitar Sasselov
How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet

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In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus fomented a revolution when he debunked the geocentric view of the universe, proving instead that our planet wasn’t central to the universe. Almost five hundred years later, the revolution he set in motion is nearly complete. Just as earth is not the center of things, the life on it, it appears, is not unique to the planet. Or is it? The Life of Super-Earths is a breathtaking tour of current efforts to answer the age-old question: Are we alone in the universe? Astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, the founding director of Harvard University’s Origins of Life Initiative, takes us on a fast-paced hunt for habitable planets and alien life forms. He shows how the search for “super-Earths”—rocky planets like our own that orbit other stars—may provide the key to answering essential questions about the origins of life here and elsewhere. That is, if we don’t find the answers to those questions here first. As Sasselov and other astronomers have uncovered planets with mixes of elements different from our own, chemists have begun working out the heretofore unseen biochemistries that those planets could support. That knowledge is feeding directly into synthetic biology—the effort to build wholly novel forms of life—making it likely that we will first discover truly “alien” life forms in an earthly lab, rather than on a remote planet thousands of light years away.  Sasselov tells the gripping story of a moment of unprecedented potential—a convergence of pioneering efforts in astronomy and biology to peer into the unknown. The Life of Super-Earths offers nothing short of a transformation in our understanding of life and its place in the cosmos.

About Dimitar Sasselov

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Dimitar Sasselov is a Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University and the Founder and Director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. His research has been covered by the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and others. He lives in Auburndale, Massachusetts.
Published January 24, 2012 by Basic Books. 240 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Life has existed for four billion years, a time comparable to the age of the universe (13 billion), so it may be a normal cosmic process along with planet formation.

Jan 24 2012 | Read Full Review of The Life of Super-Earths: How...

City Book Review

We hunt for other intelligent life when we hunt for extrasolar Earth-like planets, and as we study the emergence of natural and synthetic life in the laboratory, we refine the parameters of our search.

Mar 13 2012 | Read Full Review of The Life of Super-Earths: How...

Portland Book Review

That all changed around 1995 when two scientists found the first evidence of a planet orbiting another star, and what they found sent shock waves through the scientific community.

Apr 27 2012 | Read Full Review of The Life of Super-Earths: How...

The Space Review

He admits that the emphasis there is on “potential” given our limited knowledge of astrobiology: “We do not really know if life emerges with ease.” Even if doesn't, he believes our growing knowledge of super-Earths and other exoplanets will help us find “friendly harbors” beyond Earth that one da...

Mar 26 2012 | Read Full Review of The Life of Super-Earths: How...

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