By Dimitar Sasselov
Basic Books, $18.99, 202 pages
Before the 1990s, the only way we could think about planets around other stars was to theorize about them. 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. The planet was bigger than Jupiter and orbited closer to the star than Mercury does to the Sun. Since then scientists have found many more planets, and even a few Super-Earths. This book is about exploring what it would take for life to start on these Super-Earths. Mr. Sasselov begins the book by recharting the history of exoplanet hunting, from the first finds to the new Kepler mission. He then explores how life started on Earth, and theorizes how it could start on a Super-Earth. Mr. Sasselov takes on the question of are we alone. He thinks that we might be the first really intelligent life, since it takes a long time for it to mature.
Even though this book is written for lay readers, at times Mr. Sasselov goes into too much detail, that would confuse most non-scientists. Especially the last chapter about synthetic biology just felt out of place. He starts the ball rolling about other planets.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter