Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Weird Life: The Search for Life that Is Very, Very Different From Our Own (W. W. Norton), by David Toomey
Until recently, scientists believed that life could exist only within a narrow spectrum of temperatures and other conditions. But by the 1980s, oceanographers began to discover bacteria in seabed volcanoes living in scalding conditions and single-cell algae below the Antarctic ice. Writing for non-specialists, David Toomey reviews the recent findings and wonders: “What else is out there?” Could there be life in the ammonia oceans on the moons of Jupiter, or even undiscovered organisms on Earth that bear no connection to the gene tree linking humanity with the familiar bacteria all around us? Alas, he concludes, it’s possible that we might never discover such creatures even if we stumble across them. Perhaps science can see only within a narrow spectrum of vision?