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Public: New book: The Search for Life on Mars by Malcolm Walter



Malcolm Walter
Perseus Books, Reading, Mass., 1999 ($23)

"There will be people on Mars long before the end of the twenty-first 
century," says Walter, a paleobiologist at the University of Sydney 
who is also involved with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration's program for seeking life on Mars. "It's inevitable, 
and irresistible. It might happen before 2020. It could happen by 2011.
Mars is our next frontier." 

Thus boldly introducing his subject, he proceeds to lay a solid scientific 
foundation for his claim. He discusses what is known about early life on 
Earth, the controversial evidence of Mars life from Martian meteorites, 
the past and present conditions on Mars, and finally the possible strategies 
for seeking evidence of life there. 

He is aware that, as biologist Jared Diamond has said, astrobiology 
"is the sole scientific field whose subject matter has not yet been shown 
to exist." ("I could quibble with this and suggest that theoretical
often work with objects or processes that are inferred but not observed," 
Walter says.) 

But he sees reasons to think that microbial life has existed on Mars and that 
if it has, "there is a good chance it is still there."


Arthur C. Clarke
Edited by Ian T. Macauley
St. Martin's Press, New York, 1999 ($35)

"During the last sixty years," Clarke says, "I must have written at 
least a thousand pieces of nonfiction of every possible length, from a 
few paragraphs to entire books." (Not to mention his many works of fiction, 
including the famous 2001: A Space Odyssey.) 

Here he collects 110 of his nonfiction pieces, mostly short and having to 
do with his prophecies for science and technology. He has organized the 
entries by decade, and for each decade he provides an introduction intended 
to "serve as a reminder of the profound cultural, political, and scientific
revolutions that were taking place while the pieces were being written and 
that are, of course, being reflected in them." 

Among his topics, suggesting the breadth of his range, are space exploration, 
thinking machines, the uses of the Moon and his adventures in scuba diving. 

Looking back over his work, he finds that it has often "been more interesting 
to see where (and why) I went wrong than where I happened to be right." 

Serious in his thinking, lighthearted in his approach, he has composed his 
own epitaph: 

"He never grew up, but he never stopped growing."