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Public: New book: The Search for Life on Mars by Malcolm Walter
THE SEARCH FOR LIFE ON MARS
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,"
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."
GREETINGS, CARBON-BASED BIPEDS! COLLECTED ESSAYS 1934-1998
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
"He never grew up, but he never stopped growing."