Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe

During a press conference in 2015, NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said definitive evidence of extraterrestrial life would probably be discovered within the next 20 to 30 years, with strong indications of life coming in as soon as a single decade. In the fairly recent past, this bold prediction might have been dismissed as starry-eyed wishful thinking, but a flood of a new data about planets outside our solar system, combined with rapidly improving observation technology, means Stofan's predictions are plausible.

Astrobiologist and planetary geologist Louisa Preston is on the cutting edge of the search for life on other worlds. In Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe, Preston surveys the emerging field of astrobiology with scholarly depth and layman accessibility. The title refers to the Goldilocks Zone around stars, where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, and Water Bears, an extremophile form of microscopic life whose extraordinary survival capabilities have greatly broadened the possible environmental ranges of life in space.

Preston builds her survey on the foundations of her field--the basics of life on Earth--and expands outward from known terrestrial biology to the prospects for extraterrestrial life. Likewise, she uses concrete observations from within our solar system to speculate on otherworldly environs, resulting in a fascinating and thoroughly fact-based account of where E.T. might be hiding. Goldilocks and the Water Bears brings a lofty, sometimes exaggerated topic down to Earth in an enjoyable way. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer

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