From Percival Lowell’s maps of Mars to 1938’s ill-fated “War of the Worlds” broadcast, claims of life in outer space have been tinged with whimsy and sensationalism. But in recent decades, more rigorous thinking and evidence-based science have been able to elbow their way into the discussion. As WSU astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch and author David Darling note, we now “have real data to work with.”
A few years ago, when an academic publisher approached Dirk Schulze-Makuch about writing a book on the search for extraterrestrial life, the astrobiologist couldn’t resist.
“You’re not often getting asked to write a book about life in the universe,” he recalls. “It was just too tempting.”
Life in the Universe: Expectations and Constraints was published shortly before Schulze-Makuch joined Washington State University’s Department of Geology in 2005. Coauthored by Louis Irwin of the University of Texas-El Paso, the book takes a close look at what’s really necessary for life-not life as we know it here, but life as it might be on other worlds.