Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Life on Earth--and Beyond

LIFE ON EARTH--AND BEYOND: AN ASTROBIOLOGIST'S QUEST; Pamela S. Turner; Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2008; 109 pp. Juvenile Non-Fiction.

Pamela Turner follows astrobiologist Chris McKay from Antarctica to the Sahara as he and other scientists look for signs of life in extreme earth environments that approximate conditions on other planets and moons. It is surprising what they find: microorganisms can apparently live everywhere except in the utterly dry conditions of, say, Chile's Atacama Desert where no rainfall in two years or more is pretty much the norm. Microorganisms were discovered as well in pockets of hot salt water a mile underground, in radioactive waste dumps, and on the moon after being accidentally left behind by astronauts. Many terrific photographs highlight Turner's fascinating text which opens up the possibilities to young readers of potential for life on Mars, on Venus, on several of Jupiter's moons while at the same time showing them how science is done--its methods, its rigors, its fascinations.

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