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A 20th Anniversary Review of Ward and Brownlee’s ‘Rare Earth’

26 Jun 2020, 14:14 UTC
A 20th Anniversary Review of Ward and Brownlee’s ‘Rare Earth’
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Ramses Ramirez, whose work on what he calls the Complex Life Habitable Zone was the subject of a recent Alex Tolley essay (see Are Classic Habitable Zones Too Wide for Complex Life?), joins us today with a look back at Rare Earth on the occasion of the book’s 20th anniversary. Written by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth examined a wide range of factors that argued against the ubiquity of complex life in the cosmos. I remember well when it came out, as I was in the midst of writing my Centauri Dreams book for Copernicus, Ward and Brownlee’s publisher, and my editor (the brilliant Paul Farrell) and I had to wrestle with the question of whether Rare Earth rendered the search for intelligent life elsewhere irrelevant. Fortunately, we plunged ahead anyway. As Dr. Ramirez shows this morning, many of the factors put forward by Ward and Brownlee can be re-examined with new data as work on exoplanets continues. Ramses is a research scientist at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) in Tokyo specializing in habitability issues, and a member of the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) science team. His research at ELSI is augmented by collaborations with both JAXA, the ...

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