altamira16: Tall ship at dusk (Default)
[personal profile] altamira16
I saw Grinspoon at The Conference of World Affairs earlier this year. He rambled a lot, mostly about things I like. I bought his book to see if his written thoughts were more organized than his speaking style. There were so many things to like about this book, but I got really bogged down and would have preferred two or three smaller books to this long one. I was hoping that this would be a good place to begin reading about climate change, but it didn't really go too deeply into that.

Grinspoon is an astrobiologist. The field seems like it might be a form of theoretical science or just really deep background on science fiction. In the early chapters, he wrote lovingly about his encounters with Carl Sagan. Sagan was a family friend who inspired Grinspoon in his academic career.

Grinspoon wrote about how we confirm climate models by applying the models to planets other than our own and checking to see if the predictions are correct. He discussed the Gaia hypothesis, and I found the notion of Earth being in a symbiotic relationship with the life that exists on it to be a little odd.

Later, he wrote about SETI and whether or not we should consider METI. If there are aliens out there, should we shout at them and make our presence known? I thought that his discussion about how the probability of finding intelligent life was calculated was interesting. Basically, intelligent life would have to exist for long enough for us to find it and overlap in time with our own civilization. We would not be able to find intelligent life that takes a very long time to develop or life that developed and died before we had a chance to discover it. One way for us to increase our chance of finding other life is to increase our own longevity by maintaining Earth in a way that will sustain humanity.

Throughout the book, he wrote about the Anthropocene, the period of human history affected by human activity. The critique of this is "Have humans been around long enough to be considered on the geologic time scale?" When we talk about the history of the planet, we are talking about millions and billions of years. Humans have just not been around that long. In addition to the Anthropocene epoch (tens of millions of years), he proposed a possible Sapiozoic era (hundreds of millions of years) where the planet is guided by a really smart life form.

One thing that he mentioned toward the end of the book was that the doomsday warnings about climate are going to get some people to disengage and give up and that we must stay optimistic.

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