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Worlds Without End

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"Worlds Without End" by Chris Impey is a captivating and enlightening exploration of the mind-boggling possibilities and complexities of the universe beyond our planet. Impey, a renowned astrophysicist, takes readers on a thrilling journey through the cosmos, unraveling the mysteries of space, time, and the search for extraterrestrial life. With a clear and engaging writing style, he bridges the gap between scientific knowledge and the curiosity of the layperson, making complex concepts accessible and utterly fascinating.

One of the book's standout features is Impey's ability to convey the awe and wonder of the universe. Through his vivid descriptions and engaging anecdotes, he evokes a sense of wonder that is impossible to resist. Whether discussing the possibility of life on other planets, the mind-bending implications of black holes, or the incredible scale of the cosmos, Impey's passion for astrophysics shines through on every page. Readers will come away from "Worlds Without End" with a profound sense of appreciation for the universe and our place within it.

Impey's book also serves as a reminder of the importance of scientific exploration and discovery. He discusses the role of space exploration in expanding our understanding of the cosmos and the potential impact on our future as a species. "Worlds Without End" is a must-read for anyone curious about the universe and the profound questions it poses. Impey's blend of science, storytelling, and wonder makes this book an inspiring and enlightening journey into the cosmos.

5 of 5 stars
Pub Date: 11 Apr 2023
#netgalley #worldswithoutend

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4.5 stars, rounding up for once. An excellent overview of the current state of exoplanet science, with an extended coda on other space-exploration topics (asteroid mining, interplanetary exploration, geoengineering, and the like). I struggle with giving a book like this full marks - the science is cutting-edge, so it'll basically be out of date the moment it goes to print. That's not the book's fault, and it feels wrong to penalize it in a star rating for choosing such a subject, but I can't help it. A similar book written 3 years from now may surpass it by dint of more current information, but for the moment it's about as good as anyone could ever ask for.

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This book explores the question of habitable planets beyond our solar system and the possibility of human colonization. What has the latest science taught us about exoplanets? What would it take for humans to travel to distant worlds? This book is an approachable, thorough, and fascinating look at what the future might hold.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest an voluntary review.

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A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away... well, we needed to find some exoplanets other than our third rock from the Sun, since we all know there's no way we can be that exceptional in our vast universe. And apparently finding other planets is a bit harder than pointing a good telescope at the sky and reeeaaaaalllly zooming in. But then some very brilliant people came up with the way to assess tiny morsels of data and suddenly there are enough exoplanets discovered to provide them wholesale.

Chris Impey takes us through the hunt for exoplanets and methods used to find them; with enough information to make it interesting but also without detail overload, just enough to get a reader sufficiently interested to look up more details later if they desire. He gives an overview of different types of exoplanets (I’ve always thought of Earth as a water world; yeah, we are not even close to that) and what may or may not be conducive to life there (because let’s face it, a major thing about looking for exoplanets is finding life there, maybe even intelligent life).

Impey then takes a bit of pondering of how one can get to those planets, which leads into our attempts to leave our dirt ball to go into space (there’s a bit of shoutout to space billionaires [ughhh] that added their efforts to the space race) and some ethical issues coming from treating space as a final frontier and something to mine and exploit by a earth denizens not particularly known for treating their own planet well. There are thoughts about our future post-Earth, as a multi-planet society, mostly within our Solar System, but with possibility for more.

It’s pretty interesting and written both accessibly and engagingly, a great primer on the exoplanets which should be pretty good even for a casual reader not familiar much with the topic.

4 stars.


Thanks to NetGalley and MIT Press for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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What a wonderful, comprehensive book on exoplanet science! It can get technical at times but it's mostly accessible, and everything is explained in great detail. I think these words could be turned into an amazing documentary miniseries - I could picture everything pretty well. I could've done with less Elon Musk and more acknowledgement of historically invisible labor in astronomy, but other than those I enjoyed everything in this book.

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This was a slow read for me, since I know very little about science and there is a lot of information here. From the first people who looked to the skies to the possible far futures of humanity, the author explores, not only what’s out there, but how to get there. Some chapters were humbling in that we are so special and the odds of us being here are infinitesimal. The Drake equation makes it unlikely for us to ever find anyone out there. On the other hand, there are so many worlds in the universe that we can’t be alone. The author doesn’t take a position, just explains all the theories. Again, there are so many concepts here, that this review would be very long if I listed them all. It is just a fascinating look at possible habitable planets (or moons), how we’re finding them, the scientific breakthroughs that are making it possible to at least dream of getting there. The search of intelligent life and many other interesting theories.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#MIT Press!

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An exciting, far-reaching exploration of the state of exoplanet research and practice. A truly thrilling read, exactly what this future starfarer (in my dreams) needed. My new favourite word: Neptinis!

This text reminds me of a series of short vignettes the Space Channel used to play between shows and commercials. Breathtaking high-resolution images from Hubble interlaced with facts about the universe and backed by music that somehow conjured up an impression of deep space.

Yet, breadth means there's a trade-off with depth. Not only in terms of detail, but also the author being out of depth on certain topics. Kim Stanley Robinson is a brilliant and moral writer, but he is not "unique" in this; see several authors already cited, including Nnedi Okorafor, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Octavia E. Butler (my guess is that the author hasn't read a lot of science fiction). The author relies heavily on activity and actors with "a Western, Caucasian lineage" even as he criticizes this narrow focus. Enough about Musk, already! And while he goes to some effort to bring in women and talk openly about sexism, others and other matters are suspiciously absent. Oddly, there's only one mention of JAXA, despite the tremendous work this organization has done and continues to do within Japan and through collaborations internationally.

At times, the author also makes claims that are too strong, and some that are simply untrue. We "can't communicate with chimpanzees," but that's just factually wrong--chimpanzees can learn sign language as well as communicate non-verbally in ways similar to us, especially emotional expressions. Exoplanets that are more or less entirely oceanic in makeup mean that "the evolution of land animals who develop tools and technology would be impossible," but why? I can imagine, let's say, "floaters" that are like sheets and can allow parts of their body to rise to the surface to escape predators or gather nutrients or even "to boldly go where no sheet has gone before." Perhaps the sheets that survive, if not thrive, are the ones that became land-like, floating on the surface, perhaps parts of their bodies always or nearly always touching the air. Perhaps other organisms find these "floating bits" to be habitable refuges or treasure troves of nutrients. Perhaps they start to build simple structures on these "islands," even temporary ones that wash away and need to be rebuilt, like spider webs or beaver dams. Perhaps their increasing presence or even the exchange of particles and materials from water to "land" to air leads to environmental changes, even local and unstable ones. And so on and so forth ... all you need is a little imagination.

Now, one phrase really brought me up short: "gravity is a bitch." I can't believe that such a blatantly profane and sexist phrase would crop up in a nonfiction text by a renowned professor and escape the peer review and editorial processes. What? Remove this, please. (Duh!)

Altogether, I appreciate the thorough overview of where we're at and where we might be able to go, from Earth into the cosmos. I hope that these issues will be ironed out before publication. When it comes to space, I'm a romantic. We have a lot of things to deal with here, on our planet, our best and only home. But many of us are driven to explore "strange new worlds" and there are nearly endless possibilities, a universe of "worlds without end." In some sense, I'm left deeply sad that I'll not be here to experience it. Then again, no human might be, if we stay the current course and predictions of our future hold true. Can we set aside our self-serving natures, our primal us-versus-them mindsets, our limited ability to look ahead? If we can do that now, then our descendants may be able to reach other stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and MIT Press for the advance copy.

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As our world increasingly becomes inhospitable to our most vulnerable people, certain minds look not towards solutions, but to the stars, in the hopes that they might simply start afresh somewhere else. For the rest of us down below, this will remain simply a pipe dream, although this book does make it rather a nice fantasy as it explores the potential of these worlds orbiting alien stars.

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Solid Exposition Of The Topic. There really isn't much more to say about this particular book. If you're interested in the future of humanity at all, particularly our future as a space faring / multi-planet species, you need to read this book. If you're interested in the potential for finding or communicating with non-Earth lifeforms, you need to read this book. In both of these arenas, Impey does a solid job of explaining the history of the relevant sciences, where they have been recently, where they are projected to be within the next generation or so, and what it would take to actually get or communicate with... much of anywhere, really. While exoplanets - planets beyond our local solar system and even beyond our own galaxy - are the main discussion, there are some discussions of the possibilities of life beyond Earth even within our local system that are also quite realistic, even including potential timeframes for when this could happen. Wow, I've actually said more about this book than I thought I would. :) In short, read this book and learn a thing or two. Unless you happen to be an astrophysicist specializing in exoplanets already. ;) Very much recommended.

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