ARE WE ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE?
In his latest far-reaching book, The Fifth Miracle, internationally acclaimed physicist and writer Paul Davies confronts one of science's great outstanding mysteries -- the origin of life.
Three and a half billion years ago, Mars resembled Earth. It was warm and wet and could have supported primitive organisms. If life once existed on Mars, might it have originated there and traveled to Earth inside meteorites blasted into space by cosmic impacts?
Davies builds on the latest scientific discoveries and theories to address the larger question: What, exactly, is life? Is it the inevitable by-product of physical laws, as many scientists maintain, or an almost miraculous accident? Are we alone in the universe, or will life emerge on all Earth-like planets? And if there is life elsewhere in the universe, is it preordained to evolve toward greater complexity and intelligence?
On the answers to these deep questions hinges the ultimate purpose of mankind -- who we are and what our place might be in the unfolding drama of the cosmos.
The Fifth Miracle provides convincing arguments that life flourishes, and may indeed have begun, deep within the earth's crust, and not in Darwin's "warm little pond." And if in our planet's crust, why not in others'? Indeed, he shows that it is not just possible but likely that living organisms have passed between Earth and Mars embedded within meteorites. Davies's command of the data and his facility with explaining it to nonprofessionals give the lie to his self-description as "a simple-minded physicist" intruding in another's domain. The best scientists hate to see questions finally answered and love to see new ones raised; by that standard (and by any other), The Fifth Miracle is a first-rate book of scientific speculation. --Rob Lightner