What is Life? (LIF2310)
January 13th 2015
Book Summary of Weird Life by David Toomey Book reference:
Toomey, D. (2013). Weird life: The search for life that is very, very different from our own(1st ed. , Vol. 1, p. 268). New York: W. W. Norman & Company.
David Toomey earned his Ph. D in English Literature from University of Virginia (1998). He currently works at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as an English Professor and the director of the Professional Writing and Technical Communication Program. His research interests are science writing, mental illness, and literature. His publications include Scientific and Technical Communication in Theory (as a second author with James Collier), Weird Life, The New Time Travelers, and Stormchasers. His background in literature along with his research in scientific communication gives him the qualifications to write Weird Life. (University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of English, 2010) Whole Book Summary Overall thesis:
Weird life is scientifically possible, and though it hasn't been discovered, may still exist.
Scientists continue to make discoveries of new life, which makes the point that our current knowledge of life forms do not account for everything that is out there, suggesting that though we haven't found weird life, it may still exist.
Because we only know one type of life (familiar life), our definition may be confined to things exclusive to our life, hindering the search for weird life.
Weird life may be undetectable on Earth because it is hard to distinguish from familiar life.
Searching for weird life may hindered by the lack of advanced technology.
Weird life may come in forms that we can't conceptualize, making it difficult to search for and one reason we haven't discovered it.
Thesis : Life has been discovered in conditions no one thought was possible, leading scientists to ponder that weird life may exist beyond the defined ultimate limits of life as we know it.
Summary: The prologue introduces us to thinking about the boundaries of life, as we know it, and what sort of life might lie beyond those boundaries. He uses a series of historical discoveries to support his claim that the current knowledge of life forms and what constitutes life can only account for a fraction of what's really out there. For example, the discovery that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth exceeded the limits of human imagination. More recently, a series of discoveries of organisms living in extreme conditions, now known as extremophiles, surpassed several limits that biologists assumed life could not exist in. To name one of these discoveries, no one expected life to live in water much above its boiling point, yet scientists found bacteria living and reproducing in volcanic hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor with a temperature at 235degrees F. Such discoveries show that the boundaries within wh...