© 2004

Life in the Universe

Expectations and Constraints

  • Authors

Part of the Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics book series (ASTROBIO, volume 3)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
  2. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 1-5
  3. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 8-34
  4. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 35-48
  5. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 49-76
  6. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 77-100
  7. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 101-121
  8. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 123-139
  9. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 141-147
  10. Schulze-Makuch Dirk, Louis N. Irwin
    Pages 149-172

About this book


Energy, chemistry, solvents, and habitats -- the basic elements of living systems – define the opportunities and limitations for life on other worlds. This study examines each of these parameters in crucial depth and makes the argument that life forms we would recognize may be more common in our solar system than many assume. It also considers, however, exotic forms of life that would not have to rely on carbon as basic chemical element, solar energy as a main energy source, or water as primary solvent. Finally the question of detecting bio- and geosignature of such life forms is discussed, ranging from Earth environments to deep space. While speculative considerations in this emerging field of science cannot be avoided, the authors have tried to present their study with the breadth and seriousness that a scientific approach to this issue requires. They seek an operational definition of life and investigate the realm of possibilities that nature offers to realize this very special state of matter and avoid scientific jargon wherever possible to make this intrinsically interdisciplinary subject understandable to a broad range of readers.


astrobiology biosignatures of life exobiology origin of life biology energy environment solar system universe water

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From the reviews:

"I would be happy to use this as a text when teaching undergraduate level astrobiology and would certainly recommend it as a good introduction for postgraduates." (Monica M. Grady Meteoritics and Planetary Science 2005, vol. 40, page 507-508)

"This book is […] an in-depth, critical look at the chemical and physical requirements of known living; it also considers the possibilities of some highly speculative environments and living systems. The writing is excellent and, despite the technical nature of the subject, should be understandable for those with minimal exposure to math, physics, chemistry, and astronomy." (P. R. Douville, Choice May 2005, vol. 42, page 459)

"This book provides an articulate overview of Astrobiology in the Springer Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics series. It contains an introduction chapter that is essentially a summary of the book, a chapter outlining definitions used, then seven more chapters describing the history of life, known energy sources for life, types of building blocks, potential solvents, known and possible habitats, examples of exotic life forms, and signatures of life. This is an excellent Astrobiology primer and I highly recommend this as a good reference for all scientists in the field of Astrobiology." (Janice Bishop, Icarus 178 (2005), page 289-290)

"‘In searching for life beyond Earth, we would be well advised to except the unusual’. Here in a nutshell … is the central theme of this timely and interesting book. … This is an open-minded and engaging book. … it is written in an engaging style. … Astrobiology is a growing field, but any enthusiast will want this sensibly priced volume to hand." (Simon Conway Morris, Geological Magazine, Vol. 144 (3), 2007)