Peter Ward and Don Brownlee are the co-authors of the acclaimed and bestselling Rare Earth. Ward is a professor of geological science and zoology at the University of Washington and the author of nine other books, including Future Evolution, The Call of Distant Mammoths, and The End of Evolution, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Brownlee is a professor of astronomy at the University of Washington.
Excerpt from book:
From The Life and Death of Planet Earth:
There's a difference between a human's life and the life of our planet. Ruth Ward, born in 1916, aged gracefully but never resembled her youth again. Hers was a one-way trip. Planets have a different trajectory—the Earth, for instance, appears to be on a round trip of sorts. If you fire a cannon straight up, the projectile climbs to a certain height, slows, stops, and then falls back to the ground. Our planet's trajectory is similar. It started as a very hot, oxygen-free world. Water, air, plants, solar energy, and plate tectonics created the conditions for natural evolution, and many people assume that the cannonball of biological complexity is still arcing upward. We believe that the cannonball has already begun to drop, and that the Earth has already started a return to a hot world where life becomes less diverse, less complicated, and less abundant through time. The last life on Earth may look much like the first life—a single-celled bacterium, survivor and descendant of all that came before.
In a landmark work of science two distinguished scientists offer a vivid narrative describing the second half of the life of our planet
Planet Earth is middle-aged. Science has worked hard to piece together the story of the evolution of our world up to this point, but only recently have we developed the understanding and the tools to describe the entire life cycle of a planet-of our planet.
Peter Ward and Don Brownlee, a geologist and an astronomer respectively, are in the vanguard of the new field of astrobiology. Combining their knowledge of how the critical sustaining systems of our planet evolve through time with their understanding of how stars and solar systems grow and change throughout their own life cycles, the authors tell the story of the second half of Earth's life. The process of planetary evolution will essentially reverse itself; life as we know it will subside until only the simplest forms remain. Eventually, they too will disappear. The oceans will evaporate, the atmosphere will degrade, and, as the sun slowly expands, Earth itself will eventually meet a fiery end.
In this masterful melding of groundbreaking research and captivating, eloquent science writing, Ward and Brownlee provide a comprehensive portrait of Earth's life cycle that allows us to understand and appreciate how the planet sustains itself today, and offers us a glimpse of our place in the cosmic order.
Praise for Rare Earth:
"This carefully reasoned book makes a strong case for undoing at least some of the work of Copernicus, by accepting that the earth is special after all." -The Economist
"[A] pleasure for the rational reader . . . what good books are all about . . ." -The Associated Press
"[Rare Earth] has hit the world of astrobiologists like a killer asteroid." -Newsday