'Lonely Planets' author to discuss extraterrestrial life

Even as new images from Mars are captivating viewers all around planet Earth, the author of a new book about extraterrestrial life comes to Bates College to discuss the subject from cultural, historical and scientific perspectives.

David Grinspoon, whose Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life was published in November by HarperCollins, begins his talk at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, in the Keck Classroom (G52), Pettengill Hall, Andrews Road. Sponsored by Sigma Xi and the departments of geology and physics, the talk is open to the public free of charge.

At 10:30 a.m. the following day, Grinspoon will hold a book signing at Mr. Paperback, 855 Lisbon St.

Blending science, history, philosophy and memoir, Lonely Planets turns the question of alien life into a mirror on human awareness, desires and potential. With the perspective of a scientist who has helped shape modern planetary exploration, Grinspoon even engages with the spiritual dimensions of the question, showing how both scientific and “new age” thinking about alien life serve the same deep spiritual urge.

“Grinspoon handles the wide variety of material necessary for a coherent narrative with great aplomb,” Publishers Weekly wrote. “Even when he turns to physics, the author runs to phrases like ‘the Sun in its wild youth’ to describe the energy output of various kinds of stars, making this book less a popularization than a personable chat on life, the universe and everything.”

Grinspoon is an adviser to NASA on planetary exploration strategy and is principal scientist in the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. Internationally recognized as an authority on planetary research, Grinspoon has written for Slate, Scientific American and Astronomy, and has been interviewed by National Public Radio, Colorado Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.

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