In this pop-science masterpiece David Waltham argues that life on Earth is, amazingly, a cosmic fluke.
Science tells us that life elsewhere in the Universe is increasingly likely to be discovered. But in fact the Earth may be a very unusual planet - perhaps the only one like it in the entire visible Universe. In Lucky Planet David Waltham asks why, and comes up with some surprising and unconventional answers.
Recent geological, biological, and astronomical discoveries are bringing us closer to understanding whether we might be alone in the Universe. The current consensus is that Earth- like planets have reasonably stable climates and that the forces of natural selection are sufficiently powerful to allow life to adapt to any fluctuations. This book questions that conventional wisdom and suggests, instead, that the Earth may have had 'four billion years of good weather' purely by chance.
If Earth-like worlds don't have natural stabilising mechanisms, then intelligent observers such as ourselves will only ever look out onto those rare planets where, like the Earth, all the bad things that could have happened to the climate have fortunately cancelled each other out.
So before you prepare to meet the aliens, consider that we are probably alone .
David Waltham obtained a first-class degree and a PhD in Physics before moving into the oil industry in the early 1980s. This industrial experience led to his appointment, in 1986, as a lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he became Head of Earth Sciences from 2008-2012.