Book Review: Weird Life: The Search for Life That is Very, Very Different from Our Own

by Eva Gallant on April 29, 2013

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weird life

Think about Dr. Seuss’ classic book If I Ran The Zoo. Young Gerald McGrew has an active imagination creating heretofore unheard of creatures to make his zoo the most astounding by far. All of Gerald’s inventions are quite interesting. But add them to the long list of different beings humans across time have dreamt up – from the Sphinx to the Griffin – and they still pale in comparison to actual creatures in existence. And yet, says author David Toomey in his new book Weird Life: The Search for Life That is Very, Very Different from Our Own, there are likely countless undiscovered forms of very weird life that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Find out how to win a copy of this book here!

The very definition of weird involves words such as strikingly odd, strange, and bizarre. David Toomey travels down the strange path of Weird Life starting at the striking discoveries of extremophiles. Extremophile organisms push the boundaries of what conditions we thought life could exist in, thriving in environments too extreme for humans.

Astrobiologists soak up extremophiles because similar environmental conditions in our solar system might correlate with similar extreme life elsewhere. Would life elsewhere look exactly like our cold or acid-loving extremophiles on Earth or would they be even weirder? Vast lakes of liquid methane exist on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Can we find evidence of microscopic life in such an environment? We need to know how to isolate it, what exactly to test for and finance a mission to explore it. The fun part is that Titan is among a handful of strange places we theorize may harbor life in our own solar system. Recent discoveries of planets in other star systems are fodder for speculation of life, familiar to us or what we would deem as weird life.

My family and I recently visited Roswell, New Mexico. The entire town markets itself on the human notion that life exists elsewhere in a varied form from what we see in the mirror every day. Chapter Seven in Toomey’s book discusses “Intelligent Weird Life”. While some scientists having the thrilling job of searching for signs of intelligent life in the universe, some scientists enjoy the search for life on a much smaller scale on Earth – from the ocean’s bottom to the clouds above. Extremophiles push the boundaries of our beliefs and expectations. We are constantly made aware of what little we actually know. It’s possible a strange brew of exotic life exists here on Earth; we’re just not able to detect it, yet.

If phrases like “shadow biosphere”, “silicon life,” “desert varnish,” and “cloud borne Venusians” don’t pique your interest then perhaps this isn’t the book for you. For those interested in life very, very different from our own, this is right up your alley. Chapters entitled “A Bestiary of Weird Life” and “Weird Life in the Multiverse” certainly made this reviewer turn the pages of Weird Life with a childlike glee. Without a doubt, David Toomey’s book will teach you something you don’t know. Information interspersed with humor, appropriate science bios and anecdotes makes this a well rounded book for your bedside reading.

About 

Eva Gallant,@GallantRI, is self employed living in Rhode Island with her family. She studied engineering and psychology in college. As a child she wanted to become an astronaut and finally caught a shuttle launch in person on the last launch ever. To this day science and space fascinate her on a daily basis.

Tony Trenton April 30, 2013 at 1:32 PM

It is just a matter of time before we make a contact that will be public. I hope I live long enough to experience it.

I expect there are many species that have found the technology to travel the stars .

I am sure they will find us very frightening.

"Me" April 30, 2013 at 4:51 PM

BINGO Tony! BINGO! Good for you! Its about time! I can die now….lol. Its about time someone w/an open mind spoke up! You win an all expense paid trip to the edge of our universe! We will explore all planets & stars possible. Wish I could supply you(us) w/a ship to attain this voyage. But in any event, you & I will take turns flying the ship!. Deal? ;-)… .

PS: Dimensional/space-time is a fabric & is key I believe. Technology will come to a head some day/year. And when it does, like you I hope I am around to see & experience it also. Bless you & take care

Duncan Ivry April 30, 2013 at 6:07 PM

I seriously tried to understand your comment, but I failed. Would you be so kind to explain. And make it simple, please, because English is not my first language.

"Me" April 30, 2013 at 9:10 PM

There were three or so inside jokes I typed to Tony. If your not good at understanding English, then I cannot help you w/inside jokes. Tony has a good feel for other possibilities of the unknown realms. Just because you cannot fully grasp or sense them. It does not mean they are not there. Science can benefit from them & find facts in other scientific fields.
It is difficult expressing jokes. Sorry I cannot articulate jokes in the ways they need for you to understand them. …take care now.

Duncan Ivry May 1, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Thank you for your answer. I just didn’t expect inside jokes in a public comment section of a science oriented website with international audience. No problem. For most people inside jokes are difficult to understand — per definitionem ;-) –, whether in English or in any other language.

James M. Fabiano May 6, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Why wouldn’t life exist in different chemistys and atmospheres definitely possible

"Me" May 1, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Your welcome. Come on Duncan. Be real buddy. Serious work w/no play makes people have a serious mistake full day. Trust me Duncan, humor is good. All too many times I have seen serious people make serious mistakes. You must lighten up the work day. Remember, we are all “human”. Common sense applies. …take care now.

SupernovaElite May 3, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Nobody likes you.

"Me" May 3, 2013 at 4:44 PM

You know everyone in here? YOUR GOD ALMIGHTY?! Oh God Almighty I want a 2013 Bugatti Veyron! PLEASE! Oh, sorry, that question is for Santa Claus.
So I am supposed to go away & the other students & some colleagues who use this name to post questions & answers w/Disqus too? Get real!!! An opinion is like a butt hole. We all got one…lol.
Do you have anything constructive to post here other than playing God? ..lol

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