Book Review: ‘Five Billion Years of Solitude’ by Lee Billings

by Ray Sanders on October 8, 2013

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"Five Billion Years of Solitude" By Lee Billings

“Five Billion Years of Solitude” By Lee Billings

Over the past few years, the field of astrobiology has made great strides. With missions such as Kepler making exoplanet discoveries commonplace, the question no longer is “Are other planets out there?” but “When will we find a true twin of Earth?”

A new book, “Five Billion Years of Solitude,” takes the reader from the earliest efforts of astrobiology, along with information on how life took hold on Earth, to how we can use that information to help understand how life may flourish on other worlds – all while giving us a glimpse inside the minds of some of the field’s most notable scientists.

To say that author Lee Billings tackles only the subject of astrobiology in “Five Years of Solitude” would be selling this book extremely short. While the main focus of the book is life on Earth and the possibility of life elsewhere, readers will find “Five Years of Solitude” incredibly engaging. Combining conversations with such legends like Frank Drake and Sara Seager with in-depth discussions of numerous science topics related to the search for life, Billings has created a book that is not only entertaining, but educational as well.

For those who aren’t well-versed in the details of astrobiology, the casual, “conversational” approach Billings takes to presenting scientific concepts makes for easily digestible reading. While the scientific concepts explained in the book are laid out in good detail, Billings doesn’t present them in an overly dry, or boring manner. Weaving scientific knowledge with interviews from heavy hitters in the world of astrobiology is one of the book’s strongest selling points. The book is both a primer on astrobiology, and a collection of knowlegde from some of the greatest minds in the field.

In the many conversations Billings has with people such as Geoff Marcy, Frank Drake, Sara Seager, and many others, one can get a “feel” for the sometimes insurmountable obstacles scientists face in trying to get their projects approved and funded. Readers will finish “Five Billion Years of Solitude” with a deep appreciation for the miracle of life on Earth, and the hard work and dedication researchers invest in understanding life on Earth, and the possibility of life elsewhere.

Additionally, Billings provides a gold mine of additional materials that readers can dive into if they want to immerse themselves much deeper into the field of astrobiology. If you are interested in the field of Astrobiology, and understanding how life developed on Earth (and possibly elsewhere), you’ll find “Five Billion Years of Solitude” a very engaging book.

Stay Tuned for an interview with the author, Lee Billings, here at Universe Today later this week. ‘Five Billion Years of Solitude” is available now online, and at your local bookstore.

About 

In addition to being a published astronomer specializing in variable stars, Ray Sanders has blogged for Universe Today, and The Planetary Society blog, among others. He runs his own blog, Dear Astronomer, teaches classes for CosmoQuest, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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