Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth

Coming June 2018

In Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth (on sale: June 12, 2018), astrophysicist, NPR commentator, and New York Times contributor Adam Frank tells the story of humanity’s coming of age as we awaken to the possibilities of life on other worlds and their sudden relevance to our fate on a climate-changed Earth. Adam compares modern, human society to confused teenagers: as a society, we, like teens, are in desperate need of a more knowledgeable, more experienced model to follow (regardless of how vehemently we may deny it). So, Adam argues, we should look to the stars. Adam traces the question of alien life and intelligence from the ancient Greeks to the leading thinkers of our own time, and shows how we can only be successful as a civilization if we recognize what science has recently discovered: that we are just one of ten billion trillion planets in the Universe.

Written with great clarity and conviction, Light of the Stars is filled with the inspiring work of pioneering scientists like Frank Drake and Carl Sagan, whose work at the dawn of the space age began building the new science of astrobiology; Jack James, the Texas-born engineer who drove NASA’s first planetary missions to success; Vladimir Vernadsky, the Russian geochemist who first envisioned the Earth’s biosphere; and James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, who invented Gaia Theory. He recounts the perilous journey NASA undertook across millions of miles of deep space to get its probes to Venus and Mars, yielding our first view of the cosmic laws of planets and climate that changed our understanding of our place in the universe.

Thrilling science at the grandest of scales, Light of the Stars explores what may be the largest question of all: What can the likely presence of life on other worlds tell us about our own fate?


Praise for Light of the Stars

“Get ready to read the most original book about our collective future and the threats from global warming. Adam Frank takes us into new territory, using alien civilizations as our guide. From extinction to a promising future, Frank explores our options, giving us a chance to redirect our current disastrous course before it’s too late.”
— Marcelo Gleiser
“In this provocative new book, Adam Frank makes the case that one good way to think about life on Earth is to think about the prospect of life on other planets—and what it might have to teach us about how to be good Earthlings.”
— Sean Carroll
“Exoplanets and the prospects for alien life are among the most fascinating and fast-advancing topics in the whole of science—and these advances help us to see our own Earth in a fuller perspective. Adam Frank deserves our gratitude for condensing so much fascinating material into this highly readable book.”
— Martin Rees
“Adam Frank ably picks up where Carl Sagan left off, translating remarkable new scientific insights on planetary life cycles into a sobering question for Homo sapiens: Can we be more than a ‘cosmic teenager,’ as Sagan put it, and act on evidence that intelligence doesn’t guarantee a species longevity?”
— Andrew Revkin
“This book describes the emerging science of astrobiology, which is helping us to understand the task we face in bringing our civilization into a healthy relationship with our planet. Frank’s book serves as a kind of cosmic GPS, giving us an orientation that will help us to succeed. Happily it’s not just important but also very clear, succinct, and entertaining.”
— Kim Stanley Robinson
“This important book puts the challenge of climate change literally in an astronomical perspective, by explaining why any technological civilization will have to solve it, if it is to survive. Gracefully and clearly written, this is a book that everyone concerned with the world our grandchildren will inherit will want to read.”
— Lee Smolin
“In explaining the science and sociological drivers that will determine whether or not we humans will be part of the long future of our planet, Adam Frank introduces us to an array of charming scientific explorers you’ve probably never heard of, as well as the giants who have dared to adopt a cosmic perspective as a necessity for pondering our future fate.”
— Jill Tarter