Lucky Planet (Hardback)

Why Earth is Exceptional – and What that Means for Life in the Universe

David Waltham

Share this book

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, and this book uses these to question the conventional wisdom and suggest, 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.

‘Very readable’Matt RidleyThe Times
‘[Waltham’s] arguments are compelling and the book is a delight to read.’Independent
‘A lively and well argued antidote to a widespread view that advanced life could arise frequently and in many places in the known Universe.’Richard Fortey
‘David Waltham takes us on a delightful tour of the various factors that influence planetary habitability and the evolution of advanced life. That he thinks the prospects for it are unlikely is all the more reason for us to go up to space and take a good look!’
James KastingPenn State University, author of How to Find a Habitable Planet

Watch David Waltham talk about Lucky Planet:

Read an extract:

You might also like…

Project Sunshine by Steve McKevitt, Tony Ryan

It’s an astonishing fact that capturing all the energy in just one hour’s worth of sunlight would enable us to meet the planet’s food and energy needs for an entire year. Project Sunshine tells the story of how scientists are working to rec… Read more »


Inflight Science by Brian Clegg

The perfect companion to any flight – a guide to the science on view from your window seat. There are few times when science is so immediate as when you’re in a plane. Your life is in the hands of the scientists and engineers who enable ton… Read more »


Dice World by Brian Clegg

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2014 WINTON ROYAL SOCIETY PRIZE FOR SCIENCE BOOKS As troubling as we pattern-seeking humans may find it, modern science has repeatedly shown us that randomness is the underlying heartbeat of nature. In Dice World, acclaim… Read more »



about this book

ISBN: 9781848316560

Price: GBP 14.99

Pages: 224

Publication date: 01-05-2014


buy this book