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What if the Earth Had Two Moons?

The sequel to "What if the Moon Didn't Exist?" will be out in April, 2010

What If the Earth Had Two Moons: And Nine Other Thought-Provoking Speculations on the Solar System, Neil F. Comins. St Martin’s, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-59892-1

Armchair astronomers and hard SF fans who love a good game of cosmological “What If?” will find this an entertaining follow-up to physicist Comins’s What If the Moon Didn’t Exist? Here he presents 10 more intellectual puzzles that explore new worlds, and imagine what life there might be like. Each chapter opens with a vivid glimpse of a hypothetical new world, such as in the title scenario, where Earth’s gravity captures a second moon—a scenario that ends in destruction. Equally disastrous would be an Earth with a thicker crust—unable to form new volcanoes, hot magma would simply burn through the crust’s surface, melting continents and the ocean floor. In another scenario, our solar system forms 15 billion years later than it did, prompting Comins to conjecture that aliens would have more time to traverse great distances to the planet and colonize it. This is a lucid, thoroughly accessible presentation of what might have been that is sure to make this volume as popular as its predecessor. 25 b&w line drawings. (Apr.)

LIBRARY JOURNAL review: Comins, Neil F. What If the Earth Had Two Moons?: And Nine Other Thought-Provoking Speculations on the Solar System. St. Martin's. Apr. 2010. c.288p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 978-0-312-59892-1. $26.99. SCI

Comins (physics & astronomy, Univ. of Maine; The Hazards of Space Travel) describes ten different possible ways the solar system might have formed that could still lead to the evolution of intelligent life. Drawing on the latest science, the author creates hypothetical situations (What if the moon orbited backwards? What if the sun were less massive?) complete with made-up names of planets and moons, such as Noom and Futura. Each scenario describes a planet vastly different from Earth, demonstrating how Earth perfectly meets the conditions necessary for the formation of life. Comins's book straddles the border between science writing and science fiction and might best be classified as "fiction science." VERDICT The different scenarios provide an innovative and effective way for readers to learn basic astronomy and planetary physics. Astronomy buffs at all levels and sf readers will benefit from this speculative but fascinating book.—Jeffrey Beall, Univ. of Colorado, Denver