CHAPTER 1: Setting the Stage for Life and Civilization

  • Kicking off the book, we explore why Earth is good for life and civilization, what properties may apply to other worlds in the Universe, and what are some of the less than perfect aspects of this pale blue dot.
  • The Earth will be explored from its hot interior to the heights of the atmosphere. All of these physical processes will be put together in an intriguing way that suggests what may lie in store for us as we continue to explore the Universe and find more worlds like our own.

CHAPTER 2: Evolution and the Building Blocks of Life

  • In the most intriguing chapter that applies to our very existence, we dig deep and understand the foundations of life itself and the possibilities on how it came to be on Earth. We will also explore evolution and the mechanisms in which it brought about, after billions of years, finally an intelligent thinking creature that can look back and reflect upon that history.
  • Like with the Earth, life will be explored from its very beginnings of chemical compositions, how life changed life itself after it started to flourish on the Earth, why oxygen was needed to be the catalyst for the Cambrian Explosion of life, and also the limits of life’s potential.

CHAPTER 3: The Rise of Civilization on Earth

  • Once intelligent creatures came about on the Earth, civilization was all but inevitable. Providing those creatures could become social, had mechanisms such as opposable thumbs and the ability to grasp fine objects, civilization could take root.
  • We explore six of the earliest civilizations that came about on the Earth and why they were unique. After the civilizations themselves are covered, we move on to the Age of Enlightenment and the great thinkers that set the stage for the industrial revolution and our modern technological era.

CHAPTER 4: The Engine of Modern Civilization

  • Once the Age of Enlightenment got underway, an engine of technological sophistication could explode onto the world stage. This chapter explores that great engine and how it came to be. Scenarios and examples of progress will be shown to help highlight the intriguing question of “Why did it take humanity so long to get to where it is today, and why is it now growing so fast?”
  • We’ll also explore the energy resources and processes for refinement that make all of our gadgets operate. Without the basic necessities of fossil fuels, and later more clean and sophisticated technologies like solar panels and efficient wind turbines, other technologies could not be realized at all.

CHAPTER 5: A House of Cards: The Downfall of Civilization

  • With complexity comes the risk of collapse. Technological civilization is the greatest invention of our species, and something that may or may not have ever been produced before on another world in the Universe, or for very long at least. Understanding its fragility will help us to understand the chances for life elsewhere in the Universe to get to our stage of development, and beyond.
  • There are almost a dozen scenarios we will explore here. They range from the natural ones like supervolcanoes and pestilence, to man-made accidents and the mongering for world war. Any scenario could, sooner or later, bring the downfall of our civilization — permanently. There is one saving grace at the end of this chapter though that could prevent our destruction, quite possibly forever.

CHAPTER 6: Exploring the Cosmos

  • Once we conclude exploring the Earth and our place upon it, we’ll expand out into the known Universe and begin to realize just how many other stars, planets, and possibly life bearing worlds there are.
  • This chapter begins with understanding the structures of the Universe, such as galaxies, solar systems, and planetary bodies. Then we’ll take a look at the hidden places where life may reside. While constraints exist, you’ll see that the Universe has plenty of space to offer life to sprout from!

CHAPTER 7: The Boundaries of Habitability

  • Once we have some numbers down on habitability, we’ll go one big step further and explore the boundaries in which life and civilization may take root. We’ll explore odd worlds such as Super Earths, Exomoons, and tidally locked worlds around extremely cool M-dwarf stars.
  • What are the chances for civilizations to appear on a world where one side is forever light and the other side is pitched in eternal darkness? You will want to read this chapter!

CHAPTER 8: The Scale of Things

  • The Universe is a big place! So is the interior of a super tiny atomic nuclei. Both the big and small are so fantastically so, that we lose comprehension on what it means to say “billions of light years”, or “subatomic”. Time is also just as vast of a concept with it’s billions of years and even potentially infinite length on the grandest of scales.
  • This chapter is dedicated solely to providing some examples on these scales in order to better realize our place in the cosmos. These scales should also give you pause in understanding why we seem to be so alone in the Universe.

CHAPTER 9: Is Anybody Out There?

  • “Where is everyone?” This was a question posed in a discussion in the late 20th century that later resulted in what’s been called the Fermi Paradox.
  • We don’t know if there are other civilizations out there, or even if there are any other worlds that have life at all upon them. The most intriguing question concludes this book with many exploration in this chapter about the chances for us to one day meet an alien civilization. Read this chapter to find out what the big picture is all about!