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  • The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy

  • What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens - and Ourselves
  • By: Arik Kershenbaum
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Length: 11 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (66 ratings)

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The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy cover art

The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy

By: Arik Kershenbaum
Narrated by: Samuel West
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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

We are unprepared for the greatest discovery of modern science. Scientists are confident that there is alien life across the universe yet we have not moved beyond our perception of 'aliens' as Hollywood stereotypes. The time has come to abandon our fixation on alien monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing.

Using his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin's theory of evolution - which applies throughout the universe - Cambridge zoologist Dr Arik Kershenbaum explains what alien life must be like.

Observing fishes whose electrical pulses indicate social status, we can see that conditions on other planets might allow for communication by electricity. As there was evolutionary pressure to wriggle along a sea floor, Earthling animals tend to have left/right symmetry; on planets where creatures evolved mid-air or in soupy tar - to be ready to move in any or multiple directions - they might be lacking any symmetry at all. Dr Kershenbaum uses cutting-edge science to paint an entertaining and compelling picture of extra-terrestrial life.

Moreover, as The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy is the story of communication, intelligence, cooperation and technology, on Earth and in space, we see how life really works - and what it means to be human.

©2020 Arik Kershenbaum (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

I love The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy by Arik Kershenbaum. Although it sets out to be (and is) about alien life, what emerges is a wonderfully insightful sidelong look at Earthly biology (Richard Dawkins, via Twitter)
If you don't want to be surprised by extraterrestrial life, look no further than this lively overview of the laws of evolution that have produced life on earth. (Frans de Waal, author of Mama’s Last Hug)
A fun, and thoroughly biological, exploration of possible and impossible alien beings. If you'd love to know what real aliens from other planets might really be like, this is the book for you (Susan Blackmore, author of Seeing Myself)

What listeners say about The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy

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A brilliant read!

I read this book primarily to increase my understanding of the range of life on our planet and it definitely met my objectives whilst also offering a new perspective on life beyond Earth.

I will definitely recommend this book to family and friends as it offers a wealth of information organised in an accessible and clear way, and was presented by a pleasant voice.

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Thought provoking

Superb narration on a complex topic. Very enjoyable and thought provoking. Some of the chapter topics are very relevant and transferable for understanding how some science fiction writers have developed their stories.
Excellent all round and will be listening to it again

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Amazing!

I loved every second of this production . Lucidly written and exquisitely narrated, this is audiobook heaven.

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A cheat sheet for understanding life

Very well written (and read). Covers a lot of ground in a very succinct way and I would heavily recommend to any laypeople interested in learning the fundamental rules of life as we know it. My only disappointment is that there wasn't a chapter which explored a hypothetical ecosystem in an environment very different to earth with some descriptions of plausible life forms and how they would interact. Other than that, this book very clearly and succinctly guides you through the rational process that can only lead us to conclude that intelligent alien life will probably be more similar to us than not.

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Essential listening

A fresh perspective on alien life which examines what elements from evolution on Earth are likely to apply on other planets. Clear and engaging at all times, the author is unafraid to include plenty of science fiction references, suggesting which aspects of imagined creatures may be likely and which less so. The biggest take away for me was how the existing Darwinian classification of species by way of genetic ancestry is clearly of no use when comparing lifeforms between distant worlds, and what approach should be used instead. But there was so much more. Not a single chapter went by without a citation or concept leading me to add more material to my reading list. It truly is a fascinating tour of evolution on a galactic stage. Brilliantly narrated too. Can't recommend highly enough.

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Little Gem

What a clever man and how fascinating he is! Only bought this book a few days ago and already it’s become a resounding favourite.

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Unimaginative , unscientific, narrow

Every chapter can be summed up like this:

"This is what life is like on earth so it must be like this everywhere else in the entire universe."

Ideas borrowed from small selection of other books

It's more a very basic natural history of planet earth with not uninteresting examples. E.g. dogs and cats.

Annoying voice and cadence, avoid.

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