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Roy, with unreadable affect, agrees to go and boards a commercial flight for the moon, the first leg of his trip. He carries nearly the whole film on his shoulders. Ad Astra is a wonderful film, but it sure is deadly serious — and Pitt is playing a man whose apparent depression renders him almost devoid of emotion for long stretches. With a set jaw and creased eyes, he draws us into his inner world. But the most remarkable thing about Ad Astra is that it exists at all, or maybe just that James Gray who in addition to directing the film, co-wrote its screenplay with Fringe writer Ethan Gross managed to raise enough money to make it.

It is beautiful, giving space a feeling of tangibility, but it is not for everyone. Instead, Ad Astra follows the grand tradition of many other science fiction films in interrogating the nature of what it means to be human. And that happens two ways. On one rather literal level, Ad Astra is about an absent father whose absence profoundly impacted son and about how love is what makes us human and keeps us that way. But Ad Astra gets bigger and more significant when you think about it as a movie about God, or rather about the way we feel about God in modernity.

But his presence hovers over the whole movie. This reading of Ad Astra might seem like the kind of stretch a pastor makes in a sermon except that a Christian conception of God is very consciously invoked in the film beginning early on. The pilots of one spacecraft are heard asking for St. Roy watches old footage of his father aboard the mission on which he disappeared, saying that in space he feels closer to God, feels his presence as he never did on Earth.

Ad Astra is about lonely Brad Pitt in space. It’s also about an absent God.

But the parallels are striking. And they become particularly notable when Roy finally finds his father out near Neptune, then realizes that his father has disconnected himself from humanity to the degree that he has no interest in coming home. Twice, that idea is visually reinforced on screen. Briefly, Roy and Cliff grapple in space, arms locked, Cliff trying to get away and Roy trying to hang on. We need to let go of our conceptions of some other being. But it is a persuasive appeal worth pondering in our age, when most anything wondrous can be explained by science and where some people who spend their lives searching for God do so by neglecting the very real needs of their fellow man.

Ad Astra is a poetic, almost symphonic testament to this idea, and a stunning one. In the credits, Gray thanks Tracy K. Smith, the former poet laureate who won the Pulitzer for her collection Life on Mars, an elegy to her father, who worked on the Hubble telescope and died in In it, Smith invokes a variety of myths and stories, from the legend of the lost city of Atlantis to A Space Odyssey. It concludes with the perfect description of how history, humanity, and space interact in an ultimate search for meaning:. My father spent whole seasons Bowing before the oracle-eye, hungry for what it would find.

His face lit-up whenever anyone asked, and his arms would rise. As if he were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never-ending Night of space. On the ground, we tied postcards to balloons For peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di. One of the most inspiring books about the Great Beyond I've ever read--a true masterpiece of nonfiction.


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It informs, enlightens, and mystifies at the same time, all the while with the amazing narration of David Grinspoon harmonizing the prose perfectly throughout. And I met the guy, which makes it even cooler. Wow, this was quite a book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but definately to anyone who is interested in astrobiology. The author is a great writer, and writes with a sense of humor.

I enjoyed the first two sections, History and Scienece, the most with the third section, Belief, only a little bit less. One of the best books I have read in a long time. Jan 28, Alisonmcg rated it it was amazing.

See a Problem?

Love it. So thanks, Dr. G, for being able to keep your feet in the Establishment but understand the overflowing curiosity and unbounded ignorance of everyday people! Jul 31, Cynde Moya rated it it was amazing. Stoney piece of work, illuminating life from the origin of atoms thru the creation of molecules and planets, all the way to us and our contemplation of alien intelligence. Readable and clever. Jun 27, Lara rated it really liked it Shelves: science-nature. Accessible and astounding. I fell in love with Europa and made her my patron planet although she is really a moon.

Suicide, a Crime of Loneliness | The New Yorker

Sep 28, Matthew rated it it was amazing. Great read and a brilliant reference. Jan 10, Giuliano rated it it was amazing. Okay, the beauty of writing about a topic we know virtually nothing about is that you're allowed to take the long route and look at said topic from different angles. This is precisely what David Grinspoon did in Lonely Planets. And man, was it a truly magical journey or what?!

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To even speculate about alien life, we must first understand what conditions must be present for life to arise elsewhere spoiler alert: water is important but who says that our H2o and carbon-reliant model is the onl Okay, the beauty of writing about a topic we know virtually nothing about is that you're allowed to take the long route and look at said topic from different angles. To even speculate about alien life, we must first understand what conditions must be present for life to arise elsewhere spoiler alert: water is important but who says that our H2o and carbon-reliant model is the only successful one in the universe?

Then come the REAL questions, what does life look like? Can we even define it? And what about intelligence? Do we have it?

Alien Highway

How could we hope to communicate with another civilisation that has been sentient for thousands if not millions of years before we took our first upright steps? This book is a treasure trove of interesting questions, and it was a real eye opener for me. It forced me to look at the big picture with the magnifying glass of science and rationalism.

I also really enjoyed the book's relaxed tone and the author's funny, self-deprecating remarks; he doesn't take himself too seriously and doesn't judge others based on their beliefs. What a way to kick off my reading challenge Happy reading, everyone! Jul 25, Allison Streeter rated it it was amazing.


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  • Good grief. Not because of the book itself. I believe I went from covering overnights back to my normal shift but got hella hit with mandates typically a great time to read but being so exhausted I read the same pages over and over and over again. For days on end. What I like was the book never claims anything definitively I want to believe Jan 09, Carl Holmes rated it it was ok. Tried to finish it. It is outdated at this point and I love the science of planets, but he devotes WAY to much time to it, and not near enough time to his actual title - The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life.

    Mar 06, Vivian Sophia rated it liked it. Pretty interesting exposition of science and thought related to extra-terrestrial life.


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    • Apr 09, Sarah rated it really liked it. Imagine one hundred thousand worlds, all with some form of 'intelligent life' at roughly our current level. Certain qualities will aid survival, and these will be selected for. Eventually some worlds will live to reproductive age and spread life to other worlds, as Gaia may soon start to do. Technical advancement without spiritual progress creates a dangerous and unstable condition that will be selected against.

      Natural selection on a galactic level will favour those living worlds where technical and spiritual advancement proceed together. Cosmic spiritual advancement by Darwinian natural selection! Grinspoon demonstrated none of the arrogance or dismissiveness common amongst scientists when discussing views which are typically irritating to the field creationism, various new age philosophies, etc but instead lays out his arguments with humble rationality and an impressively open mind.

      This book was well-written, even inspiring, and contains a hopeful message for humanity, along with a great deal of interesting and educational from a layperson's perspective information about cosmic evolution. I recommend it to anyone curious about humanity's place in the cosmos. Jun 17, Stephie Williams rated it really liked it. Overall, I really liked it.

      The history and science sections seemed very good. However when it came to his philosophy I was not fully convinced of his point of view. I don't follow with Gaia or Noospheres and such. His idea of spirituality does resonate with mine in that he sees it in the connections we have with others and god is not neeeded for this. I would add that it involves are connections to the world as well. My personal idea is that spirituality is the search for order and has nothing Overall, I really liked it. My personal idea is that spirituality is the search for order and has nothing to do with god who I believe does not even exist.

      This is a very readable blend of science, history, and sociology focused on the study of life in the universe. Specifically, of life on earth and the possibility of life beyond our planet.