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Book Review:
To Seek Out New Life:
The Biology of Star Trek
by Athena Andreadis
reviewed by Larry Klaes (lklaes @

Long ago, when I was a very big fan of Star Trek in almost all its forms (I still am to some degree, just older and more experienced in the ways of the world), I believed that almost everyone who was a Star Trek fan was also either quite versed in the astronomy and other sciences presented on the series, or at least had a very strong interest in learning about them.

I soon learned, however, that this was not the case. Many fans loved Star Trek primarily for the characters, stories, and exciting special effects. They had an interest in the science, perhaps, but only in the most elementary way. For them, Star Trek really served as a culture within a culture, where they could fit in. In many ways, Star Trek has almost become a religion. There was a lot of sad truth to the famous William Shatner (a.k.a. Captain James Tiberius Kirk) "Get a Life!" sketch on Saturday Night Live from 1986.

Now there is nothing either wrong or required that those who like Star Trek and similar science fiction must also be scientists or even into the sciences. But when I see reviews attacking Dr. Andreadis for cutting down all the "bad" biology and other science in Star Trek, as if they had just been personally insulted, it is apparent that the main purpose of her book is being missed by these folks, along with an opportunity to learn something both wonderful and true about the real Universe around them.

It is perhaps a sad commentary on today's educational values that a good portion of the general public has learned what little science they know from watching Star Trek. This is one reason why scientists like physicist Laurence M. Krauss and biologist Athena Andreadis have created very popular books examining Star Trek in all its television and film incarnations and exposing their many major faults in terms of science. For one thing, there should be much gratitude that these authors know their Star Trek so well, compared to some works I have seen exploring the series in past decades.

I suppose it is better than letting the public live in their ignorance, though. It can be a good first step in the right direction to learning more about the real sciences and how amazing that world really is.

I am bemused at those who jumped on the author for not getting the point that Star Trek is science fiction, when that is exactly the point she is making in her book! Apparently they are the ones who are taking the Federation and its celestial neighborhood a bit too seriously. Emotions are getting in the way of the facts. Not everyone likes to have their emperors revealed as having no clothes.

And for the readers who hve griped that Ms. Andreadis showed her bias and emotional bent in the book, what else can be said but that To Seek Out New Life was written by a human being and not a post-Sarek Vulcan or a computer, especially one that could be blown up into clouds of white smoke by a few attacks of illogic from Captain Kirk. For me, those personal commentaries kept the book from becoming dull and showed me that the author truly cared about her subject.

Perhaps I am asking too much of some to think, rather than that Dr. Andreadis is "attacking" Star Trek for having so many concepts which veer away from the known facts, that they should instead realize how fortunate they are that a trained biologist took the time and effort to enrich the world about real biology, a science which can hardly be ignored or denied in our daily existence.

And let's face it, even if the author were out to "destroy" your beloved Star Trek (which she is not), does anyone honestly think that Paramount would suddenly close up the franchise and crawl away in ignorant shame? Not at over $2 billion per year they won't!

So please read To Seek Out New Life. Know that Ms. Andreadis is simply sharing her wonderful gift of knowledge about the biological sciences in a way that can be enjoyed far better than some dry old textbook.

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