Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future

Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future

by Jeffrey Bennett
     
 

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The quest for extraterrestrial life doesn't happen only in science fiction. This book describes the startling discoveries being made in the very real science of astrobiology, an intriguing new field that blends astronomy, biology, and geology to explore the possibility of life on other planets. Jeffrey Bennett takes readers beyond UFOs to discuss some of the

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Overview

The quest for extraterrestrial life doesn't happen only in science fiction. This book describes the startling discoveries being made in the very real science of astrobiology, an intriguing new field that blends astronomy, biology, and geology to explore the possibility of life on other planets. Jeffrey Bennett takes readers beyond UFOs to discuss some of the tantalizing questions astrobiologists grapple with every day: What is life and how does it begin? What makes a planet or moon habitable? Is there life on Mars or elsewhere in the solar system? How can life be recognized on distant worlds? Is it likely to be microbial, more biologically complex--or even intelligent? What would such a discovery mean for life here on Earth?

Come along on this scientific adventure and learn the astonishing implications of discoveries made in this field for the future of the human race. Bennett, who believes that "science is a way of helping people come to agreement," explains how the search for extraterrestrial life can help bridge the divide that sometimes exists between science and religion, defuse public rancor over the teaching of evolution, and quiet the debate over global warming. He likens humanity today to a troubled adolescent teetering on the edge between self-destruction and a future of virtually limitless possibilities. Beyond UFOs shows why the very quest to find alien life can help us to grow up as a species and chart a course for the stars. In a new afterword, Bennett shares the most recent developments in extrasolar research, and discusses how they might further our quest to find alien life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In cogent and entertaining language, astrophysicist and popular writer Bennett (On the Cosmic Horizon) explains that the determining factor in whether we can locate intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is whether such a civilization-and our own-can continue long enough to develop the highly sophisticated technology needed for interstellar travel. If humans are going to meet that challenge, Bennett argues, we must solve "global warming, debilitating disease, terrorism, poverty, and war. We must use our compassion to teach all people to respect all others, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or gender." This political message is couched in fascinating and completely accessible science. Bennett does a wonderful job of explaining the conditions necessary for simple life, how we might discern its existence and where we should be looking. He then does the same thing for intelligent life. While he is fair to those who believe life is incredibly rare, he makes a compelling case that life is likely to be abundant. He also predicts that we will gather incontrovertible proof of intelligent life in the universe within the next 20 to 30 years. 8 color, 30 b&w illus. (Mar.)

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Times Higher Education
The old adage 'don't judge a book by its cover' (or, in this case, its title) certainly applies here. While one might expect a book of science fiction, Bennett presents this awe-inspiring topic in a scientifically accurate but personal way. I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a creative summary of the status of the search for life elsewhere in the universe and would hope that it might provide a starting point to inspire the next generation of astronomers and astrobiologists.
— Lisa Jardine-Wright
New Scientist
[Jeffrey Bennett] has taken a break from the treadmill of updating his textbook and has written a popular book instead, bringing the rest of us up to date on our extraordinary new and expanded universe—and on who else might live in it . . . Beyond UFOs is crammed with neat analogies, startling imagery and mind-blowing illustrations of astronomical concepts. If you want to understand the universe and our place in it, you will not find a better primer. The first diagram alone—which shows how Earth's 10,000-kilometre span of real estate fits into a supercluster of galaxies a billion trillion kilometers across—bear a good 10 minutes of study. This truth is astonishing, and humbling—and Beyond UFOs is a great place to find it.
— Michael Brooks
Seattle Times
Planet by planet, moon by moon, [Beyond UFOs] explores the possibility of life elsewhere in this solar system. It then speculates about other solar systems in our galaxy where, according to the prevailing scientific view, simple life almost surely exists and intelligent life is plausible. For the most part, Bennett's search for extraterrestrial life adds up to a very satisfying package. . . . At its core, this book delivers a combination that is hard to beat: solid yet highly speculative science plus accessible prose that add up to an out-of-this-world reading experience.
— Fred Bortz
Astronomy Now
This exploration of potential alien life is a timely work, just as the steadily increasing discoveries of extra-solar planets makes the possibility of finding alien life more plausible. . . . [Beyond UFOs] is a fully rounded examination of the subject, accessible to all. I guarantee that after reading this book you will be watching space probe results that much more closely. And maybe, you will be watching the skies too!
— Steve Ringwood
Choice
Particularly enjoyable is the down-to-earth writing; Bennett, an astrophysicist, author, and educator, tells the reader exactly how he feels about various topics (even the role of God in the scheme of things). Readers may not agree with everything he says, but he does offer food for thought.
— B.R. Parker
The Boston Globe
Bennett walks us through the daunting calculations that lead to the conclusion that the existence of life elsewhere is not only possible, but highly likely. But as we wonder where else life exists and what forms it might take, scientists are forced back to more fundamental questions. What is the nature of life itself? Will we know it if we see it?...Bennett offers a host of lessons here not only about global warming and environmental degradation, but our place in the universe as well.
— Matthew Battles
The Coalition for Space Exploration
This is a highly readable and enjoyable book that centers on astrobiology—a discipline that melds astronomy, biology, geology—and a little bit of luck—to explore the prospect of life on other worlds. . . . Bennett is an excellent writer, taking the reader on an exploration quest to find alien life, and how difficult solar system sleuthing can be, such as on Mars, Jupiter's Europa, or on Saturn's Titan. You'll also find an excellent treatment on current activities surrounding the on-going search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The Observatory
Beyond UFOs gives a good impression from the moment you first take it into your hands. It is attractively produced, well written, and very thoroughly proofread. It's an interesting and challenging complement to focused research, and will be particularly enjoyed by anyone who has an appetite for broad science tinged with morals.
— Elizabeth Griffin
Times Higher Education - Lisa Jardine-Wright
The old adage 'don't judge a book by its cover' (or, in this case, its title) certainly applies here. While one might expect a book of science fiction, Bennett presents this awe-inspiring topic in a scientifically accurate but personal way. I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a creative summary of the status of the search for life elsewhere in the universe and would hope that it might provide a starting point to inspire the next generation of astronomers and astrobiologists.
New Scientist - Michael Brooks
[Jeffrey Bennett] has taken a break from the treadmill of updating his textbook and has written a popular book instead, bringing the rest of us up to date on our extraordinary new and expanded universe—and on who else might live in it . . . Beyond UFOs is crammed with neat analogies, startling imagery and mind-blowing illustrations of astronomical concepts. If you want to understand the universe and our place in it, you will not find a better primer. The first diagram alone—which shows how Earth's 10,000-kilometre span of real estate fits into a supercluster of galaxies a billion trillion kilometers across—bear a good 10 minutes of study. This truth is astonishing, and humbling—and Beyond UFOs is a great place to find it.
Seattle Times - Fred Bortz
Planet by planet, moon by moon, [Beyond UFOs] explores the possibility of life elsewhere in this solar system. It then speculates about other solar systems in our galaxy where, according to the prevailing scientific view, simple life almost surely exists and intelligent life is plausible. For the most part, Bennett's search for extraterrestrial life adds up to a very satisfying package. . . . At its core, this book delivers a combination that is hard to beat: solid yet highly speculative science plus accessible prose that add up to an out-of-this-world reading experience.
The Boston Globe - Matthew Battles
Bennett walks us through the daunting calculations that lead to the conclusion that the existence of life elsewhere is not only possible, but highly likely. But as we wonder where else life exists and what forms it might take, scientists are forced back to more fundamental questions. What is the nature of life itself? Will we know it if we see it?...Bennett offers a host of lessons here not only about global warming and environmental degradation, but our place in the universe as well.
Astronomy Now - Steve Ringwood
This exploration of potential alien life is a timely work, just as the steadily increasing discoveries of extra-solar planets makes the possibility of finding alien life more plausible. . . . [Beyond UFOs] is a fully rounded examination of the subject, accessible to all. I guarantee that after reading this book you will be watching space probe results that much more closely. And maybe, you will be watching the skies too!
Choice - B.R. Parker
Particularly enjoyable is the down-to-earth writing; Bennett, an astrophysicist, author, and educator, tells the reader exactly how he feels about various topics (even the role of God in the scheme of things). Readers may not agree with everything he says, but he does offer food for thought.
The Observatory - Elizabeth Griffin
Beyond UFOs gives a good impression from the moment you first take it into your hands. It is attractively produced, well written, and very thoroughly proofread. It's an interesting and challenging complement to focused research, and will be particularly enjoyed by anyone who has an appetite for broad science tinged with morals.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2009 Silver Nautilus Book Awards in Cosmology/New Science

Finalist for the 2008 Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award, American Astronautical Society

"In cogent and entertaining language, astrophysicist and popular writer Bennett explains that the determining factor in whether we can locate intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is whether such a civilization—and our own—can continue long enough to develop the highly sophisticated technology needed for interstellar travel...Bennett does a wonderful job of explaining the conditions necessary for simple life, how we might discern its existence and where we should be looking. He then does the same thing for intelligent life. While he is fair to those who believe life is incredibly rare, he makes a compelling case that life is likely to be abundant."Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"The old adage 'don't judge a book by its cover' (or, in this case, its title) certainly applies here. While one might expect a book of science fiction, Bennett presents this awe-inspiring topic in a scientifically accurate but personal way. I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a creative summary of the status of the search for life elsewhere in the universe and would hope that it might provide a starting point to inspire the next generation of astronomers and astrobiologists."—Lisa Jardine-Wright, Times Higher Education

"[Jeffrey Bennett] has taken a break from the treadmill of updating his textbook and has written a popular book instead, bringing the rest of us up to date on our extraordinary new and expanded universe—and on who else might live in it . . . Beyond UFOs is crammed with neat analogies, startling imagery and mind-blowing illustrations of astronomical concepts. If you want to understand the universe and our place in it, you will not find a better primer. The first diagram alone—which shows how Earth's 10,000-kilometre span of real estate fits into a supercluster of galaxies a billion trillion kilometers across—bear a good 10 minutes of study. This truth is astonishing, and humbling—and Beyond UFOs is a great place to find it."—Michael Brooks, New Scientist

"Planet by planet, moon by moon, [Beyond UFOs] explores the possibility of life elsewhere in this solar system. It then speculates about other solar systems in our galaxy where, according to the prevailing scientific view, simple life almost surely exists and intelligent life is plausible. For the most part, Bennett's search for extraterrestrial life adds up to a very satisfying package. . . . At its core, this book delivers a combination that is hard to beat: solid yet highly speculative science plus accessible prose that add up to an out-of-this-world reading experience."—Fred Bortz, Seattle Times

"Bennett walks us through the daunting calculations that lead to the conclusion that the existence of life elsewhere is not only possible, but highly likely. But as we wonder where else life exists and what forms it might take, scientists are forced back to more fundamental questions. What is the nature of life itself? Will we know it if we see it?...Bennett offers a host of lessons here not only about global warming and environmental degradation, but our place in the universe as well."—Matthew Battles, The Boston Globe

"This exploration of potential alien life is a timely work, just as the steadily increasing discoveries of extra-solar planets makes the possibility of finding alien life more plausible. . . . [Beyond UFOs] is a fully rounded examination of the subject, accessible to all. I guarantee that after reading this book you will be watching space probe results that much more closely. And maybe, you will be watching the skies too!"—Steve Ringwood, Astronomy Now

"This is a highly readable and enjoyable book that centers on astrobiology—a discipline that melds astronomy, biology, geology—and a little bit of luck—to explore the prospect of life on other worlds. . . . Bennett is an excellent writer, taking the reader on an exploration quest to find alien life, and how difficult solar system sleuthing can be, such as on Mars, Jupiter's Europa, or on Saturn's Titan. You'll also find an excellent treatment on current activities surrounding the on-going search for extraterrestrial intelligence."The Coalition for Space Exploration

"Particularly enjoyable is the down-to-earth writing; Bennett, an astrophysicist, author, and educator, tells the reader exactly how he feels about various topics (even the role of God in the scheme of things). Readers may not agree with everything he says, but he does offer food for thought."—B.R. Parker, Choice

"Beyond UFOs gives a good impression from the moment you first take it into your hands. It is attractively produced, well written, and very thoroughly proofread. It's an interesting and challenging complement to focused research, and will be particularly enjoyed by anyone who has an appetite for broad science tinged with morals."—Elizabeth Griffin, The Observatory

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400838486
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
05/02/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
248
File size:
3 MB

What People are saying about this

David Morrison
This is a fascinating book about the living universe, well-written and timely.
David Morrison, coauthor of "The Planetary System and Voyages to the Planets"
Christopher McKay
Precise, accurate, lucid, and engaging. This is popular-science writing at its best. I enjoyed reading this book.
Christopher McKay, NASA Ames Research Center
Michael Shermer
With the possible exception of the God question, I can think of no subject that has inspired such wide-eyed wonder and speculation as the matter of whether or not we are alone in the cosmos. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence today has almost theological status in terms of its implications, and yet it is a rigorous science conducted by world-class scientists. Jeffrey Bennett's book is one of the finest primers on this burgeoning new field. And even though this can be a technically daunting science, Bennett's highly readable prose invites everyone into the dome to gaze through the telescope to have a look for themselves, for this is a journey we are all on together.
Michael Shermer, publisher of "Skeptic" and columnist for "Scientific American"
Kasting
Bennett describes the search for life beyond the Earth in terms that are accessible to the nonscientist and yet reveal a broad understanding of the evolution of stars, planets, and organisms. The author's optimism is contagious. May it help inspire us to actually accomplish these lofty goals.
James F. Kasting, Pennsylvania State University

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