In these lively and fascinating essays, scientists from around the world weigh in on the latest advances in the search for intelligent life in the universe and discuss just what that might look like. Since 2000, science has seen a surge in data and interest on several fronts related to E.T. (extraterrestrials); A.I. (artificial intelligence); and SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence). The debate has intensified over whether life exists outside our solar system, what that life would look like, and whether we’ll ever make contact.
Included here are essays from a broad spectrum of the scientific community: cosmologists, astrophysicists, NASA planetary scientists, and geneticists, to name just a few, discussing the latest research and theories relating to alien life. Some of the topics include: If life exists somewhere in space, what are the odds that it evolves into something we would recognize as intelligent? What will space travel look like in the future, and will it all be done by cyborg technology? How long until we are ruled by robot overlords? (This is actually a serious consideration.) Are we simply a simulation in the mind of some supreme being, acting out a virtual reality game?
For those who have ever wondered, Is there anybody out there? here are the latest theories and evidence that move us closer to answering that question.
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About the Author
JIM AL-KHALILI is a quantum physicist, author, and broadcaster based at the University of Surrey in England. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear physics in 1989 and has published more than a hundred research papers on the subject. He is a well-known presenter of TV and radio in Britain, and his many popular science books have been translated into twenty-six languages. He is a recipient of the Royal Society of London’s Michael Faraday Prize and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal. In 2016 he received the inaugural Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. He lives in Southsea in Hampshire with his wife, Julie.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Where Is Everybody? by Jim Al-Khalili 1
1 Aliens and Us: Could Post-humans Spread through the Galaxy? by Martin Rees 11
2 (Un)welcome Visitors: Why Aliens Might Visit Us by Lewis Dartnell 25
3 Flying Saucers: A Brief History of Sightings and Conspiracies by Dallas Campbell 35
4 Aliens on Earth: What Octopus Minds Can Tell Us about Alien Consciousness by Anil Seth 47
5 Abducted: The Psychology of Close Encounters with Extraterrestrials by Chris French 58
WHERE TO LOOK FOR LIFE ELSEWHERE
6 Home Sweet Home: What Makes a Planet Habitable? by Chris McKay 73
7 The Next-Door Neighbours: The Search for Life on Mars by Monica Grady 83
8 Further Out: Could the Moons of the Gas Giants Harbour Life? by Louisa Preston 93
9 Monsters, Victims, Friends: Aliens in Science Fiction Writing by Ian Stewart 103
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT
10 Randomness Versus Complexity: The Chemistry of Life by Andrea Sella 117
11 Electric Origins in Deep-Sea Vents: How Life got Started on Earth by Nick Lane 127
12 Quantum Leap: Could Quantum Mechanics Hold the Secret of (Alien) Life? by Johnjoe McFadden 137
13 A Cosmic Imperative: How Easy Is It for Life to Get Started? by Paul C. W. Davies 147
14 Alone in the Universe: The Improbability of Alien Civilisations by Matthew Cobb 156
15 It Came from Beyond the Silver Screen! Aliens in the Movies by Adam Rutherford 169
16 What Are We Looking For? An Overview of the Search for Extraterrestrials by Nathalie Cabrol 178
17 Are They Out There? Technology, the Drake Equation, and Looking for Life on Other Worlds by Sara Seager 188
18 Good Atmosphere: Identifying the Signs of Life on Distant Worlds by Giovanna Tinetti 197
19 What Next? The Future of the SEarch for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by Seth Shostak 208
Further Reading 221