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.
Jeffrey Bennett is an astrophysicist, author, and educator. His books include leading college-level textbooks in astrobiology, astronomy, mathematics, and statistics, as well as the award-winning children's book Max Goes to the Moon.
"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
Table of Contents:
Preface Alien Dreams xi
Chapter 1: Worlds beyond Imagination 1
Chapter 2: What Makes It Science? 22
Chapter 3: What I Know about Aliens 41
Chapter 4: What Is Life? 62
Chapter 5: Getting Life Started 87
Chapter 6: The Makings of a Truly Great Planet 111
Chapter 7: Life in the Solar System 137
Chapter 8: Life among the Stars 161
Chapter 9: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence 184
Chapter 10: Where Is Everybody? 197
To Learn More 207
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