As many earthlings already know--including more than 2 million computer users with firsthand experience--our best hope for finding extraterrestrial intelligence might just lie with an ingenious little screensaver. So it's not surprising that this introduction to searching for and communicating with intelligent life begins with some of the details behind UC Berkeley's groundbreaking, massively distributed SETI@home project, which processes intergalactic noise for pennies on the teraflop. But that's just the start of the story. Inventor and software developer Brian McConnell continues with an overview of whether and why we might find something out there, who's doing what to look for it (including the folks at Berkeley), and--once some ET picks up on the other end--what we might say and how we might say it.
This last problem, which occupies the final half of the book, proves to be the most thought-provoking, and McConnell has put together a methodical, nuts-and-bolts walkthrough of both the challenges involved and how binary code might be enlisted to solve them. If you've taken even a single computer-science class in your life, you'll probably skip ahead through explanations of data structures and Boolean arithmetic, but McConnell doesn't want to leave anyone behind in fleshing out his alien-friendly lingua numerica. The book's first half surveys various SETI projects, past and present, and includes generous sections on signal processing, what sort of radio and laser hardware has been mobilized for the search, and how exactly SETI@home works. (So, if nothing else, now you can know how your computer decides if it's talking to aliens while you're off having lunch.) --Paul Hughes
"'Beyond Contact' summaries well what is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. I recommend it for anyone as an entry level book on the subject." -- Stephane Dumas, Physicist
"A refreshingly even-handed treatment of one of the greatest puzzles of our age, the question of our apparent loneliness in the universe." -- David Brin, author of
"Remarkably fresh ideas on how to achieve contact. Wide-ranging engrossing, enjoyable. This book is definitely a winner!" -- Dr. Allen Tough, coordinator of the Web-based
"This thought provoking book ventures boldly where I fear to tread." -- Kent Cullers, Signal Detection Team Leader, Director for SETI Research and Development, SETI Institute