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Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials Hardcover – November 14, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0387285986 ISBN-10: 0387285989 Edition: 2007th
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Editorial Reviews


From the reviews:

"Will we find extraterrestrial intelligence - and should we want to? Such are the questions examined in Contact with Alien Civilizations. Michael A.G. Michaud, a space policy analyst and former diplomat, provides an engrossing overview of the probabilities, promises, and risks of encountering smart aliens. Drawing heavily on the scientific and scholarly literature (he apologizes for not thoroughly discussing science fiction), Michaud's approach is to compile diverse expert opinions on alien-related topics and relentlessly scrutinize premises about what the extraterrestrials would be like. His analysis suggests that contact is a serious - and not necessarily pleasant - possibility....
Space exploration, Michaud suggests persuasively, is a way of spreading humanity's bets amid the current uncertainty as to who else might be out there. If intelligent extraterrestrials are detected, then being a spacefaring civilization will place us in a stronger position to deal with them, whether cooperatively or not. And if no contact occurs, then expanding beyond Earth could help ensure the survival of at least one civilization -our own- in a universe where civilized life is rare and hard to find."
(Kenneth Silber, The Space Review, Monday, July 9, 2007)

"Michaud deals with what may happen when we finally come face to face with beings from distant worlds. … A tremendous amount of research has gone into this book, and the extensive reference lists are by far the best that I have seen covering this topic. … there is no doubt that the reference lists alone make the book essential to anyone setting out to make a serious study of possible intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos." (Patrick Moore, BBC Sky at Night, April, 2007)

"This wide-ranging book … looks into the possibility of contact with ET, examines the implications of SETI from all conceivable angles: scientific, philosophical and cultural. … this book is a remarkably uplifting one in the context of the possibilities it describes and the potential for the human race. Upon reading this superb book, easily the best on the subject that I have come across, what conclusions will you draw from it?" (Keith Cooper, Astronomy Now, 2007)

"Michael Michaud’s Contact with Alien Civilizations is a well-informed, impressively researched presentation of an often fantastical subject. … I’d recommend this book as ideal for anyone interested in a broad … detailed view of a thought-provoking subject." (De Witt Douglas Kilgore, Space Times, July/August, 2007)

"Michaud points to the limits of our technology as well as to SETI searches limited in their coverage. … He highlights the complexities, difficulties, and disappointments that go with trying to establish a code of conduct for the legal aspects of encountering aliens. … This is a timely book; there is not a dull word in it. Recommended." (P. Chapman-Rietschi, The Observatory, Vol. 127 (1200), October, 2007)

"Michaud explores the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life and whether humanity should actively pursue or not. … A mind opener to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, beneficial to any reader. Well written and organized; extensive bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates." (A. Gider, CHOICE, Vol. 44 (11), July, 2007)

From the Back Cover

This book describes a wide variety of speculations by many authors about the consequences for humanity of coming into contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. The assumptions underlying those speculations are examined, and some conclusions are drawn. As necessary background, the book also includes brief summaries of the history of thinking about extraterrestrial intelligence, searches for life and for signals, contrasting paradigms of how contact might take place, and the paradox that those paradigms allegedly create.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 2007 edition (November 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387285989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387285986
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Before the publication of David Grinspoon's Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life (2003), which I highly recommend (see my review), I was frankly starved for speculations and information about the search for extraterrestrial life. With this volume however I think I am sated. This could be called the mother of all SETI books and then some.

The text runs to 376 dense pages. There are 72 pages of "References," although I wish there were a separate bibliography in which the works referenced were presented alphabetically by author. I don't find this newfangled practice of omitting a bibliography convenient. Regardless Michaud seems to quote just about anybody even remotely connected with SETI including many scientific lights, Carl Sagan, David Darling, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Drake, Seth Shostak, Jill Tarter, Frank Tipler, et al., along with scifi literary illuminati like Olaf Stapledon, not to mention religious people, politicians, and even a poet or two.

He begins with what he calls "a condensed history of speculations...up to 1959" which is followed by "brief descriptions of the scientific searches" for ETs and their signals, and then he launches into a step by step consideration of the Drake equation. He brings us up to date on the latest thinking. As most SETI knowledgeable people know, the Drake equation on the probability of there being intelligent life elsewhere has been given a big boost in recent years by the discovery of planets revolving around other stars, and by our learning just how inhospitable environments can be and still harbor microbial life, as in deep ocean vents and far down into the earth's crust.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By David Brin on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this excellent tome: Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials, by Michael Michaud. Unlike many other books about the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life, this one does not leap upon a simple, single "explanation" for the apparent loneliness of humanity, but rather lays out some of the scope and range of this wide-open field, showing some of the disputes that have made this such a colorful field in recent years.

I admit being biased a bit. I have worked with the author a few times in trying to make sense of SETI, especially the issue of whether Earth civilization should start shouting at the cosmos ([...]) in order to draw attention to this little planet. This book is among the few places where a reader can get a balanced view of the arguments, hearing all sides and getting a chance to weigh things for yourself.

David Brin (With permission of Cheryl!)
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Troy Gordon on November 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is most definitely well researched. The author goes to great pains to present every possible angle to the reader and provide them with famous lines from greats in the field like Carl Sagan. The ideas presented can be quite interesting, and likely new to anybody who is not already involved in the science behind the search. The downfall of the book is that the author says the same things a hundred different times in several different chapters. It gets old, repetitive, and boring quite quickly. I honestly feel the 376 pages of text could have been done in far fewer, but somehow a smaller book would have appeared less informed/intelligent/scholarly. The history in the beginning is interesting, but once you get into the thought provoking hypothesizing middle and end, it drones. I can't recommend any other options, and if you can read dry school texts that remind you of English grammar class in high school and enjoy it, this book may be worth while. I was fighting to finish this book, constantly bored with it, and I love to read. Could have been a great read, but the organization and repetition makes you brain wonder what else there is in the world it would rather be doing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert G. Morris on March 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Michael Michaud has performed a service for the specialized as well as the lay reader with this comprehensive review of who might be out there, how do we find out and how might we react. The subject is inherently difficult not only for its immense scope and implications but also for its nearly inextricable linking with the world of science fiction and fantasy. Michaud remains objective throughout and this cold objectivity makes his story all the more fascinating and compelling. The book is free of sensationalism, making no play at all on the science fiction aspects of the subjects. Nevertheless, the author doesn't shy away from popular subjects like space colonization and interstellar flight.

In thirty-three unnumbered chapters the author organizes his presentation under such headings as Searching for Intelligence; Probabilities of Life, Intelligence, Civilization, Technology and Science; Direct Contact, Why Don't We See Them?; a marvelous exposition on Reformulating the Problem; Contact Scenarios, Fears, Dangers; After Contact; and Some Conclusions Drawn.

The arrangement of headings, different typefaces and boxes in the text make the information easily accessible. The language is clear, never pedantic.
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