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The Science Of Aliens

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465073153
ISBN-10: 0465073158
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Editorial Reviews Review

Scientist and author Clifford Pickover poses the question, "Can creatures dream of things beyond their sensory capacity?" Clearly Pickover thinks humans can--to some extent, at least. To this end, he wrote The Science of Aliens, an intriguing book featuring chapters such as "What Aliens Look Like," "Origin of Alien Life," and "Alien Abduction." And, of course, "Alien Sex." (Don't say you weren't curious.) To stimulate the reader's imagination, Pickover focuses on the characteristics of the earth's creatures--their appearance, their senses, their environments, their sexual behaviors--and argues that this diversity pales in comparison to the far wider possibilities in alien worlds.

Whether or not you believe in life on other planets, the artist's renditions of creatures such as Cheelas, Mesklinites, and Radiates from SF novels, as well as mathematical "alien messages" to decipher, are a real treat. (Here's an easy one: "Aliens are waiting for humanity to replace the question mark with the next value in the sequence before they will consider us worthy for further communication: 77, 49, 36, 18, ?") He also raises interesting issues; for example, what form would art take for creatures sensitive to smells or heat rather than light? To top it off, Pickover includes examples of potential interplanetary humor taboos: "Don't make puns around Scolexes because it outrages their sense of linguistic symmetry, which they've fought holy wars over." SF fans will enjoy this entertaining and thought-provoking book. --C.B. Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Clifford T. Pickover is on the research staff of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, N.Y. He is a regular columnist for Discover Magazine and an associate editor for the magazines Computers and Graphics, Computers and Physics, Odyssey, and Theta. His many previous books include Mazes for the Mind; Keys to Infinity; Computers and the Imagination; Can You Escape?; Black Holes: A Traveler’s Guide; and The Alien IQ Test.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465073158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465073153
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

From my publisher:

Clifford A. Pickover received his Ph.D. from Yale University and is the author of over 30 books on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, religion, human behavior and intelligence, time travel, alien life, and science fiction.

Pickover is a prolific inventor with dozens of patents, is the associate editor for several journals, the author of colorful puzzle calendars, and puzzle contributor to magazines geared to children and adults.

WIRED magazine writes, "Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clarke thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both." According to The Los Angeles Times, "Pickover has published nearly a book a year in which he stretches the limits of computers, art and thought."
The Christian Science Monitor writes, "Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." Pickover's computer graphics have been featured on the cover of many popular magazines and on TV shows.

His web site, Pickover.Com, has received millions of visits. His Blog RealityCarnival.Com is one of his most popular sites.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book finds polymath Clifford Pickover at nearly the top of his game. This is a wide-ranging exploration of alien-related topics from science and popular culture. The book is organized into 9 chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of "alien-ness".
Liberal use of material from science fiction literature (including Pickover's own SF books) provide a good contrast to the hard science also on display here. Very nicely done black and white illustrations from many sources are a plus.
The chapter on 'Appearance' goes beyond the obvious 'they won't look like us'. Pickover meditates on the many exotic shapes of life on our own planet, and discusses symmetry, brain location, and appendages. In 'Senses', he speculates on how aliens might 'smell' and 'see' their own environment. He makes the interesting proposition that the first aliens that we meet will likely be 'immortals'.
Like much of good science fiction, he describes in some detail the extreme 'Environments' in which aliens might live, using earth geology as a starting point. He discusses life as we know it in very hot, cold, airless, acidic, alkaline, salty, high pressure, and dry conditions. He then proceeds to speculate on environments as inhospitable (relatively) as a high gravity Brown Dwarf, and the vacuum of space.
In 'Origins' he discusses earth-based molecular biology as well as the theory of panspermia. He also considers the likelihood that meteorites and comets have been important mechanisms for dispersing some of the keys elements for life. He concludes this discussion closer to home with some speculation on the kinds of life we will find on Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Mars (when we get there).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By on January 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dr Clifford Pickover's book "Science of Aliens" evokes a sense of wonder often absent in much so called science *fiction* these days, especially the political wranglings of humans dressed in funny rubber make up kits in Star Trek, X Files or Babylon 5.
He discusses issues such as whether aliens will offer humanity immortality as means of subduing our warlike nature. Even more mind stretching is the possibility that when all matter is exhausted in the universe after 10^100 years, there will still exist a "diffuse sea of electrons". He evokes questions such as: Could these be arranged into structures to contain the intelligence of immortals left over from the age of matter? Could these structures simulate universes of matter that appear to their inhabitants to be like the universe we currently inhabit? On the basis that most of the lifespan of the universe will be spent in this state, it is in fact more probable that we inhabit such a simulation than the real thing!
Dr Pickover speculates further about way life could survive in this post-matter age of the universe in "Science of Aliens".
Science of Aliens is an easy fun to read type of book. It may not be the first book to touch on each topic within it, but it does collect them together in a format and with a title to attract new readers into thinking about.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Heismann on February 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Over all, the book has some good information, and makes you think about things. For that alone, it's decent. I had to mark it down, though, because after awhile, the author's constant references to his other books becomes very annoying.

The reason it lost another star with me is that near the end, it becomes rambling, particularly where a couple of pages go off on a tangent about how the author feels about alien abduction theories.

It was a worthwhile read, but I'm glad I checked it out at the library, rather than bought it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Klar on September 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
About a third of the thickness of a standard novel (but still 276 pages of information before you get to the notes and index sections), Dr. Pickover has done a magnificent job. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this book. A lot of the stuff I had known about, but he brought science (or snippets of it and hints at more tantalizing information for me to research) to them I didn't quite have. Some stuff I knew about but forget to think about, such as the umwelt of other creatures compared to my own simian-centric views. And quite a lot of stuff I never heard about at all before. He covers enough to give you the drift and get you excited, then makes some proposals about where Terran examples might be extended to their alien analogs. Well written, humorous, and well worth the price. And on top of that, when I sent him an e-mail asking a question about how humans acquire proper stomach bacteria from their mothers (as we don't eat our parents' feces as some species do), he replied within a couple of hours and gave me links to the information as well as some storyline suggestions. A great book from a nice guy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Of course it took all night and I called in sick the next day.
It was terrific. A refreshingly scientific approach --by a real scientist no less -- to the big "What if?" without requiring the reader to have a desk reference handy. Pickover manages to get the point across in a logical yet entertaining style that should keep most people glued to the pages. Sure, he makes a couple of leaps, but hey, we're talking about ALIENS.
This was my first exposure to Pickover. It will definately not be my last.
If you like the subject matter but are tired of all the self-published kooks out there then this is your book.
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