- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised ed. edition (May 22, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691149887
- ISBN-13: 978-0691149882
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,437,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future Revised ed. Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a service we offer sellers that lets them store their products in Amazon's fulfillment centers, and we directly pack, ship, and provide customer service for these products. Something we hope you'll especially enjoy: FBA items qualify for FREE Shipping and Amazon Prime.
If you're a seller, Fulfillment by Amazon can help you increase your sales. We invite you to learn more about Fulfillment by Amazon .
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Winner of the 2010 US Review of Books's Eric Hoffer Book Award in Culture
Winner of the 2009 Silver Nautilus Book Awards in Cosmology/New Science
Finalist for the 2008 Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award, American Astronautical Society
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)
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
[Jeffrey Bennett] has taken a break from the treadmill of updating his textbook and has written a popular book instead, bringing the rest of us up to date on our extraordinary new and expanded universe--and on who else might live in it . . . Beyond UFOs is crammed with neat analogies, startling imagery and mind-blowing illustrations of astronomical concepts. If you want to understand the universe and our place in it, you will not find a better primer. The first diagram alone--which shows how Earth's 10,000-kilometre span of real estate fits into a supercluster of galaxies a billion trillion kilometers across--bear a good 10 minutes of study. This truth is astonishing, and humbling--and Beyond UFOs is a great place to find it.---Michael Brooks, New Scientist
Planet by planet, moon by moon, [Beyond UFOs] explores the possibility of life elsewhere in this solar system. It then speculates about other solar systems in our galaxy where, according to the prevailing scientific view, simple life almost surely exists and intelligent life is plausible. For the most part, Bennett's search for extraterrestrial life adds up to a very satisfying package. . . . At its core, this book delivers a combination that is hard to beat: solid yet highly speculative science plus accessible prose that add up to an out-of-this-world reading experience.---Fred Bortz, Seattle Times
Bennett walks us through the daunting calculations that lead to the conclusion that the existence of life elsewhere is not only possible, but highly likely. But as we wonder where else life exists and what forms it might take, scientists are forced back to more fundamental questions. What is the nature of life itself? Will we know it if we see it?...Bennett offers a host of lessons here not only about global warming and environmental degradation, but our place in the universe as well.---Matthew Battles, The Boston Globe
This exploration of potential alien life is a timely work, just as the steadily increasing discoveries of extra-solar planets makes the possibility of finding alien life more plausible. . . . [Beyond UFOs] is a fully rounded examination of the subject, accessible to all. I guarantee that after reading this book you will be watching space probe results that much more closely. And maybe, you will be watching the skies too!---Steve Ringwood, Astronomy Now
This is a highly readable and enjoyable book that centers on astrobiology--a discipline that melds astronomy, biology, geology--and a little bit of luck--to explore the prospect of life on other worlds. . . . Bennett is an excellent writer, taking the reader on an exploration quest to find alien life, and how difficult solar system sleuthing can be, such as on Mars, Jupiter's Europa, or on Saturn's Titan. You'll also find an excellent treatment on current activities surrounding the on-going search for extraterrestrial intelligence. (The Coalition for Space Exploration)
From the Back Cover
"With the possible exception of the God question, I can think of no subject that has inspired such wide-eyed wonder and speculation as the matter of whether or not we are alone in the cosmos. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence today has almost theological status in terms of its implications, and yet it is a rigorous science conducted by world-class scientists. Jeffrey Bennett's book is one of the finest primers on this burgeoning new field. And even though this can be a technically daunting science, Bennett's highly readable prose invites everyone into the dome to gaze through the telescope to have a look for themselves, for this is a journey we are all on together."--Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic and columnist for Scientific American
"Bennett describes the search for life beyond the Earth in terms that are accessible to the nonscientist and yet reveal a broad understanding of the evolution of stars, planets, and organisms. The author's optimism is contagious. May it help inspire us to actually accomplish these lofty goals."--James F. Kasting, Pennsylvania State University
"Precise, accurate, lucid, and engaging. This is popular-science writing at its best. I enjoyed reading this book."--Christopher McKay, NASA Ames Research Center
"This is a fascinating book about the living universe, well-written and timely."--David Morrison, coauthor of The Planetary System and Voyages to the Planets
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Jeffrey Bennett is a good writer. I am certain this cannot be said of many astrobiologists or physicists. His writing style makes this an easy read. As with any good non-fiction book I learned more than I expected to. Jeffrey does a great job of explaining what it means to answer the question "are we alone?" To answer that question we must determine not only how to define life, but also how life begins. It all comes down to identifying planets that have the potential to host life.
Like most novice space enthusiasts I want to know the answers without the discipline of years of study. Of course, yes, I know this is silly; that it takes years of study to truly understand what we seek. Jeffrey Bennett does a great job of providing a window into what he has learned; what it truly means to be on a quest to answer what is perhaps our most difficult question as a human race.
If you want to go beyond the stereotypical UFO hunter - learn what it means to answer the question "are we alone" - then I recommend you start with this book. You may not get the answers you want, or maybe you will, but what you do get is what it means to be searching for those answers.
There is no doubt but that astrobiology is a fascinating, compelling, and important subject. Everyone's eyes seem to light up when pondering the prospect of life somewhere else in the universe, and it is completely appropriate that NASA has made pursuit of this question a central part of its space science program. It may well be that while the twentieth century was the century of physics, the twenty-first century will be about biology, or in this case astrobiology. To his credit Bennett is willing to take on the tin foil hat brigade and skewer those who claim alien visitation and abduction, in the process offering a primer on discerning accepted fact and personal opinion.
Bennett also relates the ferment elsewhere with direct applicability to NASA's search for life beyond Earth. The research on extremophile life on Earth, at the bottom of the oceans around sea vents, within rocks, etc., all fueled reconsiderations of what this might mean for life elsewhere in the solar system. The origins and evolution of life on Earth has held powerful analog lessons for the prospects for life beyond. As Cornell University scientist Bill Nye commented about "extremophilic" life: "It's compelling evidence for astrobiologists that the environmental limits for living things are set pretty far apart."
The Mars meteorite of 1996 and the hoopla it stirred up also suggested that this was an avenue of great significance. When the 4.2-pound, potato-sized rock (identified as ALH84001) was formed as an igneous rock about 4.5 billion years ago, Mars was much warmer and probably contained oceans hospitable to life. Then, about 15 million years ago, a large asteroid hit the red planet and jettisoned the rock into space, where it remained until it crashed into Antarctica around 11,000 BCE. Scientists presented three compelling, but not conclusive, pieces of evidence suggesting that fossil-like remains of Martian microorganisms, which date back 3.6 billion years, were present in ALH84001. The findings electrified the scientific world but excited the public just as fully, and added support for an aggressive set of missions to Mars to help discover the truth of these theories. While the theory has not been accepted by most in the scientific community, it helped to enthuse many at NASA and reorient much of space science toward answering this question about life beyond.
Indeed, as Jeffrey Bennett notes, the Mars science program gained a new lease on life in no small part because of these developments. The missions to "follow the water" on Mars have transformed the planetary sciences since the last decade of the twentieth century. Similar possibilities of life, although strikingly different from popular conceptions of ET, may also exist on other bodies in the solar system. He discusses prospects on Titan, Europa, Enceladus, and other locations and finds that there are genuine signs that microorganisms may well be alive in these extreme environments.
Bennett then discusses the prospects for life beyond this solar system. With the discovery of extrasolar planets the possibilities appear limitless. More than 350 have been discovered since the first extrasolar planet around a sun-like star, 51 Pegasi B, was detected as a result of observations undertaken at the Observatoir de Genève in 1995. Examination of extrasolar objects has not yielded as yet any Earth-like planets, but scientists believe that in time it will. What might this portend for the future? Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope have been used to detect extra-solar planets, and other work continues from the ground. The possibilities are mind-bending, according to Bennett. Using advanced observation techniques, they will someday produce an image of a blue and white planet with liquid water and a breathable atmosphere. It seems inevitable. Such a discovery will certainly spur interest in closer observation, revitalizing the dream of galactic space travel.
Finally, Bennett discusses the much publicized search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) that began in 1960 at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia, when astronomer Frank Drake pointed the radio telescope at Epsilon Eridani and listened for signals that might be dispatched by a technological civilization residing nearby. He unpacks the famous Drake equation, which has so many variables that one can either prognosticate that there is only one technological civilization or that there are billions. More likely, Bennett notes that many scientists have adopted the belief that while the universe may be filled with life at the micro organic scale there may still not be an abundance of life similar to us. He's not so sure.
While Bennett pooh-poohs the beliefs of many that Earth is routinely visited by alien intelligences--good for him--he holds himself open to the possibility that we may someday communicate with such intelligence. If they are out there--and Bennett believes they could be since the chemistry, laws of physics, etc., are the same everywhere--then they are almost certainly not visiting us. "In fact, I rather doubt that any such advanced aliens would be paying attention to us as all," he writes, "except perhaps for monitoring us, waiting to see if we ever prove ourselves smart enough and friendly enough to deserve an invitation into their galactic club" (p. 196).
There is a pressing need for scholarly investigation of the recent history of astrobiology. This is not that book. It is, however, one of several recent popular, journalistic accounts on this very exciting aspect of space exploration. For scholarly analysis of this subject, Steven J. Dick has virtually cornered the market with three seminal books on the subject--"Plurality of Worlds: The Origins of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate from Democritus to Kant" (Cambridge University Press, 1982), "The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science" (Cambridge University Press, 1996), and "The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology" (Rutgers University Press, 2004), written with James E. Strick--and I hope he writes yet another that tells the story of the recent developments in the search for extraterrestrial life.
If you're virtually scientifically illiterate and believe in flying saucers and don't believe in evolution, I highly recommend this book. It will be a profoundly educational experience and a real eye opener for you. For you, I rate this book five stars. It is scientifically accurate and it will be like a baby eating pabulum, it will be so easy for you to understand it. Just have an open mind, that's all that's required.
For the scientifically literate, you're going to have to wade through almost 200 pages of stuff you already know like the back of your hand. There will be long sections you barely skim because you'll be so familiar with the material, like what DNA is and how the various parts of the cell work, or how big the universe is and how common planets are. Yawn...
I found about 20 pages in the whole book that were actually worth reading, but chances are you're familiar with that stuff, too. The details he gives on some of the moons of the gas planets filled in a few gaps in my knowledge and his discussions about why the atmosphere of Venus is so heavy (because the carbon dioxide was unable to form carbonate rocks due to the high temperature) also filled in a few gaps. There's bound to be a few things that you may have missed in your perusal of dozens of other books on popular science. But how much of it directly addresses the interesting questions posed on the dust jacket? What is the probability that extraterrestrials are "out there" and know about us, and why haven't we detected them? He goes to lengths to show that UFOs do not actually report on these extraterrestrials, and why, but you've read all this stuff elsewhere many times before.
It's only in the last 10 pages that he discusses the Fermi Paradox: "Where is everybody?" I was hoping the *whole book* would be a discussion of this question. That's what the scientifically literate person actually needs, not this pabulum. I'll give the book 4 stars, 5 for the scientifically illiterate, and 3 for the rest of us, because at least the science is good (if tediously elementary) and up to date, even if the book itself says very little about where all the aliens out there actually are.