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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Extraterrestrial Civilizations Paperback – May 12, 1980

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

To list Isaac Asimov's honors, as to list his books, would be excessive. Let it simply be noted that Isaac Asimov was the most famous, most honored, most widely read, and most beloved science fiction author of all time. In his five decades as an author, he wrote more than four hundred books, won every award his readers and colleagues could contrive to give him, and provided pleasure and insight to millions. He died in 1992, still at work.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Printing edition (May 12, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449900207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449900208
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,448,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For me, the best thing about picking up almost any 'non-fiction' book by Isaac Asimov is the fore-knowledge that you aren't going to be affronted by a barrage of technical "facts and figures," simply thrown out of nowhere at the reader (like 'name-dropping'), for the purpose of advancing, in a self-serving way, the author's own 'pet theories' on a given subject. With Asimov, you KNOW he will walk you through everything, from start through finish, in chronological sequence and with historical context thrown in (free of charge, always), in order to build his case for something in a methodical, well-ordered, and logical manner. I've sometimes thought the 'Good Doctor' was himself surprised at some of the conclusions he 'found himself arriving at', on certain subjects, simply because the 'weight of the evidence' and his own 'chain of reasoning' from it, simply LED him there, compelling him to adopt that viewpoint, not unlike the outcome of a rigorous mathematical formula... Then again...I suppose that goes for everyone! But for rational reasons! (There IS a distinction!) 'Extraterrestrial Civilizations' is a brave and fascinating book. Brave, in its scope, for a book originally published 20 years ago, before we had our present-day scientific confirmation that other stars do, in fact, HAVE planets (which was assumed by the majority of the scientific community, but not known, 20 years ago - no 'Hubble Telescope' existed back then, when Asimov wrote this book). Our recent findings, however, both vindicate and bolster two (and ONLY two) of Isaac's most crucial case-assumptions in this book, along with other scientist's conjectures-, early on in his 'chain of reasoning').Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book at a used bookstore, and having just finished Foundation, I thought I'd dive into a non-fiction book by Asimov. I have always admired Asimov's brilliant and lucid writing style, and his other non-fiction works are wonderful (particularly Understanding Physics, which is an outstanding treatment of the standard physics canon). In Extraterrestrial Civilizations, Asimov steps readers through a series of observations about the development of intelligent life here on Earth, and he extrapolates the data we have about ourselves into the question of whether or not intelligent life is probable somewhere in the rest of the Universe. I was concerned that a 25-year old book on the topic might feel antiquated--especially considering the advancement of astronomy in general and the data from the Hubble telescope in particular--but as with much of Asimov's work, his ideas are as fresh today as they were in 1979. To be sure, he does make some statements that aren't true today or that have been modified (i.e., he states that we have no direct evidence of planets around other stars, and he also says that neutrinos have zero mass), but he is also careful to comment frequently that "this could change at any moment, even tomorrow." His conclusions are quite interesting, and I was captivated by his "storytelling of the Universe" as well as by his commentary about why we know what we do. If you want a primer on "who might be out there," buy this book.
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Format: Paperback
This book was written about 20 years ago. Asimov's scientific rigour and marvelouly clear divulgative prose guides us to what we know of the possible existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. Had he written this book today, he would have been less optimistic, perhaps, but most of his reasoning wouldn't have changed. For an updated equivalent of this book,read
Stephen Webb's Fifty solutions to Fermi's Paradox.
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Format: Paperback
Isaac Asimov puts forth the "Rare Earth hypotheses" long before Ward and Brownlee's; and, they don't even reference it! The only major issue Ward and Brownlee bring up beyond what Isaac does in "Extraterrestrial Civilizations" is the snowball earth hypotheses.

I suspect Isaac's book here has gone into the history's dustbin because it say's what most people interested in E.T's don't want to hear; there's not that many out there!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written. Does a good job explaining techincal scientific concepts to a popular audience. In typical Asimov style, the presentation is a bit arrogant in its dismisal of a poible spiritual component to the development of the physical universe and intellignet civilizations.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Isaac Asimov embarks on a step by step about what are the chances of intelligent species existing in the universe by using known facts, equations, theoretical assumptions, and a little bit of imagination.
Keep in mind he wrote this 25 years ago.
Now scientists have discovered "earth-like" planets as he predicted. Maybe in another 25 years we will finally find a "message" or other signs of an intelligent species out there.
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Format: Paperback
Asimov's book provides a methodical step-by-step historical and scientific overview of past and current attempts to answer this question. It has a comforting and well-reasoned inevitability to it, and although the book was written back in the computational "bronze age" of 1979, it still holds up very well indeed.

It would have been wonderful if Issac has been around to see how the Hubble Space Telescope, more recent flybys of the various planets, and how high-speed computing and digital signal processing have greatly advanced the fields of astrophysics & astronomy, not to mention non-terran planetology ... alas, such was not to be.

It's very enjoyable reading. It's fun, and nostalgic at times, to see him write about the scientific principles that some of his earlier works of fiction depended upon ... like how many stars are visible to the naked eye, against the backdrop of a classic novel like "Nightfall". It's also wonderful to watch as Asimov arrives at various conclusions, and how well they've held up in the face of additional advances after his death, and at how other things are a bit off (his mass-driven guestimate of the number of stars in the milky way, and in other galaxies, are a bit off, due to the confirmation of the existence of black holes, both here and elsewhere).

Very enjoyable, and recommended. This is exactly the sort of book that more modern science popularists, like superstring theorist Brian Green, probably cut their teeth on ... they're continuing in the footsteps of others before them - like Issac Asimov.

I do have one nit however ... the title is a bit of a misnomer.
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