Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials

Springer Science & Business Media
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The proper study of mankind is not merely Man, but Intelligence. 1 —Arthur C. Clarke, 1951 In the long-running television series “The X-Files,” the original Deep Throat said to FBI Special Agent Mulder that “there are those like yourself who believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life.” Ah, but that’s not the question. If extraterrestrial life exists, most of it may be in simpler forms comparable to the one-celled organisms of Earth biology. Finding such life would be fascinating for scientists, but may be of only passing interest to the general public. What intrigues the average citizen is the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. We want to communicate with other sentient beings, learning what they know and telling them about ourselves. We want to ? nd out how they are like us and how they are different. Microorganisms don’t have a lot to say. There is another implication of contact that underlies this book: Intel- gent extraterrestrials might have an impact on our future. The information they send us—if any—might change our cultures. They could have c- scious intentions toward us, and possibly the technologies to reach us directly. Their intentions may be benign—or not. Our interest in alien minds is not new. The idea that intelligent beings exist beyond the Earth has been part of the Western intellectual tradition for more than 2000 years. Sometimes this belief was widespread; at other times, it was out of fashion.
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About the author

Michael Michaud served as Director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Advanced Technology and as Counselor for Science, Technology, and Environment at the American embassies in Paris and Tokyo. He led the negotiation of international agreements, played an active role in reviving U.S.-Soviet space cooperation, represented foreign policy interests in interagency discussions of U.S. space policy, and testified before Congress on space-related issues. He has published thirty articles and papers on the implications of contact, as well as sixty articles on other subjects and the book, Reaching for the High Frontier: The American Pro-Space Movement, 1972-1984.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
May 5, 2010
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Pages
466
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ISBN
9780387686189
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Language
English
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Genres
Body, Mind & Spirit / UFOs & Extraterrestrials
Nature / Sky Observation
Philosophy / General
Science / Astronomy
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In 1974 a message was beamed towards the stars by the giant Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, a brief blast of radio waves designed to alert extraterrestrial civilisations to our existence.

Of course, we don't know if such civilisations really exist. For the past six decades a small cadre of researchers have been on a quest to find out, as part of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. So far, SETI has found no evidence of extraterrestrial life, but with more than a hundred billion stars in our Galaxy alone to search, the odds of quick success are stacked against us.

The silence from the stars is prompting some researchers, inspired by the Arecibo transmission, to transmit more messages into space, in an effort to provoke a response from any civilisations out there that might otherwise be staying quiet. However, the act of transmitting raises troubling questions about the process of contact. We look for qualities such as altruism and intelligence in extraterrestrial life, but what do these mean to humankind? Can civilisations survive in the Universe long enough for us to detect them, and what can their existence, or lack thereof, reveal to us about our future prospects? Can we learn something about our own history when we explore what happens when two civilisations come into contact? Finally, do the answers tell us that it is safe to transmit, even though we know nothing about extraterrestrial life, or as Stephen Hawking argued, are we placing humanity in jeopardy by doing so?

In The Contact Paradox, author Keith Cooper looks at how far SETI has come since its modest beginnings, and where it is going, by speaking to the leading names in the field and beyond. SETI forces us to confront our nature in a way that we seldom have before – where did we come from, where are we going, and who are we in the cosmic context of things? This book considers the assumptions that we make in our search for extraterrestrial life, and explores how those assumptions can teach us about ourselves.
This classically styled, chilling murder mystery about an expedition under the ice of Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa, backed up by the latest scientific findings on this icy satellite. The science fiction premise explores real possibilities of exploring other bodies in the Solar System, including probing their possible astrobiology. Now that the most recent world war has concluded on Earth, human explorers are returning to exploration, carrying out a full-court press to journey into the alien abyss using tele-operated biorobotics and human-tended submersibles. Nine scientists head out to Jupiter’s icy ocean-moon. But at Europa’s most remote outpost, one by one, the team members who shared the cruise out begin to die under suspicious circumstances. All was well until humans begin diving into Europa’s subsurface ocean. The deaths have all the symptoms of some sort of plague, despite Europa’s seemingly sterile environment.

Besides providing thrills, a science section covers the very latest in undersea robotics, discussing the assets future explorers may have available for exploring subsurface oceans on moons including Europa, Enceladus and Titan. The book explores the most recent results in Europa research, from safe radiation levels for human habitation, landing sites, subsurface ocean currents and makeup, possible plate tectonics, geyser activity on the surface, volcanic activity on the ocean floor, and Europa’s bizarre exosphere. The book also covers extremophiles and the various possible biomes on—and inside of—Europa.

The quest for extraterrestrial life doesn't happen only in science fiction. This book describes the startling discoveries being made in the very real science of astrobiology, an intriguing new field that blends astronomy, biology, and geology to explore the possibility of life on other planets. Jeffrey Bennett takes readers beyond UFOs to discuss some of the tantalizing questions astrobiologists grapple with every day: What is life and how does it begin? What makes a planet or moon habitable? Is there life on Mars or elsewhere in the solar system? How can life be recognized on distant worlds? Is it likely to be microbial, more biologically complex--or even intelligent? What would such a discovery mean for life here on Earth?

Come along on this scientific adventure and learn the astonishing implications of discoveries made in this field for the future of the human race. Bennett, who believes that "science is a way of helping people come to agreement," explains how the search for extraterrestrial life can help bridge the divide that sometimes exists between science and religion, defuse public rancor over the teaching of evolution, and quiet the debate over global warming. He likens humanity today to a troubled adolescent teetering on the edge between self-destruction and a future of virtually limitless possibilities. Beyond UFOs shows why the very quest to find alien life can help us to grow up as a species and chart a course for the stars. In a new afterword, Bennett shares the most recent developments in extrasolar research, and discusses how they might further our quest to find alien life.

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