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Beyond UFOs

Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future

Jeffrey Bennett
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Beyond UFOs
    Book Description:

    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 UFOsshows 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3848-6
    Subjects: Astronomy, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. PREFACE Alien Dreams
    (pp. XI-XIV)
    (pp. XV-XVIII)
    (pp. 1-21)

    This is a book about possibilities. It is about the possibility that, within a decade or two, robotic or human explorers will drill into the Martian surface and discover microscopic life in subterranean pockets of liquid water. It is about the possibility of landing spaceborne submarines on Jupiterʹs moon Europa, where they might melt their way through miles of ice and observe life swimming in a volcanically heated ocean. It is about the possibility of strange, cold-adapted life forms on Saturnʹs moon Titan, a world on which we have already landed a robotic emissary, despite its being located nearly a...

    (pp. 22-40)

    Iʹd always wanted to see a real UFO—something in the sky that I could not explain and that would therefore qualify as anunidentifiedflying object. Then, even without proof, I could at least hope that Iʹd seen an alien spacecraft. For most of my life, it never happened. Sure, I saw lots of strange things in the sky. But with a little thought, Iʹd soon conclude that Iʹd only seen a distant airplane or a rocket trail or the planet Venus seeming to dart about as clouds passed in front of it. Ironically, I finally saw my first...

    (pp. 41-61)

    From its title, you might expect this to be a very short chapter. Iʹve never met an alien, I donʹt know that Iʹd recognize an alien if I saw one, and Iʹm not even sure that aliens exist. So what do Iknowabout aliens? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

    But you didnʹt really expect me to end the chapter quite so quickly, did you? I may not be able to say anything about aliens with 100 percent certitude, but as we discussed in chapter 2, science rarely can prove anything to be true beyondalldoubt. Instead, science gives us a...

  8. 4 WHAT IS LIFE?
    (pp. 62-86)

    If intelligent aliens someday land in Times Square or Red Square or Tiananmen Square and announce themselves to the world, the implications to life in the universe will be immediately clear. Their advanced technology will prove they are from a distant world, and even if they themselves are robots or androids or genetically engineered organisms bearing little resemblance to their forebears, theyʹll still represent indisputable proof that life has arisen elsewhere. A SETI success in receiving a message from another civilization would be only slightly less dramatic, and equally profound in demonstrating that we are not alone in our universe....

    (pp. 87-110)

    As a scientist who speaks frequently to audiences ranging from school children to college students, teachers, and the general public, Iʹve learned not to be too surprised when audience expectations differ from my own. For one thing, I never expect an audience to be particularly large, unless the professors at a local college are offering extra credit for their students to attend (extra credit works like a charm at filling lecture halls!), which is why Iʹm always flattered by the two people who show up a half hour early because theyʹre worried about finding seats. My talk topics can also...

    (pp. 111-136)

    Youʹve probably heard this one: The reason our planet is so great for life is the extreme good fortune of our location in the solar system. If Earth moved just a mile closer to the Sun, we would all burn up, and if it moved just a mile farther away, the oceans would freeze. Iʹve heard this claim from so many people—students, school teachers, friends, and even preachers—that itʹs apparently attained the status of an urban legend.

    It sounds pretty good, and like most urban legends it contains a kernel of truth: There must indeed be some distance...

    (pp. 137-160)

    Thereʹs no place like home, at least here in our own solar system. Thereʹs no other world in our solar system on which we could survive even a few minutes outside without a spacesuit, and no other world that has so much as a puddle of liquid water on its surface. As Iʹve explained over the past three chapters, this latter fact almost certainly means that weʹll find no other intelligent life in our solar system, because surface water seems a clear requirement for the evolution of complex beings like ourselves.

    But a lack of intelligent life does not necessarily...

    (pp. 161-183)

    In 1999, I had the good fortune of spending a few months living in Holland, with my wife and then one-year-old son. We lived in a small town called Aalsmeer, just outside Amsterdam and even closer to the Schiphol airport. We chose the town because my wifeʹs employer had an office there, which was why we had come to Holland in the first place, but we soon learned that it is most famous as the site of the worldʹs largest flower market. As a fairly small town, Aalsmeer gave us a sense of the way most Dutch people really live,...

    (pp. 184-196)

    Perhaps it seems strange that I would start a chapter with a quotation from Percival Lowell, whose greatest claim to fame comes from having imagined a system of canals and a civilization on Mars that existed nowhere but within his own mind. But his story in many ways parallels the ongoing story that we now find ourselves in. Lowell saw a few real things that seemed to hint at the idea that life might be possible on Mars, such as its polar caps, its seasonal changes in coloration, and the vague surface markings that he mistook for a network of...

    (pp. 197-206)

    I began this book by telling you that we live in a universe that contains worlds beyond imagination, and I have now spent nine chapters explaining why it seems likely that many of those worlds should be inhabited, some with beings like us. I have also explained why—although I consider it at least remotely possible that some UFOs could indeed be spacecraft from distant worlds—most claims of alien visitation do not make sense once you realize how advanced such aliens would have to be. But if civilizations really are as common as it seems they ought to be,...

    (pp. 207-208)
    (pp. 209-220)

    A lot has happened in the relatively short time since this book first went into print, and Iʹm fortunate to have an opportunity to tell you about some of the most important events. Letʹs start with a milestone: In 2009, the world celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery that we arenotthe center of the universe. The United Nations designated the year as the International Year of Astronomy, and hundreds of special events took place around the globe.

    The discovery didnʹt really happen all in a single year, and if you look back at our discussion of the...

  17. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 221-223)