Books on SETI / Astrobiology

Presented exness as a service to our users in conjunction with the associate program. A portion of the purchase price of books bought through these links is donated to The Planetary Society SETI fund.

NEW Books

Probability 1 : The Book That Proves There Is Life in Outer Space
by Amir D. Aczel (01.00)
Many of us have scanned the night sky wondering: Is there life beyond the earth? And, if there is, could they be looking for us, too? Our quest for extraterrestrial life is widespread and entrenched. The SETI program searches for radio signals from the cosmos. NASA seeks and studies conditions that make life in outer space possible. We now know that planetary systems similar to ours exist and that our particular environment may not be the only one that can support life. It's not just UFOs and superstition; the search for alien life is the stuff of serious science. Using the famous Drake equation, Aczel presents evidence from across the sciences, fitting together the elements that make life possible. And then, with a bit of brilliant math, Aczel, an expert in statistics and probability, shows that the probability is 1: intelligent extraterrestrial life exists. (Book Description)

Rare Earth : Why Complex Life Is Unknown in the Universe by Peter Douglas Ward, Don Brownlee, Donald Brownlee (09.99)

Life Out There : The Truth Of- And Search For- Extraterrestrial Life Michael White (09.99)
"A sweeping look at the many possible places we can search for signs of extraterrestrial life, from distant galaxies to our own back door...White continues with a laundry list of every planet and moon in our solar system, examining if life could exist on each. He explains how planets circling other suns were not detected until this decade and that the search for radio signals from elsewhere in the galaxy is in its infancy too." From Kirkus Reviews

Aliens: Can We Make Contact with Extraterrestrial Intelligence? Andrew J. H. Clark, David H. Clark (07.99)
If elementary life forms are common throughout the cosmos, could intelligent beings have evolved elsewhere, and are they seeking us out? A father-and-son team of scientists-both with research backgrounds in astronomy and physics-gives us the most up-to-date scientific answers about extraterrestrial civilizations and our exness sign up attempts to find them. If they exist, why haven't we been able to make contact?  Here, in language requiring no prior specialized knowledge, the authors pull together the strands from all plausible scientific answers to present a unique merging of current astronomical findings with philosophical interpretation of the techniques used in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Carl Sagan : A Life in the Cosmos William Poundstone (Illustrator) (10.99)
Carl Sagan : A Life Keay Davidson (09.99)
"Both of these books portray astronomer Carl Sagan as a man of immense paradoxes. A charismatic public persona, he could be arrogant and demanding in his personal life. What Davidson may lack comparatively in content is more than made up for in style, though. Poundstone's version comes closer to being definitive and will probably have a longer shelf life, but Davidson's is more fun to read." --Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib. 

A chapter from Keay Davidson's book detailing the Mariner 2 probe discovery of a very hot Venus in 1962 can be
found online from Astronomy Magazine's November issue:

Recommended Books (by Subject)

SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence)

The Search for Life on Other Planets Bruce Jakosky (11.98)

Intelligent Life in the Universe Carl Sagan, I.S. Shklovskii (11.98)

Other Worlds: The Search for Life in the Universe - LemonickOther Worlds : The Search for Life in the Universe Michael D. Lemonick (04.98)
The first planet around a sunlike star was finally detected in 1995, after decades of false alarms. It was inevitable that within a couple of years a flood of books on extrasolar planets would gush forth. Michael Lemonick is the senior science writer at Time magazine, and his account is the most readable and vivid yet. He has a fluid, anecdotal style, with a good ear for the sort of simile that really speaks to the average reader, as when he describes hooking up a radio telescope being like "setting up a new computer yourself. Sometimes it just plain doesn't work, and you can't for the life of you figure out why."

Lemonick structures Other Worlds around Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler, whose Extrasolar Planet Search Project at the University of California, San Francisco, is the most successful program so far, with six planet discoveries to its credit by the end of 1998. Lemonick's other touchstone is the Drake Equation, which he hyperbolically calls "the second most important equation of the century." If we could fit in values for the seven terms in this equation, we could say something sensible about the number of civilizations in the galaxy. So far, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has not come up with any actual data, but, as one researcher says, it's "the world's biggest carrot," and worth enduring a considerable number of sticks. --Mary Ellen Curtin

Sharing the Universe : Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life - ShostakSharing the Universe : Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life Seth Shostak, Frank Drake, G. Seth Shostak (01.98)
Shostak is the Public Programs Scientist for the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. In this fascinating speculative book, he builds a careful exness forex broker case for the importance of the institute's work, narrowing the range of the galaxy's possible life-nurturing stars and imagining what forms non-carbon-based life might take. "Although a majority of the American public is convinced that aliens are making house calls to planet Earth," Shostak writes, "most scientists aren't." In prose as lively and dramatic as the science-fiction novels he clearly savors, in the book's final chapters Shostak describes scientific reality: "If it happens, it will begin slowly and without warning in a radio telescope's cramped, cluttered, control room... under a hundred tons of steel faced off against the pinpoint gleams of the night sky." The book is rich in considered, engaging science, with occasional lapses into excessive speculation about artificial intelligence in space, or into plugs for the institute. Sections on possible alien behavior, on motives for contact and means of contact-all of which make comparisons to movies-are compelling as they reveal as much about us as about anyone who may pop across for a visit. Publishers Weekly February 6, 1998

Project Haystack : The Search for Life in the Galaxy (Life in the Universe Series)by Seti Institute (11.96)

Seti Pioneers : Scientists Talk About Their Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence David W. Swift (09.93)
Sixteen scientists (including Philip Morrison, Carl Sagan, Freeman Dyson, and Nobel laureate Melvin Calvin) discuss their work and their lives and this new field of science. Their stories, collected in interviews by sociologist Swift (U. of Hawaii) show how the image of a new research field can change over time from lunatic fringe to scientific respectability. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. 

Contact (Implication, protocol, interpreting)

After Contact : The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life - HarrisonAfter Contact : The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life  Albert A. Harrison (11.97)
The Psychological Side of SETI...After Contact focuses on the psychological, sociological, political, and cultural aspects of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It provides a conceptual framework for organizing hypotheses about extraterrestrial life forms and civilizations, and explores likely human reactions to different search outcomes. After Contact establishes that the behavioral and social sciences are as important to the search as are the physical and biological sciences that have always played an integral role in SETI. Chapters include: The Enormous Challenge, Listening, False Alarms, Living Systems, Organisms, Societies, Supranational Systems, First Impressions, Initial Impact, Building Relationships, The Rocky Road to Utopia, and Betting With The Optimists. This book is intended to be serious psychology but also fun to read! - Albert Harrison.

Extraterrestrial Intelligence - HeidmannExtraterrestrial Intelligence Jean Heidmann, Storm Dunlop (Translator) (04.97)
Science fiction writers have given us many fine novels contemplating humankind's first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But our nonfiction world has not thought much about what to do if we are actually faced with this situation. Jean Heidmann, Chief Astronomer at the Paris Observatory (and self-styled bioastronomer), offers a book on the subject that is at once serious and fun. Heidmann's obvious joy in raw speculation--all of it grounded in real science--is contagious. If aliens send us a message from many light years away, for example, how should we respond? Heidmann reviews the protocols established in the SETI Declaration and then offers his own suggestion: send them the entire contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica

Are We Alone? : Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life - DaviesAre We Alone? : Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life Paul Davies (08.96)
The authentic discovery of extraterrestrial life would usher in a scientific revolution on par with Copernicus or Darwin, says Paul Davies. Just as these ideas sparked religious and philosophical controversy when they were first offered, so would proof of life arising away from Earth. With this brief book (160 pages, including two appendices and an index), Davies tries to get ahead of the curve and begin to sort out the metaphysical mess before it happens. Many science fiction writers have preceded him, of course, but here the matter is plainly put. This is a very good introduction to a compelling subject.


The Biological Universe : The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science Steven J. Dick (09.99 paperback)
As biological scientists learn more about how terrestrial life was formed, they increasingly turn to the stars to ask whether life might have evolved elsewhere. Thus far, despite a recent flurry of interest in Mars, they have found no solid evidence, but they keep looking. This scholarly book, written by a historian at the U.S. Naval Observatory, examines the long development of that quest, along with some of the philosophical questions that have emerged from it. Steven J. Dick notes that our observational abilities are both limited and biased, and that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence forces us to examine some of our own assumptions about what constitutes life in the first place.

Dark Life : Martian Nanobacteria, Rock-Eating Cave Bugs, and Other Extreme Organisms of Inner Earth and Outer Space  Michael Ray Taylor (04.99)
The microbes that caver Michael Ray Taylor calls "dark life" are found deep in the earth, in boiling oceanic vents, Antarctic ice, and lots of other places far from the reach of the sun's energy. These "extremophiles" are energy opportunists, subsisting on chemicals, radioactivity, or the faint light of molten rock. The study of these organisms is quite new, and scientists are learning that examining them may provide hints about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Dark Life is a first-person tour of the places Taylor has looked for archaebacteria and other strange microorganisms--Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico, the hot springs of Viterbo in central Italy, NASA laboratories, and the halls of academia. Taylor met with passionate scientists searching for answers about how things can live deep in the earth and if they can survive in the unimaginable cold of outer space while hitchhiking on meteors. Dark Life chronicles the triumphs and disappointments of this new field of science with engaging and personal stories.

Enigmatic Microorganisms and Life in Extreme Environments : Cellular Origin and Life in Extreme Habitats (Cellular Origin and Life in Extreme habitats by Joseph Seckbach (Editor) (12.98)
This volume covers the fields of origin, evolution and phylogenesis from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells. The eminent authors, experts in their fields, review the three kingdoms of life (Archea, Eubacteria and Eukarya) from molecular evolutionary levels to ecological aspects in enigmatic habitats, including general reviews of puzzling pro--and eukaryotic organisms and their domains.  This is a valuable comprehensive volume in English that covers most of the extremophiles in a new light with current research data. Audience: Students, lecturers and researchers; scholars in the fields of biology, evolutionary biology and chemistry, and other evolutionary fields, and the intelligent layman.

The Deep Hot Biosphere Thomas Gold (12.98)
In The Deep Hot Biosphere, he reveals evidence supporting a subterranean biosphere and speculates on how energy may be produced in a region void of photosynthesis. He speculates on the ramifications his concepts could have in predicting earthquakes, deciphering Earth's origins, and finding extraterrestrial life. Science News, January 16, 1999

The Science of Aliens - Clifford A. PickoverThe Science of Aliens Clifford A. Pickover (11.98)
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.

Strangers in the Night - FisherStrangers in the Night : A Brief History of Life on Other Worlds David E. Fisher, Marshall Jon Fisher, (11.98)
Every one of us with an ounce of imagination has wondered, at least once or twice, whether or not living things make their homes... up there. Life on other planets is simply too compelling a subject to let go, and so we spend hundreds of millions of dollars looking for its traces. This search has been documented by the father-son team of cosmochemist David E. Fisher and writer Marshall Jon Fisher with Strangers in the Night, a clever, scientifically rigorous look at the evidence and the explorers hoping to answer the question "Does intelligent life exist elsewhere (or anywhere) in the universe?"

From the lunar canals "discovered" by Schiaperelli in the 19th century to SETI to the Martian meteorite, the Fishers paint a picture of scientists struggling with the excitements and disappointments inherent to their work. Forced to draw inferences from the barest traces of indirect evidence, researchers from fields as diverse as oceanography, cosmology, and microbiology have banded together to develop the still-emerging discipline of exobiology. With a fair and competent assessment of the evidence, Strangers in the Night tells us that, though the answer to the question "are we alone?" is still elusive, we are coming ever closer and may just know for sure before long. Keep watching the skies! --Rob Lightner

Alien Life : The Search for Extraterrestrial s and Beyond - Barry ParkerAlien Life : The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond Barry R. Parker (04.98)
Parker (physics and astronomy, Idaho State U.) surveys all the popular topics in the aliens craze, giving an overview of the subject and discussing the work of numerous scientists, science fiction writers, psychologists, and theorists. He discusses the development of life on our planet, the possibility of microbial life on Mars, life on other planets and moons in the solar system, life on planets outside of our solar system and what form their civilizations might take, SETI, UFOs, and our future exploration of the universe. Booknews, Inc.

Life Here? There? Elsewhere? : The Search for Life on Venus and Mars/Book, Cards, 1 Videotape, Poster (Life in the Universe Series) Seti Institute (04.96)

How Might Life Evolve on Other Worlds? : Seti Academy Planet Project (Life in the Universe) (04.95)

The Rise of Intelligence and Culture : Seti Academy Planet Project (Life in the Universe) (04.95)

Life in the Universe : Scientific American : A Special Issue Carolyn B. Mitchell (04.95)
This compilation of a special issue of Scientific American magazine brings together some of the top names in science, who explore the major theories and issues surrounding astronomy and the development of life in the universe. From speculations on robotic intelligence's future to the dynamics of maintaining evolutionary patterns on the planet, this involves general-interest readers with the latest theories. Midwest Book Review

Extrasolar Planet Search

Planetary Dreams : The Quest to Discover Life Beyond Earth Robert Shapiro (04.99)
Are we alone, literally freaks of nature, just one planet of living, breathing things amidst a seemingly infinite, lifeless desert? This is one of the big questions posed by human nature, one that we have traditionally looked to religion to answer, but that is now coming within the grasp of science. Despite--or perhaps because--of this, we find increasing opposition to allocating resources to space exploration. Biochemist Robert Shapiro is an unabashed supporter of this research, and his book Planetary Dreams: The Quest to Discover Life Beyond Earth is both a compelling response to the stay-at-homes and a pleasantly readable overview of what we know and don't know about the origin of life here and elsewhere.

Extrasolar Planets : The Search for New Worlds (Wiley-Praxis Series in Astronomy and Astrophysics) Stuart Clark (11.98) 
Provides an overview of the developments in the search for planetary-sized bodies orbiting Sun-like stars. Discusses the formation and evolution of stars and the processes leading to the formation of protoplanetary discs, planetesimals, embryonic planets and complete planetary systems. Also examined are the techniques currently being employed for the detection of extrasolar planets and the results of those searches, as well as the theoretical problems posed by giant planets with small orbital radii and those in eccentric orbits, brown dwarfs, and the possible planets around pulsars. The final chapter speculates on finding habitable and inhabited worlds. Booknews, Inc.

Looking for Earths : The Race to Find New Solar Systems Alan Boss (10.98)
It is a riveting question: Are there other Earths, bearing life in some form? Earlier the question was, Are there other planets outside the solar system? A flurry of discoveries over the past three years has provided the answer to that one: yes. Boss traces the story chronologically, telling it from the viewpoint of an astrophysicist and incidentally providing a rewarding account of how astronomers and astrophysicists do their work. Now, he says, we are in a new era, "in which we will discover many planetary systems circling stars in our neighborhood of the galaxy, systems containing Earth-like planets capable of supporting life." From Scientific American

Planet Quest - Ken CroswellPlanet Quest: The Epic Discovery of Alien Solar Systems Ken Croswell (09.98)
Astronomers confirmed the existence of planets outside our own solar system relatively recently--in 1992. Their long-anticipated discovery was hardly a surprise, but was quite a while in coming. Nobody has found an Earth-like world that is able to sustain life as we know it, but it seems only a matter of time before that happens. Meanwhile, Planet Quest explains the science behind the search for new planets. Readers who need to brush up on the basics of their own solar system will find a helpful introductory chapter, as well as an interesting discussion of why there is probably no "Planet X" orbiting the Sun beyond Pluto. The bulk of the book, of course, is devoted to extrasolar worlds and the planet hunters who seek them.

The Quest for Alien Planets : Exploring Worlds Outside the Solar System Paul Halpern (10.97)
The first complete account of the search for new worlds, The Quest for Alien Planets provides a full history of the pursuit of planetary objects both within and beyond the solar system. Focusing on recent astronomical discoveries, it details the quest for extraterrestial life and habitable places in space. From the Martian rocks to pulsar planets, it examines the important question: where might living organisms be found? For those who have wondered just what is "out there," the Quest for Alien Planets furnishes insight into possible answers. - Paul Halpern

Evolutionary Biology

The Fifth Miracle : The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life P. C. W. Davies (06.99)
The title is catchy but misleading. It derives from a line in Genesis: "Let the land produce vegetation."That is the first biblical mention of life and, according to Davies, seems to be the tale's fifth miracle. But he does not intend to suggest that the origin of life was a miracle. His thesis is that "the first terrestrial organisms lived deep underground, entombed within geothermally heated rocks in pressure-cooker conditions."Davies also looks at the theories that life began by chemical assembly in a watery medium and that it came to the earth from space in the form of already viable microbes--the panspermia hypothesis. "We have,"he says, "a good idea of the where and the when of life's origin, but we are a very long way from comprehending the how."He is confident, however, that science will "eventually give a convincing explanation"of the how. From Scientific American

Origins of Life Freeman J. Dyson (08.99 second ed.)
How did life on Earth originate? Did replication or metabolism come first in the history of life? In this updated and expanded second edition of Origins of Life, Freeman Dyson examines these questions and discusses the two main theories that try to explain how naturally occurring chemicals could organize themselves into living creatures. Dyson analyzes the debate with reference to recent important discoveries by geologists and chemists. His main aim is to stimulate new experiments that could help to decide which theory is correct. This clearly-written, fascinating book will appeal to anyone interested in the origins of life.

A Walk Through Time : From Stardust to Us : The Evolution of Life on Earth
by Sidney Liebes, Elisabet Sahtouris, Brian Swimme (11.98)
Every step you take in A Walk Through Time moves you millions of years forward in Earth's history. Inspired by the idea of a one-mile stroll through the evolution of life, Sidney Liebes recruited some terrific writers and artists to create a traveling museum exhibit; A Walk Through Time summarizes the experience in book form, with the help of fascinating photos and intelligent, enjoyable text. The most profound realization along this temporal journey is just how small a part human history plays in the big time line. In the museum exhibit, where one foot equals one million years, human presence takes up all of one-thousandth of an inch; in the book's time line, we merit barely a speck. Our tiniest living fellows--the bacteria and blue-green algae, the amazing arthropods, the merging microbes--are the real stars of the show. Readers are treated to intriguing views of bizarre organisms like tardigrades, velvet worms, and lichens ("Taking everything we know about algae and fungi, we still never would have predicted the outcome of their synergy"), along with the microbes that once ruled the earth. Only at the very end of the line, long after the development of sexual reproduction, after the great Cretaceous extinction, after the development of flight and fur, will you find humans. Taking this walk is a great lesson in perspective, a cautionary tale about hubris and longevity that every human should read. --Therese Littleton

Comets and the Origin and Evolution of Life
by Paul J. Thomas (Editor), Christopher P. McKay (Editor), C. F. Chyba (Editor) (07.96)

Philosophy / History 

Imagined Worlds - Freeman DysonImagined Worlds (Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures) Freeman Dyson (09.98)
"Thanks to new technologies, researchers can see much farther into the galaxies, much deeper into the genetic structure of life, and more clearly into the heart of the atom than ever before. But envisioning our cultural future still requires the kind of probing, reflective human imagination we see at work in these pages. As this distinguished scientist contemplates a world in which genetic engineers create superbabies and pet dinosaurs, in which space colonies raise potatoes on Mars, in which radiotelepathy allows humans to communicate with dolphins and eagles, he weighs fear against hope...With a rare breadth of literary and historical knowledge and with a wonderful lucidity of style, Dyson converts science from the intellectual property of specialists into a meaningful concern for everyone with a stake in our cultural future." BOOKLIST

Selected Papers of Freeman Dyson : With Commentary Freeman Dyson (05.96)

Books by Dr. Carl Sagan

Contact Carl Sagan (07.97)
It is December 1999, the dawn of the millennium, and a team of international scientists is poised for the most fantastic adventure in human history. After years of scanning the galaxy for signs of somebody or something else, this team believes they've found a message from an intelligent source--and they travel deep into space to meet it. Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sagan injects Contact, his prophetic adventure story, with scientific details that make it utterly believable. It is a Cold War era novel that parlays the nuclear paranoia of the time into exquisitely wrought tension among the various countries involved. Sagan meditates on science, religion, and government--the elements that define society--and looks to their impact on and role in the future. His ability to pack an exciting read with such rich content is an unusual talent that makes Contact a modern sci-fi classic.

Contact (1997) What would happen if humanity finally made contact with an intelligent species elsewhere in the universe? How would it affect religion, government and our feelings toward each other? Those questions are tackled in this inspiring film adaptation of the novel, Contact, by Carl Sagan, Pulitzer prize winner and best-selling author. Starring Jodie Foster as Dr. Eleanor Arroway, an astronomer working on SETI - the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - this movie takes a look at the interaction between science and religion as the world reacts to a message from outer space and the prospect of sending one of our own to meet the senders. The movie follows Ellie's life as she searches for the truth about our existence and her own beliefs. Also stars Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss, a man of faith also searching for truth, but from a different perspective than the science-minded Ellie. With exciting special effects and intelligent dialogue, this unique film is definitely one worth seeing. Also stars James Woods, Angela Bassett and Tom Skerritt. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and co-produced by the late Sagan and his wife, Ann Druyan. - review by Steph (vash_ii) founder Carl Sagan's CONTACT club (NEW review)

The Demon-Haunted World : Science As a Candle in the Dark Carl Sagan (03.97)
Carl Sagan muses on the current state of scientific thought, which offers him marvelous opportunities to entertain us with his own childhood experiences, the newspaper morgues, UFO stories, and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of pseudoscience. Along the way he debunks alien abduction, faith-healing, and channeling; refutes the arguments that science destroys spirituality, and provides a "baloney detection kit" for thinking through political, social, religious, and other issues.

Other books by Carl Sagan


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