Book picks similar to
Is Anyone Out There? by Frank Drake


Destination Mars: The Story of Our Quest to Conquer the Red Planet

Andrew May - 2017
    Half a century later, only robots have been to the Red Planet and our astronauts rarely venture beyond Earth orbit.Now Mars is back With everyone from Elon Musk to Ridley Scott and Donald Trump talking about it, interplanetary exploration is back on the agenda and Mars is once again the prime destination for future human expansion and colonisation. In Destination Mars, astrophysicist and science writer Andrew May traces the history of our fascination with the Red Planet and explores the science upon which a crewed mission would be based, from assembling a spacecraft in Earth orbit to surviving solar storms. With expert insight, he analyses the new space race and assesses what the future holds for human life on Mars.

The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence

Paul C.W. Davies - 2010
    Thus began one of the boldest scientific projects in history, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). But after a half century of scanning the skies, astronomers have little to report but an eerie silence—eerie because many scientists are convinced that the universe is teeming with life. The problem, argues the leading physicist-astrobiologist Paul Davies, is that we’ve been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time & in the wrong way. Davies should know. For more than three decades, he's been closely involved with SETI & now chairs its Post-Detection Taskgroup, charged with deciding what to do if we’re confronted with evidence of alien intelligence. In this extraordinary book, he shows how SETI has lost its edge & offers a new exciting road map for the future. Davies believes our search so far has been overly anthropocentric: we tend to assume an alien species will look, think & behave like us. He argues that we need to be far more expansive in our efforts, & in this book he completely redefines the search, challenging existing ideas of what form an alien intelligence might take, how it might try to communicate with us & how we should respond if it does. A provocative & mind-expanding journey, The Eerie Silence will thrill fans of science & science fiction alike.

Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective

Carl Sagan - 1973
    This seminal work is reproduced here for a whole new generation to enjoy. In Sagan's typically lucid and lyrical style, he discusses many topics from astrophysics and solar system science, to colonization, terraforming and the search for extraterrestrials. Sagan conveys his own excitement and wonder, and relates the revelations of astronomy to the most profound human problems and concerns: issues that are just as valid today as they were thirty years ago. New to this edition are Freeman Dyson's comments on Sagan's vision and the importance of the work, Ann Druyan's assessment of Sagan's cultural significance as a champion of science, and David Morrison's discussion of the advances made since 1973 and what became of Sagan's predictions. Who knows what wonders this third millennium will reveal, but one thing is certain: Carl Sagan played a unique role in preparing us for them.

Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Seth Shostak - 2009
    Whether they've arrived via rocket, flying saucer, or plain old teleportation, they've been invading, infiltrating, or inspiring us for decades, and they've fascinated moviegoers and television watchers for more than fifty years. About half of us believe that aliens really exist, and millions are convinced they've visited Earth. For twenty-five years, SETI has been looking for the proof, and as the program's senior astronomer, Seth Shostak explains in this engrossing book, it's entirely possible that before long conclusive evidence will be found. His informative, entertaining report offers an insider's view of what we might realistically expect to discover light-years away among the stars. Neither humanoids nor monsters, says Shostak; in fact, biological intelligence is probably just a precursor to machine beings, enormously advanced artificial sentients whose capabilities and accomplishments may have developed over billions of years and far exceed our own. As he explores what, if anything, they would tell us and what their existence would portend for humankind and the cosmos, he introduces a colorful cast of characters and provides a vivid, state-of-the-art account of the past, present, and future of our search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe

Chris Impey - 2007
    In this compelling, accessible, and elegantly reasoned new book, award-winning scholar and researcher Chris Impey explores the foundations of this rapidly developing discipline, where it’s going, and what it’s likely to find. The journey begins with the earliest steps of science, gaining traction through the revelations of the Renaissance, including Copernicus’s revolutionary declaration that the Earth was not the center of the universe but simply a planet circling the sun. But if Earth is not the only planet, it is so far the only living one that we know of. In fascinating detail, The Living Cosmos reveals the incredible proliferation and variety of life on Earth, paying special tribute to some of its hardiest life forms, extremophiles, a dizzying array of microscopic organisms compared, in Impey’s wise and humorous prose, to superheroes that can survive extreme heat and cold, live deep within rocks, or thrive in pure acid.From there, Impey launches into space, where astrobiologists investigate the potential for life beyond our own world. Is it to be found on Mars, the “death planet” that has foiled most planetary missions, and which was wet and temperate billions of years ago? Or on Venus, Earth’s “evil twin,” where it rains sulfuric acid and whose heat could melt lead? (“Whoever named it after the goddess of love had a sorry history of relationships.”) The answer may lie in a moon within our Solar System, or it may be found in one of the hundreds of extra-solar planets that have already been located. The Living Cosmos sees beyond these explorations, and imagines space vehicles that eschew fuel for solar- or even nuclear-powered rockets, all sent by countries motivated by the millions to be made in space tourism.But The Living Cosmos is more than just a riveting work about experiment and discovery. It is also an affecting portrait of the individuals who have devoted their lives to astrobiology. Illustrated throughout, The Living Cosmos is a revelatory book about a science that is changing our view of the universe, a mesmerizing guide to what life actually means and where it may–or may not–exist, and a stunning work that explains our past as it predicts our future.

Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens

Richard Panek - 1998
    A concise look at the impact of the advent of the telescope on the way humans view the universe and their place in it focuses on the visionaries, beginning with Galileo, who created and perfected it.

Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space

Kevin Peter Hand - 2020
    Beneath the frozen crusts of several of the small, ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn lurk vast oceans that may have been in existence for as long as Earth, and together may contain more than fifty times its total volume of liquid water. Could there be organisms living in their depths? Alien Oceans reveals the science behind the thrilling quest to find out.Kevin Peter Hand is one of today's leading NASA scientists, and his pioneering research has taken him on expeditions around the world. In this captivating account of scientific discovery, he brings together insights from planetary science, biology, and the adventures of scientists like himself to explain how we know that oceans exist within moons of the outer solar system, like Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. He shows how the exploration of Earth's oceans is informing our understanding of the potential habitability of these icy moons, and draws lessons from what we have learned about the origins of life on our own planet to consider how life could arise on these distant worlds.Alien Oceans describes what lies ahead in our search for life in our solar system and beyond, setting the stage for the transformative discoveries that may await us.

Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Ann Druyan - 2019
    From the emergence of life at deep-sea vents to solar-powered starships sailing through the galaxy, from the Big Bang to the intricacies of intelligence in many life forms, acclaimed author Ann Druyan documents where humanity has been and where it is going, using her unique gift of bringing complex scientific concepts to life. With evocative photographs and vivid illustrations, she recounts momentous discoveries, from the Voyager missions in which she and her husband, Carl Sagan, participated to Cassini-Huygens's recent insights into Saturn's moons. This breathtaking sequel to Sagan's masterpiece explains how we humans can glean a new understanding of consciousness here on Earth and out in the cosmos--again reminding us that our planet is a pale blue dot in an immense universe of possibility.

Before the Big Bang

John Gribbin - 2015
    Before the Big Bang, there was a tiny fraction of a second during which a process called inflation expanded a seed much smaller than the nucleus of an atom into a fireball the size of a basketball -- the Big Bang itself. From this fireball, the Universe as we know it developed. The origin of the seed from which the Universe began is not known with certainty, but as John Gribbin explains the most likely explanation is that it was a fluctuation of quantum energy in an eternal sea of cosmic energy. And that means that other seeds must surely have inflated to become other universes, bubbles in the cosmic sea. It is even possible that a collision between our universe and another bubble on the sea of eternity may have left an imprint on the cosmic background radiation, the echo of the Big Bang itself. John Gribbin is an award winning science writer best known for his book In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. He studied astrophysics under Fred Hoyle in Cambridge, and is now a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission

Jim Bell - 2015
    The fantastic journey began in 1977, before the first episode of Cosmos aired. The mission was planned as a grand tour beyond the moon; beyond Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; and maybe even into interstellar space. The fact that it actually happened makes this humanity's greatest space mission.In The Interstellar Age, award-winning planetary scientist Jim Bell reveals what drove and continues to drive the members of this extraordinary team, including Ed Stone, Voyager's chief scientist and the one-time head of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab; Charley Kohlhase, an orbital dynamics engineer who helped to design many of the critical slingshot maneuvers around planets that enabled the Voyagers to travel so far; and the geologist whose Earth-bound experience would prove of little help in interpreting the strange new landscapes revealed in the Voyagers' astoundingly clear images of moons and planets.Speeding through space at a mind-bending eleven miles a second, Voyager 1 is now beyond our solar system's planets. It carries with it artifacts of human civilization. By the time Voyager passes its first star in about 40,000 years, the gold record on the spacecraft, containing various music and images including Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," will still be playable.

If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... Where Is Everybody?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life

Stephen Webb - 2002
    He provides readers with non-trivial insights into research fields they may not have encountered previously . . . I think everyone who has ever considered the possibility that other intelligent civilizations exist elsewhere within our galaxy will enjoy Where Is Everybody? They will find much to agree with, and much to argue about, in this very accessible volume.� �SCIENCE During a Los Alamos lunchtime conversation that took place more than 50 years ago, four world-class scientists agreed, given the size and age of the Universe, that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations simply had to exist. The sheer numbers demanded it. But one of the four, the renowned physicist and back-of-the-envelope calculator Enrico Fermi, asked the telling question: If the extraterrestrial life proposition is true, he wondered, "Where IS everybody?" In this lively and thought-provoking book, Stephen Webb presents a detailed discussion of the 50 most cogent and intriguing answers to Fermi's famous question, divided into three distinct groups: - Aliens are already here among us. Here are answers ranging from Leo Szilard's suggestion that they are already here, and we know them as Hungarians, to the theorists who claim that aliens built Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues. - Aliens exist, but have not yet communicated. The theories in this camp range widely, from those who believe we simply don't have the technologies to receive their signals, to those who believe the enormities of space and time work against communication, to those who believe they're hiding from us. - Aliens do not exist. Here are the doubters' arguments, from the Rare Earth theory to the author's own closely argued and cogently stated skepticism. The proposed solutions run the gamut from the crackpot to the highly serious, but all deserve our consideration. The varieties of arguments -- from first-rate scientists, philosophers and historians, and science fiction authors -- turn out to be astonishing, entertaining, and vigorous intellectual exercises for any reader interested in science and the sheer pleasure of speculative thinking. Stephen Webb is a physicist working at the Open University in England and the author of Measuring the Universe.

Tweeting the Universe: Very Short Courses on Very Big Ideas

Marcus Chown - 2011
    Marcus Chown and Govert Schilling set themselves the challenge to describe the biggest theories in science - each in just 140 characters.

The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos

Robert P. Kirshner - 2002
    One of the world's leading astronomers, Robert Kirshner, takes readers inside a lively research team on the quest that led them to an extraordinary cosmological discovery: the expansion of the universe is accelerating under the influence of a dark energy that makes space itself expand. In addition to sharing the story of this exciting discovery, Kirshner also brings the science up-to-date in a new epilogue. He explains how the idea of an accelerating universe--once a daring interpretation of sketchy data--is now the standard assumption in cosmology today.This measurement of dark energy--a quality of space itself that causes cosmic acceleration--points to a gaping hole in our understanding of fundamental physics. In 1917, Einstein proposed the cosmological constant to explain a static universe. When observations proved that the universe was expanding, he cast this early form of dark energy aside. But recent observations described first-hand in this book show that the cosmological constant--or something just like it--dominates the universe's mass and energy budget and determines its fate and shape.Warned by Einstein's blunder, and contradicted by the initial results of a competing research team, Kirshner and his colleagues were reluctant to accept their own result. But, convinced by evidence built on their hard-earned understanding of exploding stars, they announced their conclusion that the universe is accelerating in February 1998. Other lines of inquiry and parallel supernova research now support a new synthesis of a cosmos dominated by dark energy but also containing several forms of dark matter. We live in an extravagant universe with a surprising number of essential ingredients: the real universe we measure is not the simplest one we could imagine.

I'm Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact

William Shatner - 1996
    Over five decades, Star Trek's celebration of mankind's technical achievements and positive view of the future have earned it an enduring place in our global culture. Its scientific vision has also had a profound effect on the past thirty years of technological breakthroughs. Join William Shatner, the original captain of the Starship Enterprise, as he reveals how Star Trek has influenced and inspired some of our greatest scientific minds -- the people behind the future we will all share. In interviews with dozens of scientists we learn about the inventions that will revolutionise our lives and the discoveries that will make it truly possible to explore the last great frontier -- space. As one Nobel Laureate commented on being shown a wood and plastic model of the engine core from a Star Trek: The Next Generation starship: I'm working on that. From the technicalities of warp speed to real-life replicators to the likelihood of our being able to beam across continents, this always-informative book takes us on a fascinating and eye-opening voyage to

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth

Avi Loeb - 2021
    In late 2017, scientists at a Hawaiian observatory glimpsed an object soaring through our inner solar system, moving so quickly that it could only have come from another star. Avi Loeb, Harvard’s top astronomer, showed it was not an asteroid; it was moving too fast along a strange orbit, and left no trail of gas or debris in its wake. There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization.   In Extraterrestrial, Loeb takes readers inside the thrilling story of the first interstellar visitor to be spotted in our solar system. He outlines his controversial theory and its profound implications: for science, for religion, and for the future of our species and our planet. A mind-bending journey through the furthest reaches of science, space-time, and the human imagination, Extraterrestrial challenges readers to aim for the stars—and to think critically about what’s out there, no matter how strange it seems.