Here Be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life (Repost)

ISBN: 0195128524

Category: Technical

Tag: Science/Engineering


Posted on 2012-12-08. By anonymous.

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David W. Koerner, Simon LeVay, "Here Be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life"
English | 2000 | ISBN: 0195128524 | 272 Pages | PDF | 16.89 MB

The discovery of life on other planets would be perhaps the most momentous revelation in human history, more disorienting and more profound than either the Copernican or Darwinian revolutions which knocked the earth from the center of the universe and humankind from its position of lofty self-regard. In Here Be Dragons, astronomer David Koerner and neurobiologist Simon LeVay offer a scientifically compelling and colorful account of the ongoing search for life beyond Earth.

The authors survey the work of biologists, cosmologists, computer theorists, NASA engineers, SETI researchers, roboticists, UFO enthusiasts and debunkers as they attempt to answer the greatest remaining question facing humankind: Are we alone? From their "safe haven of skepticism" the authors venture into the "rough seas of speculation," where theory and evidence run the gamut from hard science to hocus pocus. Arguing that the universe is spectacularly suited for the evolution of living creatures, Koerner and LeVay give us ringside seats at the great debates of Big Science. The contentious arguments about what really happens in evolution, the acrimonious UFO controversy, and the debate over intelligence versus artificial intelligence shed new light on the wildly divergent claims about the universe and life's place in it. The authors argue that while no direct evidence of extraterrestrial life yet exists, habitats and chemical building blocks for life abound in the universe. A wealth of new astronomical techniques and space missions may provide this evidence early in the next century.

Lucidly written and scientifically rigorous, Here Be Dragons presents everything we know thus far about the emergence of intelligent life here on earth and, perhaps, beyond.

"Experts in many diverse disciplines have come together to form a new science: astrobiology," report astronomer David Koerner and biologist-writer Simon LeVay.

It is a fundamentally new enterprise, a focus of intense excitement and energy, and a recipient of huge government resources. This science has just one ambition: To understand Life in its universal context and, in doing so, to understand ourselves.
Koerner and LeVay have no particular thesis to advance about astrobiology and extraterrestrial life, no axe to grind: they have talked to everybody from Stephen Jay Gould and Robert Weinberg to the (human) denizens of Area 51. Their evenhanded overview moves from the origin of life on Earth to the search for life in our solar system to the search for planets around other stars to SETI, UFO-logy, and the anthropic principle. Since each of these topics can easily take up a whole book (or a shelf-full), theirs is something of a roller-skate tour, but one that misses no major issues. Balanced between the Copernican "principle of mediocrity" and the rare earth hypothesis of Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, Here Be Dragons is an accessible, engaging guide to a deeply stirring question: "Is there anybody out there?" --Mary Ellen Curtin

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