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Thread: Books on the Likelihood/Nature of Extra-Terrestrial Life

  1. #1 Books on the Likelihood/Nature of Extra-Terrestrial Life 
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    Hi

    I'm a 16 year old student from Australia and am looking for books focusing on the likely nature of alien life and the chance of its existence in nearby systems. I have already combed the internet looking but most forums recommend books focused on pseudo-scientific theories and dissections of UFO events. Do you guys know of any books that provide a rational and evidence-based discussion on extra-terrestrials or is it all just conspiracy theories?



    Thanks for your advice


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  3. #2  
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    I would also prefer books that are readable and engaging (not necessarily journal publications by profs!)


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  4. #3  
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    Conspiracy theories play a big part nowadays. As far as alien life, we won't know until we find it or it finds us.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Sophomore jgoti's Avatar
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    Hi,
    Try this one out: The Eerie Silence: Renewing our search for Alien Intelligence (Paul Davies)
    .

    It's a pessimistic view though, and quite a compelling one too. I really liked the book (readable and engaging), even though it sort of shattered my hopes.
    Well... only a bit.
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  6. #5  
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    no books but here are some articles on the topic. very various in scope.

    SETI: A Critical History - Cover

    How the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Became Disconnected from New Ideas About Extraterrestrials

    Xenology Home Page

    Xenology may be defined as the scientific study of all aspects of extraterrestrial life, intelligence, and civilization. Similarly, xenobiology refers to the study of the biology of extraterrestrial lifeforms not native to Earth, xenopsychology refers to the higher mental processes of such lifeforms if they are intelligent, and so forth.

    http://lnfm1.sai.msu.su/SETI/koi/articles/ksan.html

    The emergence of life based on amino acid and RNA/ DNA on an Earth type planet requiers a quite narrow parameter space of many of the planet's physical parameters, most important are its mass and temperature conditions. Besides it, only stars of F to K spectral types may have planets suitable for life. However, only very favorable combination of these parameters may provide the necessary conditions for its evolution into multicellular animals.

    Nick Bostrom's Home Page

    quite a bit here on eti.

    if you want any more just give a hoy and i go through my HDD.
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  7. #6  
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    For a balanced view - try "RARE EARTH"
    Once you appreciate how tenuous our emergrnce was - you might be less inclined to assume that there is any one else out there.

    I've said this before on this forum - there will intelligent out there somewhere, just as soon as WE arrive.
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  8. #7  
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    i find this topic interesting. my belief is that life, of the slime variety, may be relatively common. intelligent life on the other hand rare and so distant from us that it may as well be non-existent. i really don't see us zipping around the galaxy a la star trek. ever. this is good for discussion as we can let our imagination go. of course an alternative, and just as interesting, is that we will achieve star trek like travel but so far into the future that we will no longer be human.

    :-)
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  9. #8  
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    There is one possibility: Aliens that go out exploring with no intention of ever returning to their home civilization. They'd be nomadic explorers who just want to see everything and don't care if their home planet ever benefits by it.

    A group like that could cryogenicly freeze themselves or something, and not need to care if the trip takes a billion years. They'd also need to have set out something like a billion years ago.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  10. #9  
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    Go to Amazon and look up "Seth Shostak". Dr. Shostak received his PhD in radio astronomy from Cal Tech. He's the former director of the SETI League, and is probably the single most influential individual promoting the SCIENCE of SETI astronomy. The Teaching Company chose Dr. Shostak as lecturer for its excellent short course on SETI science. I've met Dr. Shostak a couple of times at the Paul Allen SETI radio telescope array in Hat Creek, California. He's gregarious, very friendly, very witty and brilliant. His lectures are a joy, the best I've ever sat through. If you can find a copy of his Teaching Company lectures on SETI, grab it (it's out of production and hard to find). It's the best available primer on SETI ever created. I've got the VHS set. I don't know if it has since come out on DVD. Check ebay. Hope this helps. Here's a link to the SETI League web site:

    The SETI League: Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
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  11. #10  
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    Fermi paradox - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    They are not in our milky way at least
    In the information age ignorance is a choice.
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    I listen to Coast to Coast on radio at night. These guys act like there are UFOs and ETs everywhere. It's nothing to be abducted every weekday and twice on Saturday and Sunday.
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  13. #12  
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    I'm currently reading "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe" by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. I think it was recommended by someone on this thread. If so, thanks for the advice.

    Great stuff to understand how the earth works regarding tectonics, volcanism, how life might have begun, etc.

    It seems that the appearance of complex-cell life depends on a whole bunch of lucky shots - not so for bacteria and the like, which might be present everywhere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    I'm currently reading "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe" by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. I think it was recommended by someone on this thread. If so, thanks for the advice.

    Great stuff to understand how the earth works regarding tectonics, volcanism, how life might have begun, etc.

    It seems that the appearance of complex-cell life depends on a whole bunch of lucky shots - not so for bacteria and the like, which might be present everywhere.
    sounds good
    In the information age ignorance is a choice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post

    It seems that the appearance of complex-cell life depends on a whole bunch of lucky shots - not so for bacteria and the like, which might be present everywhere.
    This post and another above seems to suggest that bacteria can quite easily appear from nothing, but that advanced life forms are more difficult. What evidence is this based on? A few years ago when I researched this a bit it seemed to me that the appearance of the first living thing was still very far from being explained. The odds against it still seemed to be overwhelming. To develop from there towards more complexity seems much more likely and understandable than what happened before.
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  16. #15  
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    [QUOTE=Gerdagewig;364244]
    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    This post and another above seems to suggest that bacteria can quite easily appear from nothing, but that advanced life forms are more difficult. What evidence is this based on? A few years ago when I researched this a bit it seemed to me that the appearance of the first living thing was still very far from being explained. The odds against it still seemed to be overwhelming. To develop from there towards more complexity seems much more likely and understandable than what happened before.
    We must take as a caveat that any extrapolation from a sample size of one is inherently flawed.

    That said Ward and Brownlee take the position that 'simple' life forms are likely to arise relatively easily. If I recall their argument it stems from two things: life appeared on Earth very soon, in geological terms, after the Earth had become sufficiently quiescent to tolerate it; we have a number of plausible, though incomplete, ideas of how life might arise.

    In contrast it took billions of years, not a hundred million or so, for complex life to arise and half a billion more for intelligence to emerge. They make a well argued case for how dependent those developments were upon chance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdagewig View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post

    It seems that the appearance of complex-cell life depends on a whole bunch of lucky shots - not so for bacteria and the like, which might be present everywhere.
    This post and another above seems to suggest that bacteria can quite easily appear from nothing, but that advanced life forms are more difficult. What evidence is this based on? A few years ago when I researched this a bit it seemed to me that the appearance of the first living thing was still very far from being explained. The odds against it still seemed to be overwhelming. To develop from there towards more complexity seems much more likely and understandable than what happened before.
    Good point but what makes it likely that bacterial life may be quite common everywhere is the fact that it seems to have appeared on earth as soon as the temperatures became cooler, i.e., not a molten rock; bacteria are almost as old as the planet itself, whereas eucaryotes don't turn up in the fossil record until the last 15% of the history of the planet; yesterday in geological terms.

    If this sequence of events is not a random distribution of when things are likely to happen, it must mean that the former is very common and the latter is perhaps a stroke of luck or even a fluke.

    Regards.
    J

    The "how" question remains unanswerd though...
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  18. #17  
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    [QUOTE=John Galt;364246]
    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdagewig View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    This post and another above seems to suggest that bacteria can quite easily appear from nothing, but that advanced life forms are more difficult. What evidence is this based on? A few years ago when I researched this a bit it seemed to me that the appearance of the first living thing was still very far from being explained. The odds against it still seemed to be overwhelming. To develop from there towards more complexity seems much more likely and understandable than what happened before.
    We must take as a caveat that any extrapolation from a sample size of one is inherently flawed.

    That said Ward and Brownlee take the position that 'simple' life forms are likely to arise relatively easily. If I recall their argument it stems from two things: life appeared on Earth very soon, in geological terms, after the Earth had become sufficiently quiescent to tolerate it; we have a number of plausible, though incomplete, ideas of how life might arise.

    In contrast it took billions of years, not a hundred million or so, for complex life to arise and half a billion more for intelligence to emerge. They make a well argued case for how dependent those developments were upon chance.
    Your answer caught me in the middle of typing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgoti View Post
    The "how" question remains unanswerd though...
    I get the point that based on what happened on earth it must indicate that single celled life must start quite easily and complex life not so. I didn't think of it like that before. However, my mind still gets stuck on the "how" question which we are so far from answering that it overrides the seemingly logical conclusion above. As John Galt said, a sample of one (the earth) is not so strong!
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    has anyone ever thought that intelligent life could be so simple. think about it, we consider ourselves itelligent, yet we are still very primative. lets say we go out into space and encounter a biological slime. it could be very intelligent compared to us, yet we would never know because we wouldnt be able to communicate. also consider this: ANY kind of body is unconventional. intelligence could exist in the vacuum of space, but would be inaccessible to us. if such beings exist, they would be without the limatations of matter, and therefore, theoretically, be able to go anywhere they want in next to no time.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by josh hinds View Post
    has anyone ever thought that intelligent life could be so simple. think about it, we consider ourselves itelligent, yet we are still very primative. lets say we go out into space and encounter a biological slime. it could be very intelligent compared to us, yet we would never know because we wouldnt be able to communicate. also consider this: ANY kind of body is unconventional. intelligence could exist in the vacuum of space, but would be inaccessible to us. if such beings exist, they would be without the limatations of matter, and therefore, theoretically, be able to go anywhere they want in next to no time.
    Well this is more a problem of how we define intelligent lifeforms. For instance self-recognition is an important part of this in our world. If a slime can't observe it can't self recognize. Also we know that they must abide to the laws of physics. Further more intelligence is of no use if one cannot communicate knowledge. Disregarding the widely speculated and unfounded telepathy, it means we always have a way somehow of communication. The idea is more that complex life is very rare, and takes a lot of time. intelligence is most likely complex due to the need of communication and observation. Hence it makes it very hard. but sure, slime could have a huge computation power. But what use is it if it cannot observe or communicate with the surroundings?
    In the information age ignorance is a choice.
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