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To Open The Sky

The Front Pages of Christopher P. Winter
Work in progress, updated 3/02/2004

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


Here are some citations for books providing additional information.


There are hundreds of books on the subject of extraterrestrial life. I won't try to list even a representative sample here. But the four books I do list will give anyone unfamiliar with the literature a good start on understanding why the Great Silence is so puzzling. In addition, the first cites lots of good sources for further exploration, while the last two present conflicting and well-constructed arguments on the rarity or abundance of complex life forms.

  1. The best single book on the Fermi Paradox is Where is Everybody? by physicist Stephen Webb. Thoroughly researched, it examines fifty of the most plausible reasons why we haven't heard from ET. It provides extensive notes and a 218-entry bibliography.

    If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
    Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life
    Stephen Webb
    New York: Copernicus Books, 2002
    ISBN 0-387-95501-1 288p. HC/BWI $27.50
  2. A reference frequently cited by Webb is Extraterrestrials—Where are they? edited by Zuckerman and Hart. Essentially the proceedings of a conference on SETI, it collects a number of viewpoints on the problem, notably discussions of alternate search strategies and radio frequencies to use. (The citation is for the second edition; the first was published by Pergamon Press in 1982.)

    Ben Zuckerman (ed.) & Michael Hart (ed.)
    Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995
    ISBN 0-521-44335-0 239p. HC/BWI $?
  3. According to Rare Earth by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, complex life is rare in the universe. The authors are professors of, respectively, geology and astronomy; both are at the University of Washington.

    Peter D. Ward & Donald Brownlee
    New York: Copernicus Books, 2000
    ISBN 0-387-98701-0 333p. HC/GSI $27.50
  4. Nobel laureate Christian de Duve, on the other hand, argues persuasively in Vital Dust that life is a cosmic imperative; it must develop wherever conditions permit, and will naturally evolve toward complex forms.

    Life as a Cosmic Imperative
    Christian de Duve
    New York: Basic Books, 1995
    ISBN 0-465-09044-3 362p. HC/GSI $25.00
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