Is Anyone Out There?: The Scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

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Delacorte Press, 1992 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages
In 1960, an intrepid astrophysicist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, set out to tune an ear to the noise from the deepest points in the universe. Armed with a landmark paper in the scientific journal Nature and his own startling observations from his graduate school days at Harvard, Frank Drake wrangled many precious hours of the radio telescope's time to begin his search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Drake's labor (which he named Project Ozma after the princess in L. Frank Baum's story Ozma of Oz) not only proved that we already possess the means to detect other intelligent beings in the cosmos, but yielded a suspected signal from a distant star. Although the signal turned out to be from our world, Drake parlayed the excitement generated by Project Ozma into a lifelong mission, setting a goal that could change the course of history - the scientific confirmation that we are not alone. In a captivating and accessible narrative, Drake and writer Dava Sobel take the reader to remote observatories around the world and behind the closed doors of international conferences dedicated to detect extraterrestrial intelligence. Some of the greatest names in science - Carl Sagan, Otto Struve, Philip Morrison, Melvin Calvin, Edward Purcell, Francis Crick, Bernard Oliver - have worked with Drake to untangle both the practical elements of detecting alien radio signals and the philosophical questions raised by the existence of other sentient beings in the universe. What do we stand to gain from interstellar contact? Which facts about ourselves do we want to communicate to extraterrestrials? How should we respond to a signal from another civilization? Whilemaintaining an absorbing anecdotal charm, Is Anyone Out There? grapples with these questions and thoughtfully provides a clear explanation of the scientific ideas and technology that define the search. Thirty years after Project Ozma, supported by data from many additional searches and new evidence for the existence of other planetary systems, Drake's hard work has established the search for extraterrestrial intelligence as a global enterprise, on a par with spacecraft missions to explore the planets. Coinciding with the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus's landing in the new world, in October 1992 the NASA-SETI Microwave Observing Project will focus the world's most powerful radio telescopes on a comprehensive long-term quest for alien civilizations. Replacing fiction with fact, Is Anyone Out There? is a fascinating chronicle of one man's dedication to pioneering a new field of study - the science of interstellar contact.

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IS ANYONE OUT THERE?: The Scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

User Review  - Kirkus

The answer is ``yes,'' says Drake (Astronomy/UC at Santa Cruz), founder of the modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), in this likable autobiography told with the assistance of Sobel ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bluetyson - LibraryThing

Fine SETI overview. The man famous for the 'Drake Equation' takes a look at his own career in science, and also the history of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence. From the very first ... Read full review


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About the author (1992)

Dava Sobel is the best-selling author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter. A former New York Times science reporter, she has contributed articles to Audubon, Discover, Life, and The New Yorker. She has also been a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine, writing about scientific research and the history of science. She lives in East Hampton, New York.

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