Synopses & Reviews
"What do we need to know about to discover life in space?" --Frank Drake, 1961In the early 1960s, Frank Drake, a young astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, developed what is now known as the "Drake Equation" in an effort to determine how many intelligent, communicative civilizations our galaxy could harbor. For forty years, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has combed the skies in search of signals from star systems within the galaxy. In Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations, author Brian McConnell goes behind the scenes and examines what goes into the search for intelligent life.SETI is a four-step process. First we have to know where to look; then we must be able to send and receive signals to that star system. Once signals arrive, scientists then need to be able to interpret those signals into something that can be understood. And although we haven't yet received any signals (except for our own Earth-based transmissions), we'll eventually have to figure out a protocol for responding.Beyond Contact introduces you to:
- The history of SETI research, including the early searches of Project Ozma, traditional radio astronomy, the search for intelligence in optical wavelengths (known as Optical SETI, or OSETI), and the SETI@home project.
- An overview of the Drake Equation and the Rare Earth Hypothesis, which scientists use to estimate the number of planets in our galaxy that could harbor intelligent, communicative life forms.
- How signals are sent and received over interstellar distances. The author explains the principles of signal and image processing, and how SETI researchers identify and process analog signals using Fourier transforms to see how the power in a signal is distributed across different frequencies.
- How to build a general-purpose symbolic language for sending signals, and even computer programs, with present-day SETI equipment. The ability to transmit computer programs enables us to let another civilization know about our knowledge and technological capabilities.
The author also shows how SETI research--though often thought to be a mere flight of fancy--has spawned technological improvements in astronomy, computers, and wireless communications.Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations
sidesteps the "little green men" approach to take a hard, realistic look at the technologies behind the search for intelligent life in our universe.
"This is not a programming book, but it is a book that would encourage you to read. While this book is ostensibly about SETI and the way that has developed over the last decade and half, it is much more. I think most programmers who enjoy reading will enjoy this book." Francis Glassborow, CVU, June 2001
"If you are one of the more than two million PC users worldwide who participate in the SETI@home project, Beyond Contact is a must read. And if you have decided to leave your computer out of this effort, this book may change your mind." Nancy Rowe, Random Bits, July 2001
"The perfect complement for the many people who are curious about this project and want to learn more about how it works, the type of data recorded, the ways data is received and other ways of possibly contacting aliens. Dealing with the electronic, computing and conceptual issues behind this search, this book presents everything one could want to know about the SETI project and its ramifications. It will interest all those who want to know more about the screensaver they run on their computers, and succeeds in covering this complex topic in a very simple way. This is an excellent read, which combines a wealth of technical information with the fascination of a quest that could, one day, turn out to yield the greatest discovery of all time." Kirk McElhearn, Dr Dobbs Electronic Review of Books, June 2001
Recently SETI became a popular past time with the release of the SETI@home screen saver, which runs on more tan 2 million PCs, analyzing data from the Arecibo radio telescope for signs of extraterrestrial life. This fascinating book explains how likely it is that someone will be found, just what kind of signals are being looked for, and how to communicate with them.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 401-402) and index.
About the Author
Brian McConnell is the author of Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations, and a contributor to Between Worlds, an upcoming SETI book from the SETI Institute and MIT Press. McConnell also publishes TelephonyDesign.Com, an online resource about telecommunications products and technology.