Synopses & Reviews
"'What is the status of life and intelligence in the universe?' asks British science writer Ashpole (The UFO Phenomena) in this discussion of current methods in the search for extraterrestrial life. He summarizes the history of the search primarily work from SETI, which he describes as 'informed speculation with hardly any data in sight' and addresses factors that explain why searches have not been successful to date given the high odds that life exists elsewhere. Among the possible reasons he enumerates for the lack of success are the eons of time and hundreds of planetary systems, the potential for aliens to possess technologies we are currently unable to understand, and the idea that intelligent aliens might not want to contact or communicate with us. Ashpole considers the difficulties of space travel for any life form as well as the requirements for a species' success (diet, brain size, environment) which may limit the scope of space exploration, suggesting that robots would be far more practical for this purpose. Advising reliance on scientific methods over fantastical thinking, Ashpole urges us to continue 'trying to discover the status of our lives and our world in the immensity of the universe.' (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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An intriguing overview of the ways in which science could find evidence for extraterrestrial life
Are we alone in the universe, or is life a universal phenomenon? For fifty years, astronomers in SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) have scanned the universe for intelligent signals, but with no success. In this intriguing book, Edward Ashpole explains the probable reasons for this and discusses other avenues of investigation more in line with the nature of science and technology.
The author examines the problems inherent in scanning the universe for radio or optical signals from an alien intelligence. These include the difficulty of trying to communicate with another species possessing a completely unknown form of technology and the vast distances that alien communications would have to travel to reach us.
This leads Ashpole to other ways of finding evidence for extraterrestrial life, given that advanced civilizations would probably use artificial intelligence for interstellar travel. Our scientists now know how to detect the presence of life on a planet by observing its spectral lines, so more advanced alien researchers would have had ample time (about two billion years) to investigate these “signatures of life” coming from Earth. Hence, the author argues, alien space probes could exist within our own solar system; there might be evidence on the erosion-free Moon or on another moon or planet. In fact, a few scientists have scanned NASA's best photography, looking for evidence of such “alien archaeology.”
In a final chapter, the author urges an open-minded attitude on the part of scientists to all credible sources of information, along with the use of the scientific method to test various hypotheses and weed out the fantasy factor, which so often interferes with serious attempts to find hard evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Informative and fascinating, Signatures of Life delves into a topic that often provokes wild speculation in a thought-provoking yet scientifically responsible way.