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Jeffrey BennettDescribe your latest project.
Nearly everyone is fascinated by the possibility that we are not alone in the universe, and many people believe we are already being visited by aliens in UFOs. I'm not yet convinced that is the case, though I'd love to see it proven true. Meanwhile, even without proof of alien existence, we can learn a great deal about both ourselves and about the possibility of finding others by moving beyond the usual arguments about whether UFOs are real, and instead focusing on the amazing things that we already know and can already infer through the power of science. My goal in Beyond UFOs is to draw in readers of all stripes, from the most enthusiastic believers in UFOs to the most skeptical practitioners of science, and help them not only to think about what alien life might be like, but more importantly to think about the astonishing ways in which the search for life may alter the future of our own civilization. Or, as I put it in the first paragraph of Chapter 1:
This is a book about possibilities. It is about the possibility that, within a decade or two, robotic or human explorers will drill into the Martian surface and discover microscopic life in subterranean pockets of liquid water. It is about the possibility of landing spaceborne submarines on Jupiter's moon Europa, where they might melt their way through miles of ice and observe life swimming in a volcanically heated ocean. It is about the possibility of strange, cold-adapted life forms on Saturn's moon Titan, a world on which we have already landed a robotic emissary, despite its being located nearly a billion miles away. It is about the possibility of SETI researchers detecting an unmistakable signal coming to us from a civilization that has grown up around a faraway star. It is about the possibility that we may already be surrounded by a galactic civilization, populated by beings who surpassed our own current level of development millions or even billions of years ago. Most of all, it is about the possibilities that await us, if and when we learn that we are not alone in the universe.
I believe we are at a crisis point in human history, faced with many challenges that are scientific in nature. We can meet these challenges only if we understand them, and understanding depends on education. I've therefore dedicated my career to trying to help in the cause of global education. Through good fortune, I now have the opportunity to reach many people through my writing. I therefore write with a sense of urgency, fearing that if I and many others do not work fast enough to educate the world, it may soon be too late.
Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
The second was the late Carl Sagan. Though I only got to meet him personally on a couple of occasions, his writing and his Cosmos series were what inspired me to focus my teaching on astronomy and the "big picture" ideas of human existence.
Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
Chess or video games?
What do you do for relaxation?
Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
What was your favorite book as a kid?
What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?
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Jeffrey Bennett is an astrophysicist, author, and educator. He is the author or coauthor of leading college-level textbooks in astrobiology, astronomy, mathematics, and statistics, including Life in the Universe. He is also the author of On the Cosmic Horizon and the children's books Max Goes to the Moon and Max Goes to Mars.