Here Be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life

Here Be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life

Simon LeVay

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0195128524

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The discovery of life on other planets would be perhaps the most momentous revelation in human history, more disorienting and more profound than either the Copernican or Darwinian revolutions, which knocked the earth from the center of the universe and humankind from its position of lofty self-regard. In Here Be Dragons, astronomer David Koerner and neurobiologist Simon LeVay offer a scientifically compelling and colorful account of the search for life beyond Earth.
The authors survey the work of biologists, cosmologists, computer theorists, NASA engineers, SETI researchers, roboticists, and UFO enthusiasts and debunkers as they attempt to answer the greatest remaining question facing humankind: Are we alone? From their "safe haven of skepticism" the authors venture into the "rough seas of speculation," where theory and evidence run the gamut from hard science to hocus pocus. Arguing that the universe is spectacularly suited for the evolution of living creatures, Koerner and LeVay give us ringside seats at the great debates of Big Science. The contenitous arguments about what really happens in evolution, the acrimonious UFO controversy, and the debate over intelligence versus artificial intelligence shed new light on the wildly divergent claims about the universe and life's place in it. The authors argue that while no direct evidence of extraterrestrial life yet exists, habitats and chemical building blocks for life abound in the universe. A wealth of new astronomical techniques and space missions may provide this evidence early in the next century.
Lucidly written and scientifically rigorous, Here Be Dragons presents everything we know thus far about the emergence of intelligent life here on earth and, perhaps, beyond.

The Making of History's Greatest Star Map (Astronomers' Universe)

Stars: A Guide to the Constellations, Sun, Moon, Planets, and Other Features of the Heavens (A Golden Guide)

E.T. Talk: How Will We Communicate with Intelligent Life on Other Worlds? (Astronomers' Universe)

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

Stars, Myths and Rituals in Etruscan Rome (Space and Society)

















The river and, using the light energy captured by chlorophyll, boost the electrons back up to the top again. It's just like those recirculating cascades that some people have in their yards: the electrons do work on the way down and get work done to them on the way back up. Photosynthesis has two major advantages over the lifestyle of Methanopyrus and similar organisms. First, it taps directly into a huge energy supply, far greater than the geothermal energy supply available at the deep-sea vents.

History may not be a "tree" but a "braided channel." Transfer of genes between different species is, in fact, a well-documented phenomenon. Bacteria belonging to different species can pass genes for antibiotic resistance among each other, for example. One bacterium, Agrobacter tumefaciens, can insert foreign genes into the genomes of crop plants—it is much used in genetic engineering. And retroviruses such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can insert genes into the genome of human cells.

Leading light in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (see Chapter 7). At that time, they were merely a concept, and the concept had been developed largely by an Indianborn astronomer, Shiv Kumar, a decade earlier. Kumar knew that main-sequence stars come in a range of masses, which are identified by a difficult-to-memorize sequence of letters: o for the most massive, then B, A, F, G, K, and M. The Sun is a "G star." Kumar wondered 118 THE PLANET FINDERS whether "M stars"—dim.

Black and white zones are formed by endolithic fungi and algae, which together form a lichen. The green zone is formed by algae and cyanobacteria (photos courtesy of Imre Friedmann). COLOR PLATE 2 Coping with heat. One way organisms may survive at very high temperatures is by stabilizing their protein molecules with ion pairs. The diagrams compare the three-dimensional structure of part of a protein enzyme from a hyperthermophile (optimal temperature ioo°c—left panel) with the equivalent.

Few such self-replicating probes would eventually populate the entire galaxy, perhaps long after their inventors had become extinct. Zuckerman pooh-poohs Drake's notion that technological beings would be satisfied with radio communication. "Drake's implicit assumption is that the only thing we're going to care about is intelligent life. But what if we have an interest in simpler life-forms? If you turn the picture around and you have some advanced extraterrestrials looking at the Earth, until the.

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