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What would aliens look like? An intelligent octopus-like creature is certainly plausible. What about odd numbers of limbs - a three-legged alien with three arms and three eyes? Could there be an entire planet of immobile, silicon-based "trees" that communicate with each other via electrical signals? The Science of Aliens gets weirder still. Could a giant interstellar cloud be "alive" and intelligent? Could creatures live at extremely high pressures and temperatures? Would they have any interest in abducting us? Would they want to have sex with us?
Aliens and Humanity
We've generally always focused on the notion that Aliens are far ahead of our own technology, but what hasn't been talked about much is the likelihood of alien civilizations that may be technologically inferior to us. Which may be why they havent responded to our SeTI's radio signals, because there may be alien civilizations where they have yet to enter into their version of an industrial age. Why havent this sort of theory been talked about much, and is it possible? Secondly if there are advanced aliens why havent our scientific experts thought of the potential disaster it could spell for humanity if we keep trying to contact such superior beings. We need only to look at out own history to see that less advanced peoples get the short end of the stick as a result of coming into contact with far advanced peoples. An example would be American Indians and their relations with the first European settlers to the new world, and they both belong to the same species. Can you just imagine a similar situation with two different species? Are we in any immediate danger should an alien civilization far ahead of us one day answer out signals? I'd like this posibility to be addressed more. At some point in the future when we humans become a spacefaring species ourselves with colonies all over the galaxy and fleets of war ships, and we come into contact with a less advanced alien civilization, I can only pity such a civilization due to man's seemingly inherent lust for conquest. Therefore what makes us think that Aliens who have acheived the height of technological achievement be any different?
Scientist and author Clifford Pickover poses the question, "Can creatures dream of things beyond their sensory capacity?" Clearly Pickover thinks humans can--to some extent, at least. To this end, he wrote The Science of Aliens, an intriguing book featuring chapters such as "What Aliens Look Like," "Origin of Alien Life," and "Alien Abduction." And, of course, "Alien Sex." (Don't say you weren't curious.) To stimulate the reader's imagination, Pickover focuses on the characteristics of the earth's creatures--their appearance, their senses, their environments, their sexual behaviors--and argues that this diversity pales in comparison to the far wider possibilities in alien worlds.
Whether or not you believe in life on other planets, the artist's renditions of creatures such as Cheelas, Mesklinites, and Radiates from SF novels, as well as mathematical "alien messages" to decipher, are a real treat. (Here's an easy one: "Aliens are waiting for humanity to replace the question mark with the next value in the sequence before they will consider us worthy for further communication: 77, 49, 36, 18, ?") He also raises interesting issues; for example, what form would art take for creatures sensitive to smells or heat rather than light? To top it off, Pickover includes examples of potential interplanetary humor taboos: "Don't make puns around Scolexes because it outrages their sense of linguistic symmetry, which they've fought holy wars over." SF fans will enjoy this entertaining and thought-provoking book. --C.B. Delaney
About the Author
Clifford Pickover is on the research staff of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center. His previous books include Strange Brains and Genius, Keys to Infinity, Computers and the Imagination, Time: A Traveler's Guide, Black Holes: A Traveler's Guide, and The Alien IQ Test.
Out-of-this-world speculation on extraterrestrial life that will fascinate fans of Star Trek, The X-Files, and sci-fi of all kinds.
"Run, leap, scurry and scoot to your nearest bookstore and get [Pickover's] books." -Byte
"Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clarke thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both." -WIRED
"Pickover inspires a new generation of Da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." -Christian Science Monitor
If extraterrestrials ever landed on earth, they would find us extremely strange. Their first intimation of our existence might well be a presidential speech or the Olympic Games, a mud-wrestling match or Third Rock from the Sun.
What would aliens look like? An intelligent octopus-like creature is certainly plausible. What about odd numbers of limbs-a three-legged alien with three arms and three eyes? Could creatures live at extremely high pressures and temperatures? Would they have any interest in abducting us? Would they want to have sex with us?
In classic Pickover style, here is scientifically based speculation at the far edge of knowledge-and beyond.
Great book! Highly recommended!
Reviewer: Mark W. Ganson from Melville, LA United States
I just finished reading The Science of Aliens. It is a fascinating read for those interested in exobiology and such things. Cliff has obviously done his research and spent a considerable amount of time pondering the issues related to the
topic. This is not just a collection of speculations on what aliens might be like. For each supposition, you get real life examples of creatures right here on Earth who exhibit some of these very same characteristics and behaviors. And, since a picture is worth a thousand words, Cliff has included a number of artists' renderings, which are extremely helpful in picturing the descriptions. To anyone who is considering this title, I highly recommend it!
For those who like both science and aliens :)
Reviewer: Avi Dardik from Kfar-Saba Israel
This book is all about the science of aliens. Which means, how would they look like, how would they act, how will they reproduce, how will they communicate with us and so on.
I enjoyed the book mainly because I learned a lot of stuff. I learned about the tons of weird creatures we have right here on earth - alien-like creatures. I enjoyed reading about space-travel possibilities, about weird planets, and weird possible alien life-forms.
All in all, this book is about using science and imagination to think about how possible aliens would be like.
This is not a book for UFO fanatics in no way. It's rather a scientific book about the possibilities.
When, again, the single most important thing I learned from it is about the BILLIONS of species we have right here on earth that are VERY alien.
The book is interesting most of the time, only a few boring sections; And it would have been much more enjoyable if the many sketches/drawings would have been better.
All in all, I can recommend it for those who like to speculate, learn and think..
Kla-too Barada Nik-toe
Reviewer: starandysmom (see more about me) from Santa Clara, CA USA
This book finds polymath Clifford Pickover at nearly the top of his game. This is a wide-ranging exploration of alien-related topics from science and popular culture. The book is organized into 9 chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of "alien-ness".
Liberal use of material from science fiction literature (including Pickover's own SF books) provide a good contrast to the hard science also on display here. Very nicely done black and white illustrations from many sources are a plus.
The chapter on 'Appearance' goes beyond the obvious 'they won't look like us'. Pickover meditates on the many exotic shapes of life on our own planet, and discusses symmetry, brain location, and appendages. In 'Senses', he speculates on how aliens might 'smell' and 'see' their own environment. He makes the interesting proposition that the first aliens that we meet will likely be 'immortals'.
Like much of good science fiction, he describes in some detail the extreme 'Environments' in which aliens might live, using earth geology as a starting point. He discusses life as we know it in very hot, cold, airless, acidic, alkaline, salty, high pressure, and dry conditions. He then proceeds to speculate on environments as inhospitable (relatively) as a high gravity Brown Dwarf, and the vacuum of space.
In 'Origins' he discusses earth-based molecular biology as well as the theory of panspermia. He also considers the likelihood that meteorites and comets have been important mechanisms for dispersing some of the keys elements for life. He concludes this discussion closer to home with some speculation on the kinds of life we will find on Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Mars (when we get there).
He posits that our initial 'Communication' will likely be mathematical in form; although, he does allow for the possibility of finding some kind of genetic message first. He is a strong advocate of the work done by SETI. The book generously includes a description of how to build an amateur SETI system.
In the section on 'Travel' I found a wondrously simple explanation of TACHYONS (I've wondered about them since my first Star Trek episode in 1966). Pickover surveys the physics of high speed travel, distance and death.
He wraps the book with a skeptical discussion of (what else?) 'Alien Abduction'. He branches off here into one of his favorite topics, temporal lobe epilepsy.
Numerous references to popular culture (television & movies) will date the material eventually. Chapter notes are as interesting as the main text; very good bibliography and table of contents.