Useful References for Life in the Universe
Department of Physics
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
The existence of intelligent life in the universe
- I.S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan, Intelligent Life in the
Universe, Holaenday, NY, 1966. This is the book that brought
widespread attention to the debate on extraterrestrial intelligence.
- M.J. Crowe, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate: 1750-1900,
Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1982. History of the thoughts on ETI
over a somewhat odd time interval.
- Edward Regis Jr., Extraterrestrials: Science and Alien
Intelligence, Cambridge, 1987. This is a book of essays written by
evolutionary biologists, physicists, computer scientists, geologists
and philosophers on the possibility of the existence of other
intelligent beings in the universe. This is probably the single best
book on the topic I have uncovered. There are hundreds of useful
- Thomas B. H. Kuiper and Glen David Brin., Extraterrestrial
Civilization, AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers), 1989.
This is a set of essays written from a physical science point of view
about the existence or nonexistence of extraterrestrial intelligent
species. Several dozen references are provided in the opening article,
covering many sides of the issue. Also included are technical
articles on space travel and search strategies, as well as a good
discussion on "The Great Silence", i.e., the absence of any evidence
(UFOs notwithstanding) of extraterrestrial species.
- Carl Sagan, ed., Communication with Extraterrestrial
Intelligence, MIT press, 1973. Proceedings of a conference on
ETI. This has a number of interesting articles, but, alas, no
references. G.G. Simpson makes an interesting cameo appearance in
Appendix B where he defends his thesis (see below for reference) that
the existence of intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe is
- Joseph F. Baugher, On Civilized Stars, Prentice-Hall,
1985. A general book on the subject.
- Steven Dole, Habitable Planets for Man, Blaisdell, NY,
1964. A classic survey on the planetary conditions needed for life to
- P.C.W. Davies, The Accidental Universe, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 1982. This is a technical book laying out
the main arguments for the anthropic principle, which states that the
physical constants which define the present universe have "special
values", i.e., those necessary to support the existence of observers
- Scientific American, October, 1994. This is an entire issue
devoted to the question of extraterrestrial intelligence. A number of
authors from many branches of science contributed to the issue. I
recommend this issue as a good place to start place to start reading.
- Gregg. Easterbrook, Are We Alone, in Atlantic Monthly, August,
1988, p.25. A lay introduction to the search for extraterrestrial
- Frank Tipler, A brief History of the Extraterrestrial
Intelligence Concept, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical
Society 22, 133-145 (1981). This is a useful reference on
the history of human thinking on ETI.
- Frank Tipler, Extraterrestrial Intelligent Beings do not
Exist, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society
21, 267-281 (1980); Q. J. R. Astron. Soc. 22, 279-292
(1981). A pessimist's point of view written by a physicist. Tipler
argues that if technical intelligent civilizations arose, then at
least one of them would explore (and colonize) the galaxy in a
timescale short compared to the age of the galaxy. He argues that the
absence of alien artifacts in this solar system is proof that no such
civilizations have arisen. An intriguing part of this proposal is his
assertion that an advanced civilization would employ self-replicating
"von Neumann" robots as an efficient strategy for spreading throughout
the galaxy, because the number of search vehicles would grow
exponentially while requiring only a small initial investment.
- Frank Tipler, Extraterrestrial Intelligent Beings do not
Exist, Physics Today, April 1981, p. 9. Tipler repeats his
argument here to an audience of physicists. This could be trouble...
- Letters column, The Readers Respond to Tipler, Physics
Today, March, 1982. You knew this had to happen. Tipler's article
generated a vocal response and many quite readable letters are printed
here. Unfortunately (at least in my opinion), many of the respondents
show an unwarranted pessimism in extrapolating technical feasibility.
- George G. Simpson, The Non-Prevalence of Humanoids,
Science 143, 769-775 (1964); Chapters 12 and 13 in This View
of Life, Harcourt, NY, 1964. A famous evolutionary biologist argues
that the evolutionary pathway that led to the development of
intelligent humanoids is random, not directed, and thus it is unlikely
that intelligent races have evolved elsewhere in the universe.
- A.E. Slater and R. Bieri, Humanoids on Other Planets,
American Scientist 52, 425-458 (1964). Similar argument to that
made by G.G. Simpson about the low probability of other beings like us
- B.J. Carr and M.J. Rees, The Anthropic Principle and the
Structure of the Physical World, Nature 278, 605-612
(1979). Technical article exploring how the presence of observers in
the universe (i.e., us) constrains the values of the physical
constants in such a way as to allow the existence of such
observers. Not for the faint of heart.
- G. Gale, The Anthropic Principle, in Scientific American,
Septemer, 1981, p.154-171. A popularized account of the anthropic
- A. Linde, Particle Physics and Inflationary Cosmology, in
Physics Today, September, 1981, p.61-68. Review of the inflationary
model for the origin of the universe. The inflationary theory removes
the need for many "special initial conditions" in the way the universe
came to be the way it is.
SETI and related topics
These references are concerned almost solely with the technical
problem of communicating with extraterrestrial beings. Many of these
were taken from the article by
H. Paul Shuch.
Billingham, John, Project Cyclops. Moffett Field, CA: NASA CR 114445, 1971.
Bova, Ben and Byron Preiss, editors, First Contact. New York, New American
Library Books, 1990.
Bracewell, Ronald N. The Galactic Club. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976.
Drake, Frank and Dava Sobel, Is Anyone Out There? New York: Dell
Gamov, George, The Creation of the Universe, Revised Edition. New York:
Viking Press, 1961.
Holmes, David C. The Search for Life on Other Worlds. New York: Bandam
Jesperson, James and Jane Fitz-Randolph, Looking at the Invisible
Universe. New York: Atheneum, 1990.
Kraus, John, Radio Astronomy, 2nd edition. Powell, OH: Cygnus-Quasar
Kraus, John, Big Ear Two. Powell, OH: Cygnus-Quasar Books, 1995.
Morrison, Philip, John Billingham and John Wolfe, editors, The Search for
Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Washington DC, NASA SP-419, 1977.
Swift, David, SETI Pioneers. Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1990.
Adler, Jerry, "Searching for a Real E.T." Newsweek, January 31, 1983, 64.
Berman, Louis, "Eavesdropping on Other Worlds." QST, June 1993, 47-48.
Bowyer, Stuart, et. al. "The Berkeley Parasitic SETI Program." Icarus 53,
Drentea, Cornell, "Radio Astronomy and the Search for Extraterrestrial
Intelligence." Ham Radio, March 1985, 10-35.
Lichtman, Jeffery M. "Radio Astronomy and Other Civilizations."
Satellite Times, January/February 1995, 72-73.
Machol, Robert E. "An Ear to the Universe." IEEE Spectrum, March 1976,
Mechanic, Michael, "SETI's Big Galactic Gamble." Metro, December 22-28,
Moncrief, Frank J. "Searching for Life in the Microwave 'Water Hole'."
Microwave Systems News, March 1978, 19-26.
Oliver, Bernard M. "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."
Engineering and Science, January 1975, 9-11 + 30-32.
Sagan, Carl and Frank Drake, "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."
Scientific American, May 1975, 80-89.
SETIQuest (quarterly). Helmers Publishing, Inc., 174 Concord Street,
Peterborough NH 03459.
SETI News (quarterly). SETI Institute, 2035 Landings Drive,
Mountain View CA 94043.