Intelligent Life in the Universe Author:I. S. Shklovskii, Carl Sagan Scientific study of finding extraterrestrial life., August 1, 1997 — Reviewer: A reader — This is a detailed treatment of the scientific work done in the fields of cosmology and "exobiology" (i.e. extraterrestrial life). It is written for the layman, with paragraphs written in a smaller font that hammer out the technical details.
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Sagan annotates the original Russian work of Shklovskii. Sagan's annotations help clarify some of Shklovskii's work by inserting examples and 'fer-instance's, offering opposing arguments, and telling charming tales in his incomparable way.
The book has three sections. The first deals with Cosmology, which is the study of the structure and composition of the universe. The second section deals with the origins of life, how it happened on Earth, and how life might form in extraterrestrial environments, such as on other planets. The third section details the search for extraterrestrial life.
The book will give a sense of awe for the reader who may not know, for example, that there are former stars in our galaxy which are as massive as our Sun, are the size of our Earth, and that spin 300 times a second! (These are the pulsars). The book also succeeds in giving the reader a sense of enormity both in the size and the age of the universe.
There are sections in the book that you will want to ignore because they are severely outdated. For example, there are several chapters dealing with the quest for life on other planets in our solar system, such as Mars. All of the Mars pictures in the book are of fuzzy images from ground-based observatories. This book was written before Voyager, Viking, and the Hubble Space Telescope. So when Sagan asks "Are there canals on Mars?" or "Are the moons of Mars artificial satellites?", you can just skip it (there aren't and they aren't).
On the other hand there is much relevant information that deal with radio contact among galactic civilizations (if there are such civilizations). Here you can see the seeds of some of Sagan's later work in "The Cosmic Connection", "Cosmos", "Contact", and well others.« less
Carl S. reviewed Intelligent Life in the Universe on
This is a remarkably thorough updating and restatement of Shklovkii's "Universe, Life, Mind" w/ much new material added by Carl Sagan. Though published over 40 years ago it presents a much broader and more balanced exposition of cosmology than modern-day popular science accounts with their absurd pretence of explaining everything through garbled and mysterious references to pseudo scientific concepts such as "dark matter" and "dark energy", and the quixotic quest for a Theory of Everything.
If you are interested in this issue, I highly recommend the book. This book is extremely thorough, so thorough it could be used as a textbook on an astrobiology class. It was written in the sixties so yes its out of date here and there, but much of the information is surprisingly current. You also get a great early taste of Sagan's writing style.
The single best scientific book on intelligent life in the universe, December 6, 2005
Reviewer: B. Marshall (Washington, DC)
I used this book as an undergrad in a 400 level Astronomy class. At the time, the book was a real challenge for me in that I wanted to understand the mathematical and physical foundations of intelligent life. By the end of the course, and the book, I was, and have remained, absolutely convinced that intelligent life is plentiful in the universe, at least as can be "proved" mathematically using our physical laws. I was also convinced that human type life is in fact highly unlikely to be duplicated elsewhere in the universe. Finally, it is likely that many of this other intelligent life is perhaps vastly superior to our own. No, I'm not a nut, and I'm not a scientist, but I am convinced, even in the absence of physical evidence. Read this book, you'll make your own mind up. One warning, this is not "light reading". It is a college level textbook, that if you stay with it, will reward you in the end. What a shame we have lost such a great mind as Carl Sagan. To date, no one has stepped up to replace him.