How Likely is Extraterrestrial Life?

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Springer Science & Business Media, Jan 5, 2012 - Science - 151 pages
What does existing scientific knowledge about physics, chemistry, meteorology and biology tell us about the likelihood of extraterrestrial life and civilizations? And what does the fact that there is currently no credible scientific evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial biospheres or civilizations teach us?

This book reviews the various scientific issues that arise in considering the question of how common extraterrestrial life is likely to be in our galaxy and whether humans are likely to detect it. The book stands out because of its very systematic organization and relatively unbiased treatment of the main open question. It covers all relevant aspects of many disciplines required to present the different possible answers.

It has and will provide undergraduates with a stimulating introduction to many of these fields at an early stage in their university careers, when they are still choosing a specialty. The difficulties and the range of possible answers to the title question are carefully addressed in the light of present understanding. The resulting perspective is distinctly different from those suggested by most other books on this topic.

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1 Introduction
Part IBottom Up What We Learn from Basic Science About the Likelihoodof Extraterrestrial Life
Part IITop Down What We Learn from theFailure of Attempts to DetectExtraterrestrial Life
Appendix 11 Forms of the Drake Equation
Appendix 21 The Doppler Shift
Appendix 31 Doppler Shifts for Circular Planet Orbits
Appendix 41 Catalysis at Surfaces
Appendix 42 A KauffmanLike Model
Appendix 61 Diffusion and Random Walks
Appendix 62 Modeling Diffusion Birth and Death
Appendix 63 Units of Radiation Dosage
Appendix 71 Origin of the 21 cm Line
Appendix 72 SETI Microwave Searches
Appendix 73 FM and AM Signals
Appendix 74 Quantitative Analysis of Messages Correlations Information Entropy and Complexity

Appendix 51 Evaluating How an Experiment or Observation Affects the Relative Likelihood of Two Competing Theories

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About the author (2012)

Dr. J. Woods Halley is a full professor of physics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, where he has taught since 1968. His research specialties are in condensed matter and chemical physics simulation and theory. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has taught a yearly seminar for undergraduates on the subject of the book since the mid 1990’s. He is also the author of Statistical Mechanics, Cambridge Press (2006) and the editor of 6 conference proceedings volumes. Dr. Halley got his Ph.D. in Physics from U. California, Berkeley in 1965 and his B.S. at MIT, 1961.

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