The Elusive WOW: Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Robert H. Gray. . Palmer Square (Ingram, dist.), $29.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-9839584-4-4
Gray delivers a bland history of what should be an exciting topic: the search for intelligent life in the universe. The “WOW!” in the title refers to the exclamation written in the margin of a radio telescope data printout in 1977, data the scientists in Ohio hoped had come from an ET. Gray, who has written for Sky & Telescope and the Astrophysical Journal, says the “WOW” radio signal was many times more powerful than background emissions in the vicinity and didn’t come from any known star. It was recorded only once, however. Gray counts down his own attempts to rediscover WOW with a home-brew radio telescope, as well as other large-scale searches by the radio astronomy community, but after years of searching, no repetition of the signal has been found. Gray then quickly covers the usual bases in recounting star formation, the discovery of exoplanets, and a brief look at how life evolved on Earth. A section on search strategies for seeking extraterrestrial intelligence is intriguing, but, like the rest of the book, only skims the surface of one of the most exciting topics in science. 75 illus. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 12/01/2011
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