cover image Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos

Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos

Don Lincoln. Johns Hopkins Univ., $29.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-4214-1072-2

Lincoln (Quantum Frontier), senior scientist at Fermilab, the Department of Energy’s accelerator lab in Batavia, Ill., guides the reader through a maze of commonly held images of “Aliens,” sentient extra-terrestrials, as opposed to “aliens,” biological entities such as blue moss that might be found on other planets. He devotes the first half of this informative book addressing the hoaxes, misunderstandings, and fictional treatments that have created these images. Lincoln stresses that he wants only to give an overview of prevailing opinions from movies of the 1950s to alien abduction stories. Rather than dismiss Alien life out of hand, he presents the historical and social reasons for the growth of our fascination with the possibility. After covering popular ideas, Lincoln then delves into what is scientifically possible, explaining the concepts beautifully and in layman’s terms. (He also shows that a silicon-based life form is unlikely, and does so using a graphic scatological example.) Basing his construction on the universal laws of physics, Lincoln posits what a real extra-terrestrial explorer might look like. He concludes with the Fermi paradox: if the universe is teeming with societies far ahead of us in technology, where are they? This is a clear and clear-sighted look at Aliens by a man who would be delighted if one day they appeared. B&w photos and line drawings. (Nov.)