Publishers Weekly Review
Miller (It's Not Rocket Science), an English comedian and science writer, celebrates the human fascination with the search for extraterrestrial life and grounds it with equally fascinating science. The place to start studying aliens, Miller assures readers, is right here on Earth. Extremophiles-microorganisms that live in seemingly inimical environments such as inside rocks around deep-sea volcanic vents or frigid Antarctic lakes-show that life is "tenacious, commonplace, and infinitely adaptable." Such strange life forms might even be as nearby as the icy oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa or the methane slush on Saturn's moon Titan. Miller covers a lot of ground with humor and insight, addressing how scientists define life and how it evolved on Earth, and offering a short history of UFO sightings and scientists' continued search for life-bearing exoplanets and signals from alien civilizations. Miller's book is a lively and accessible blend of pop culture and science in which a Dire Straits encore explains the Drake Equation, the platypus introduces evolution, the second law of thermodynamics gets a workout, and readers meet Mazlan Othman, the UN's official ambassador for Earth. Pop science readers will have fun with this energetic look at the hunt for alien life. Agent: Heather Holden-Brown, HHB (U.K.). (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
In this book, Miller (a trained quantum physicist, an actor, and a comedian) interestingly addresses the question of whether humans exist alone in the universe and how this question can be answered. The author helpfully explores the cosmology and thermodynamics that shape human reality and how these affect the possibility of other forms of life. He explains what is known about the possible origin of life and the timing of how it evolved, attempting to conceptualize how human experience might inform the search for extraterrestrial life. Intelligence has evolved in various ways in animals as diverse as humans, crows, dolphins, and octopuses; thus, if complex life is frequent, then intelligent life may also be widespread. Detection of life may be possible soon, but finding and communicating with intelligent aliens poses greater problems, made worse by great astronomical distances and time lags due to the light speed limitation. With this work, Miller shows that he has a well-developed ability to explain complex concepts simply and clearly, with a dash of humor. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; faculty and general readers. --Malcolm K. Cleaveland, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Booklist Review
This rousing history of the search for extraterrestrial life takes us from the origins of the twentieth-century fixation on UFOs right up to present-day scientific research. It's a very entertaining book (its author is a noted British comedian), but it's also rigorously researched and intelligently presented. The story of humanity's search for extraterrestrial life is a deeply fascinating one, jump-starting in the late 1940s, when a pilot reported seeing objects in the sky, and when a UFO was alleged to have crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico. After decades of unverifiable reports of UFO visitations, real scientists started doing real investigation. Early space exploration was depressing Venus and Mercury proved to be barren but exploration of Earth itself became breathtakingly encouraging. Miller reports, for example, that we now know that life exists on our planet in the most inhospitable environments environments that could easily exist elsewhere. Researchers across multiple scientific disciplines, we learn, are developing new ways to look for extraterrestrial life, and a new consensus is slowly becoming clear: life on other worlds exists. That is a tremendously exciting possibility, and reading about it has its own kind of excitement, too.--Pitt, David Copyright 2016 Booklist