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Here Be Dragons: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life

Popular Science

By: David W Koerner(Author), Simon LeVay(Author)

264 pages, Figs

Oxford University Press USA

Paperback | Jan 2002 | #131528 | ISBN: 019514600X
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £12.99 $17/€15 approx
Hardback | Mar 2000 | #110580 | ISBN: 0195128524
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £47.99 $63/€54 approx

About this book

Please note: not to be confused with the two other books published by OUP by the same title.

The discovery of life on other planets would be perhaps the most momentous revelation in human history, more disorienting and more profound than either the Copernican or Darwinian revolutions, which knocked the earth from the centre of the universe and humankind from its position of lofty self-regard. In Here Be Dragons, astronomer David Koerner and neurobiologist Simon LeVay offer a scientifically compelling and colourful account of the search for life beyond Earth.

The authors survey the work of biologists, cosmologists, computer theorists, NASA engineers, SETI researchers, roboticists, and UFO enthusiasts and debunkers as they attempt to answer the greatest remaining question facing humankind: Are we alone? From their 'safe haven of scepticism' the authors venture into the 'rough seas of speculation', where theory and evidence run the gamut from hard science to hocus pocus.

Arguing that the universe is spectacularly suited for the evolution of living creatures, Koerner and LeVay give us ringside seats at the great debates of Big Science. The contentious arguments about what really happens in evolution, the acrimonious UFO controversy, and the debate over intelligence versus artificial intelligence shed new light on the wildly divergent claims about the universe and life's place in it. The authors argue that while no direct evidence of extraterrestrial life yet exists, habitats and chemical building blocks for life abound in the universe. A wealth of new astonomical techniques and space missions may provide this evidence early in the next century.

Lucidly written and scientifically rigorous, Here Be Dragons presents everything we know thus far about the emergence of intelligent life here on Earth, and perhaps, beyond.

"A wide-ranging, well-written, and very wise examination of the fascinating search for life in the universe, filled with the latest information from the frontiers of scientific investigation and philosophical thought."
– Ben Bova, author of Return to Mars and President Emeritus of the National Space Society

"Here Be Dragons provides a wide-ranging overview of one of the most exciting new fields of science: astrobiology [...] Koerner and LeVay discuss the many differing scientific perspectives on extraterrestial life objectively and clearly [...] I greatly enjoyed reading the book and will recommend it to my friends, both researchers and armchair scientists."
– David Morrison, Astrobiologist

"It is the question of questions: Are we alone? In a dazzling tour de force David Koerner and Simon LeVay not only bring us completely up-to-date with the relevant science, but skillfully channel the character and enthusiasm of many of the principal practitioners into a compelling narrative, spiced with the occasional puncturing of self-inflicted pomposity. The pace is gripping and the torrent of new scientific insights allows us the first glimpse of what may be a cosmic synthesis [...] If you thought science was stale and narrow, then this is the book to correct your illusions."
– Simon Conway Morris, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University, and author of The Crucible of Creation



- Origins: How Life on Earth Began
- Going to Extremes: The Habitats and Requirements for Life
- The Incredible Shrinking Martians: Searching for Life in the Solar System
- The Death and Life of Stars: Organic Chemistry and the Evolution of Solar Systems
- The Planet Finders: Searching for Life Beyond the Sun
- What Happens in Evolution? Chance and Necessity in the Origin of Biological Complexity
- SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
- Dreamland: The Science and Religion of UFOs
- Exotica: Life as we don't know it
- Many Worlds: Cosmology and the Anthropic Principle


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David W. Koerner, Assistant Professor of Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania, and Simon LeVay, Independent Consultant, former Associate Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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