The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond

by Barry Parker, Drawings by Lori Scoffield
Plenum Trade, New York, 1998, 254 pp., hardcover, $27.95.

Reviewed by Douglas Chapman

This is a good look at the major theories regarding possible extraterrestrial life. In accessible language, it covers the various ideas about life’s development, and describes: the other planets as life habitats, the SETI attempts to communicate with intelligent extraterrestrials, and possible future methods of flight to the stars. And the book asks whether Earth has been visited by entities from elsewhere.

Photos and clear diagrams help the reader with the basics, while Lori Scoffield’s drawings of profiled scientists add their nice touches.

Parker, who has received the McDonald Observatory Science Writing Award, tells how humanity came to its present understandings.

His chapters on Mars are some of the more intriguing in the book, and cover such observers of its mysteries as William Herschel, Giovanni Schiaparelli, Percival Lowell and others. The effect that water has had on Mars in the past and present is demonstrated—even to its possible use in terraforming.

Unlike many writing the “establishment science” line, Parker is willing to leave the door open a crack for extraterrestrial UFOs. Regarding Roswell, he notes that the Majestic-12 team was “referred to in a top secret Canadian file that has recent surfaced; there is a vague reference to it in General Twining’s secret memos” etc. Parker does not subscribe to the ET hypothesis as an explanation for present puzzles, though he things it more likely to have happened in the past. He sympathetically quotes a scholarly journalist, Keith Thompson: “The central paradox of the human-alien interaction is the continuing unsolvability of the UFO phenomenon by conventional means and models, coupled with the continuing manifestation of the phenomenon in increasingly bizarre forms.”

Those who want a concise look at the possibilities of alien life will find this a good starting point; it is a useful “primer” for all ages.

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