Date: Tue Nov 09 1993 16:32:00 To: ALL Subj: Drake book review UFO - AUTHOR DELIVERS INSIG

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Date: Tue Nov 09 1993 16:32:00 From: SHEPPARD GORDON To: ALL Subj: Drake book review UFO ------------------------------- AUTHOR DELIVERS INSIGHTS INTO LIFE SPENT IN SEARCH OF EXTRATERRESTRIALS 11/03/93 PORTLAND OREGONIAN IS ANYONE OUT THERE? Frank Drake and Dava Sobel (Delacorte Press; $22) "From a distance of a hundred yards at twilight, you might almost mistake them for human. They'll have their heads at the tops of their bodies, I suspect, and their eyes in their heads, not far from their mouths. I think they'll walk on two legs, too, as we do, but I suppose (they'll) have four arms instead of two. Two just aren't enough, as far as I'm concerned. Four makes for a much better design." The author of those words is neither an unidentified flying object buff nor a hack writer for supermarket tabloids. He's astronomer Frank Drake, who invented the Search for Extra Terrestrial Life -- dubbed with the acronym "SETI" -- when he directed Project OZMA in 1960. But while Drake fully expects we will contact intelligent alien life forms before the 21st century begins, he doesn't expect we'll ever see E.T. strolling through a terrestrial twilight. "Many individuals, knowing of my dedication to the search for extraterrestrial life, expect me to be receptive to the UFO idea," he writes, but "I do not believe that UFOs are alien spacecraft." Drake's skepticism not only includes UFOs and those who claim contact with aliens -- "not once has any reported contact produced some new, previously unknown fact . . . that we could verify" -- but encompasses science fiction as well. "Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock lied to us. The energy required to visit another star prohibits even the most advanced civilizations from making such a journey." Instead of visiting us, "They are going to talk to us, long distance, by radio. I think they will agree that it doesn't pay to transport things through space as long as they can transport information." Radio waves, says Drake, are "the most economical way" to send information. A Cornell graduate and ex-Navy electronics officer, Drake found himself a radio, rather than optical, astronomer by chance. Only he, at Harvard's fledgling radio astronomy facility, could "make the machines work." Although Project OZMA was unsuccessful -- the one seemingly intelligent signal received during 200 hours of listening apparently came not from an alien civilization but from a passing airplane -- interest in SETI grew steadily. With Dava Sobel's help, Drake takes readers on a fascinating "tour" of the three decades that followed. Part autobiography and part SETI history, "Is Anyone Out There?" intertwines Drake's career, the growth of radio astronomy and the evolution and current state of SETI. It also examines the problems and hazards of both interplanetary travel and what might be called "the science of politics." Thanks to Sobel's writing skills, "Is Anyone Out There?" is no dry recitative, but a warm, witty and readily understandable look at a man and a program whose effect upon all our lives in only just beginning to be understood.


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