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Literature / Extraterrestrial Civilizations

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First published in 1979, by Isaac Asimov, this Non-Fiction Novel is about the search for alien life. It attempts to create a formula similar to the Drake Equation to resolve the Fermi Paradox.

At first, Dr Asimov establishes what sort of intelligence this book will be discussing, as well as why we cannot find it on Earth (aside from humans). These questions are related to both historical accounts and fiction that reflects upon the questions. The second world that we explore is The Moon, and how it played a role in encouraging speculation about life on other planets.

Following the scientific lunar investigations, Dr Asimov establishes that for intelligent life as we know it, water is a requirement and an atmosphere is required for liquid water. The inner planets are assessed for their likelihood of possessing the requirements for life, and declared lifeless, so he goes further. In analyzing the inner planets, Dr Asimov discusses organic molecules, and explains why they form the basis of known life. These molecules are contrasted with hydrocarbons (like methane) and other volatile substances. With these established, where in the outer planets could life form?

With the solar system having strong evidence for a lack of intelligent life (aside from humans), Dr Asimov takes the investigation to other star systems, and introduces a new requirement for life/civilization; energy. From the Milky Way to other galaxies, he speculates and explains the formation of planets and their associated stars based on then-current astronomical understanding.

At this point, though, he's determined that there should be an estimated 390 million civilizations that are technologically more advanced than us. So... "Where is everybody?" (page 171). This leads into the question of where his calculations were in error; is the habitable zone simply that small, is the moon more important for the formation of life than otherwise assumed, or is intelligence not a natural product of evolution? Dr Asimov proceeds to analyze various factors of pressure upon intelligence, giving evidence for why sentience eventually becomes sapience and discussing great filters against widespread civilizations, but still coming to the conclusion that extraterrestrial civilizations should be out there, somewhere.

What follows after this is theory-crafting and encouragements. The "Space Age" is upon us; we've been to the moon, and there are several more targets we can reach for colonizing. How will we send humanity to our neighboring stars? How can we communicate with other civilizations that exist now or will exist at those distances? Our goal should be to inherit the universe, not merely squabble over a pale blue dot.

Extraterrestrial Civilizations provides examples of: