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Adam Frank — Aliens: Real and Imagined

The Little Book of Aliens (book cover)

Everyone is curious about life in the Universe, UFOs and whether ET is out there. Over the course of his thirty-year career as an astrophysicist, Adam Frank has consistently been asked about the possibility of intelligent life in the universe. Are aliens real? Where are they? Why haven’t we found them? What happens if we do?

We’ve long been led to believe that astronomers spend every night searching the sky for extraterrestrials, but the truth is we have barely started looking. Not until now have we even known where to look or how. In The Little Book of Aliens, Frank, a leading researcher in the field, takes us on a journey to all that we know about the possibility of life outside planet Earth and shows us the cutting-edge science that has brought us to this unique moment in human history: the one where we go find out for ourselves.

In this small book with big stakes, Frank gives us a rundown of everything we need to know, from the scientific origins of the search for intelligent life, the Fermi Paradox, the Kardashev Scale, the James Webb Telescope, as well as UFOs and their conspiracy theories. Drawing from his own work and that of other scientists studying the possibility of alien life, he brings together the latest scientific thinking, data, ideas, and discoveries to equip us with the critical facts as we stand at what may be the last moment in human history where we still believe we are all alone. This book is about everything we do—and do not—know about life, intelligent or otherwise beyond Earth. In language that is engaging, entertaining and fun, The Little Book of Aliens provides a comprehensive first look at how close we are to finding out if others actually exist—and if they do, what they might be like.

Humankind is on the precipice of finding its neighbors. What comes next? No person is better suited to answer that question—and lead the search—than Adam Frank.

Adam Frank is the Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester. A Carl Sagan Medal winner from the American Astronomical Society, he is also the author of Light of the Stars and was the science advisor for Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Frank is the principal investigator on NASA’s first grant to study technosignatures — signs of advanced civilizations on other worlds — and his current work focuses on the evolution of life and planets, the “Astrobiology of the Anthropocene,” and the long-term trajectory of civilizations He lives in Rochester, New York.

Shermer and Frank discuss:

  • Origin of Life
  • Drake Equation
  • Fermi’s Paradox
  • UFOs and UAPs
  • Projects Sign, Blue Book, Cyclops, Grudge
  • AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program)
  • Alien Autopsy film
  • SETI and METI
  • SETI optimists vs. pessimists
  • Oumuamua and Avi Loeb’s claim that it was a technosignature
  • Technosignatures here and there
  • Biosignatures here and there
  • Will aliens be biological or AI?
  • Will aliens look anything like us? Convergent vs. contingent evolution
  • Directionality and teleology in evolution of life
  • Interstellar travel
  • Dyson spheres, rings, and swarms
  • Kardashev scale of civilizations
  • Communicating with aliens: Arrival
  • Aliens communicating with us: The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Order of the Dolphin: how to talk to aliens when we can’t even talk to dolphins
  • Deities for Atheists, Skygods for Skeptics: aliens as gods and the search as religion
  • Why aliens matter.

This episode was released on November 18, 2023.

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