Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future

By Jeffrey Bennett | Go to book overview

2
WHAT MAKES IT SCIENCE?

All our science, measured against reality, is primi-
tive and childlike—and yet it is the most precious
thing we have.

Albert Einstein

I’d always wanted to see a real UFO—something in the sky that I could not explain and that would therefore qualify as an unidentified flying object. Then, even without proof, I could at least hope that I’d seen an alien spacecraft. For most of my life, it never happened. Sure, I saw lots of strange things in the sky. But with a little thought, I’d soon conclude that I’d only seen a distant airplane or a rocket trail or the planet Venus seeming to dart about as clouds passed in front of it. Ironically, I finally saw my first UFO just a few weeks after I started working on this book.

I was outside with my then 6-year-old son, Grant, watching the stars in the predawn sky. Venus was shining brightly in the east, which made me do a double take when I suddenly saw another object shining just as brightly in the west. Over the next few seconds, the object grew brighter and brighter until it was by far the brightest object in the sky. I called to Grant to look over at it. “Wow!” he said. Then, as quickly as it had brightened, it faded away. To my eyes it merely disappeared. But Grant, who as a child has much better night vision, said it darted off to the right as it vanished from view. The entire episode lasted no more than about 10 seconds.

No airplane could have moved in that way, nor could it have been a satellite or rocket trail. It wasn’t a planet, and it wasn’t a cloud. In fact, my first thought as I watched it brighten was that I was witnessing the explosion of a distant star—a nova or a supernova. But its rapid disappearance ruled out this idea, because stellar explosions take days or weeks to fade from view. So what was it? Had I finally witnessed an alien spacecraft flying in for a quick glimpse of my town?

-22-

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Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Jeffrey Bennett ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface - Alien Dreams xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - Worlds beyond Imagination 1
  • 2 - What Makes It Science? 22
  • 3 - What I Know about Aliens 41
  • 4 - What Is Life? 62
  • 5 - Betting Life Started 87
  • 6 - The Makings of a Truly Great Planet 111
  • 7 - Life in the Solar System 137
  • 8 - Life among the Stars 161
  • 9 - The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence 184
  • 10 - Where Is Everybody? 197
  • To Learn More 207
  • Afterword to the Paperback Edition 209
  • Index 221
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