I was picking up a friend at the airport a couple of weekends past. While I was standing beyond the TSA line waiting for him to deplane, a magazine in the ubiquitous airport shop grabbed my attention from 50 feet away. It was Time’s The Search for Life in the Universe, sub-titled “Is Anybody Out There? Science is Finding New Clues.” You can see to the left why the cover of this magazine caught my eye from so far away. It is gorgeous.
It was so gorgeous it pulled me into the shop to look at it. Then it commanded me to buy it. Obviously I was under alien influence because who really shops in an airport unless they are getting on a plane, which I was not. I bought it anyway. It was only $16.99 in an airport. It’ll be less at the local magazine rack I’m sure.
It is a gorgeous 96-page spine bound magazine made up of nothing but beautiful glossy pages – emphasis on beautiful. It will look great on anyone’s coffee table. The paper is nearly cardstock thick. Stiff enough you won’t want to bend the pages back or dog-ear them, but flexible enough I had no trouble holding it open while reading in bed. Magazines seem to have become my bedtime ritual since I mostly listen to books these days. I still love the feel of pages in between thumb and fingers though.
Besides the incredible cover and alien influence, what made me pull it from the shelf was the wide range of articles within its covers. It not only tells the story of how our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has gone to date, but also delves into future possibilities and the deeper questions of whether life exists out there at all, and if so in what possible form. It uses examples of what we’ve discovered on Earth to help answer those larger questions. It is a practical A to Z of what matters in the search for life beyond Earth.
The reading is easy yet thought-provoking. There is science within the covers, but it is used illustratively, utilizing everyday language, and only when necessary to explain the significance of a discovery or reasons directing the search in particular directions. And best of all, it talks about the people involved. From the planet hunters to the extremophile discoverers, it talks about their triumphs and their disappointments.
If you want to know more about how the search for life out there is going, and what motivates the searchers, I can’t imagine a better read. If you are looking for hard facts and science though, you may want to graduate to a more academic text. This magazine is meant for the average person who is interested, but not necessarily dedicated to the proposition that not all equations are mandatory. The only equation in this publication is the Drake Equation. But I will admit, it told me a few things I did not know – and I’ve been into SETI since Carl Sagan’s COSMOS and have donated many, many CPU cycles to the SETI@home project. Maybe life here did start out there…
tl;dr Highly recommended.