Cover image for Captured by aliens : the search for life and truth in a very large universe
Captured by aliens : the search for life and truth in a very large universe
Achenbach, Joel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
415 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB54 .A23 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QB54 .A23 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
QB54 .A23 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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An analysis of the search for extraterrestrial life reflects on larger issues of science, superstition, and spirituality to examine the elusive question of aliens' existence and discusses Carl Sagan, alien abductions, and other related topics.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Achenbach intensely scrutinizes the timeless preoccupation with the search for life beyond Earth, asserting that the existence of aliens can only be, and as of yet has not been, proven scientifically with concrete evidence. Since our understanding is limited with regard to aspects of evolution, the complexities of the human mind and body, the extinction of dinosaurs, and the existence of life beyond Earth, Achenbach contends that such gaps in knowledge are filled in through myth-making on the part of both scientists and the public alike. This is an intensive journey that takes a look at the career of the late scientist Carl Sagan; a meeting of the International UFO Congress in Roswell, New Mexico (the scene of an alleged 1947 flying saucer crash); an encounter with a woman who believes she is an alien; and a nostalgic view of the past and future of space travel. What stands out is Achenbach's belief that the search for extraterrestrials is fundamentally a search for ourselves, our purpose--an answer to who we are in an awfully big universe. --Jami Didion

Publisher's Weekly Review

In energetic, engaging prose, Washington Post staff reporter Achenbach (Why Things Are) introduces readers to an eclectic mix of scientists, millennialists, channelers, UFOlogists, debunkers and true believers who have been captivated, if not captured, by the notion of extraterrestrial life. The central figures are Carl Sagan ("a visionary, a poet of science, a quote machine for reporters on deadline") and Frank Drake, who promulgated a famous equation to predict N, the number of intelligent, communicating civilizations likely to exist in a galaxy like ours. In 1975, Drake estimated N to be 10,000; Sagan guessed a million. Urged on by Sagan and Drake, scientists have tried to eavesdrop on cosmic chat. Nearly 25 years later, the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence has continued to reveal nothing, in Achenbach's view, beyond static and the optimism of its advocates. In addition to respected scientists, Achenbach travels to a UFO convention, where he meets a man convinced that the aliens have the medical technology to cure his aching back and that President Clinton traveled by spaceship from Arkansas to New York (it took 15 minutes). ET is here, say many of those Achenbach interviewed, but we don't believe the evidence because of government deception and coverups. Achenbach's book can be appreciated for its assortment of characters and for its witty style. Whether N is one or one million, and whether intelligence is the result of deliberate creation or natural evolution, he concludes, we are privileged to be members of a species able to wonder about it. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Journalist Achenbach has devoted much effort over the past several years to studying a broad spectrum of views on the question of extraterrestrial life, extending his inquiry from the most hard-nosed scientists to the most credulous, irrational members of the UFO fringes. The contents of his new book are best represented by the volume's subtitle; it is quite clear that Achenbach gives no credence to alien abduction stories or similar looniness. Despite his openness to hearing and reporting nonscientific speculation, in the end he supports science as the best method of inquiry in the notoriously tricky search for possible life in other worlds. His hero is Carl Sagan, who stretched far in the hope of finding extraterrestrial life but who, in the long run, honored the constraints of the scientific method. This book is well written, and Achenbach's adroit use of nicely timed, appropriate humor further enhances its readability. Although not a scientist himself, Achenbach has absorbed and reliably reported the current "state of the art." Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄJack W. Weigel, formerly with Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.