Cover image for Beyond contact : a guide to SETI and communicating with alien civilizations
Beyond contact : a guide to SETI and communicating with alien civilizations
McConnell, Brian.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Beijing ; Sebastopol, Calif. : O'Reilly, [2001]

Physical Description:
vi, 417 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB54 .M23 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"What do we need to know about to discover life in space?" --Frank Drake, 1961In the early 1960s, Frank Drake, a young astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, developed what is now known as the "Drake Equation" in an effort to determine how many intelligent, communicative civilizations our galaxy could harbor. For forty years, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has combed the skies in search of signals from star systems within the galaxy. In Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations, author Brian McConnell goes behind the scenes and examines what goes into the search for intelligent life.SETI is a four-step process. First we have to know where to look; then we must be able to send and receive signals to that star system. Once signals arrive, scientists then need to be able to interpret those signals into something that can be understood. And although we haven't yet received any signals (except for our own Earth-based transmissions), we'll eventually have to figure out a protocol for responding. Beyond Contact introduces you to:

The history of SETI research, including the early searches of Project Ozma, traditional radio astronomy, the search for intelligence in optical wavelengths (known as Optical SETI, or OSETI), and the SETI@home project. An overview of the Drake Equation and the Rare Earth Hypothesis, which scientists use to estimate the number of planets in our galaxy that could harbor intelligent, communicative life forms. How signals are sent and received over interstellar distances. The author explains the principles of signal and image processing, and how SETI researchers identify and process analog signals using Fourier transforms to see how the power in a signal is distributed across different frequencies. How to build a general-purpose symbolic language for sending signals, and even computer programs, with present-day SETI equipment. The ability to transmit computer programs enables us to let another civilization know about our knowledge and technological capabilities. The author also shows how SETI research--though often thought to be a mere flight of fancy--has spawned technological improvements in astronomy, computers, and wireless communications. Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations sidesteps the "little green men" approach to take a hard, realistic look at the technologies behind the search for intelligent life in our universe.

Author Notes

Brian McConnell is the author of Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations, and a contributor to Between Worlds, an upcoming SETI book from the SETI Institute and MIT Press. McConnell also publishes TelephonyDesign.Com, an online resource about telecommunications products and technology.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

McConnell offers an engrossing and enjoyable book that is not the typical guide to SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Only the first 15 percent of the book discusses the usual topics--the probability for intelligent life elsewhere, the reasons and methods for listening, the procedures for vetting good possibilities from the cacophony of background cosmic noise, etc. The remainder examines how we might conduct high-level communications across interstellar distances for which the turnaround time will be a decade or more. If the reader knows how to write a computer program, about 50 percent of the book will be familiar and redundant. For others, the buildup from binary coding to abstract ideas expressed numerically is extremely well organized. The final product is a message communication technique to or from an alien civilization that seems plausible and encouraging. Loaded with diagrams, a great glossary and index, with a selected bibliography of books, journal articles, and Internet Web sites. Undergraduates through professionals; two-year technical program students. F. Potter formerly, University of California, Irvine

Table of Contents

Part I Are We Alone?
1 SETI for Everyonep. 3
2 Listening to the Starsp. 11
3 The Drake Equationp. 21
4 Evolutionp. 35
5 Communicative Civilizationsp. 57
Part II Getting A Dial Tone
6 Radio Communicationp. 75
7 Lightwave (Laser) Communicationp. 99
8 Signal Processing and Confirmationp. 119
9 Bringing SETI Homep. 147
10 Teleporting Bitsp. 159
Part III Communicating With Other Worlds
11 CETI--Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligencep. 181
12 Binary DNAp. 197
13 Symbolsp. 213
14 Memory and Programmingp. 239
15 Concepts and igenesp. 255
16 Sequencing the Binary Genomep. 275
17 Picturesp. 293
18 Simulationsp. 313
19 Abstract Symbols and Languagep. 329
20 Semantic Networksp. 347
21 Contentp. 359
Epiloguep. 371
Part IV Appendixes
A Message Replicationp. 375
B SETI Resources on the Internetp. 385
C SETI Program Timelinep. 387
Glossaryp. 391
Selected Bibliographyp. 401
Acknowledgmentsp. 403
How to Contact Usp. 405
Indexp. 407