"A cogent, engaging history of humanity's most ambitious quest--seeking outward for other minds."--David Brin, author of Existence
"A fascinating perspective on humankind's obsession for knowing if there is anyone else out there."--Gerrit Verschuur, author of The Invisible Universe: The Story of Radio Astronomy
Imagine a network of extraterrestrials in radio contact with each other across the universe, superior beings who hail from advanced civilizations quadrillions of miles away, just waiting for Earth to tune in. Some people believe it's only a matter of time before we discover the right "station."
Waiting for Contact tells the story of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) movement, which emerged in 1959 as new technological developments turned what once was speculation into science: astronomers began using radio telescopes to listen for messages from space. Boosted by support from Frank Drake, Philip Morrison, and Carl Sagan, the SETI movement gained followers and continues to capture imaginations today.
In this one-of-a-kind history, Lawrence Squeri looks at the people, the reasons, the goals, and the mindsets behind SETI. He shows how it started as an expression of the times, a way out of Cold War angst into hope for a better world. SETI's early advocates thought that with guidance from technically and ethically advanced outsiders, humanity might learn how to avoid horrors like World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Squeri also describes the challenges SETI has faced over the years: the struggle to be taken seriously by the scientific community and by NASA, competition for access to radio telescopes, perpetual lack of funding, and opposition by the government. Yet--lest readers be tempted into similar skepticism--he points out that if, against all expectations, the embattled SETI movement finally succeeds, the long-awaited first signal picked up by its radio antennas would usher in the greatest shift in human history.