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Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  299 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Aliens are big in America. Whether they've arrived via rocket, flying saucer, or plain old teleportation, they've been invading, infiltrating, or inspiring us for decades, and they've fascinated moviegoers and television watchers for more than fifty years. About half of us believe that aliens really exist, and millions are convinced they've visited Earth.

For twenty-five ye
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Hardcover, 309 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by National Geographic Society
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muthuvel
A Senior astronomer at SETI Institute in this work covered the inner workings, principles, science and motive force behind people searching for sentient beings around our planetary home. It's more like a memoir; His early life in Holland, working with Jill Tarter (Inspirational character-protagonist of Sagan's Contact Novel) and colleagues at SETI, collaborating with Hollywood directors for Sci-fi blockbuster movies like Contact, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

But as a memoir of scientist it has
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Gendou
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book is full lame similes, alliteration, and HORRIBLE puns.
There's just NO EXCUSE for this cheesy style of writing!!!
What was Seth thinking?
Maybe he intends to keep the reader's attention, or something.
Instead, it reads like a low-budget, local car commercial.

I don't know why all SETI books all have to pander to the layest of layperson.
Ben Bova and Paul Davies both wrote really poor ones, too.

Though, Seth does a good job dismissing the case for Neutrino and Gravity Wave communication as bei
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Cameron DeHart
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: listened
This (audio)book had the opposite effect of what the author intended. That's partially his fault for writing a too-cheeky book about a multi-million dollar pseudo-scientific endeavor. As another reviewer mentioned, the book is packed with terrible similes, puns, and alliteration. I'm a big fan of word play but I shouldn't be rolling my eyes at a book that's asking for more private and government money to find aliens.

To be fair, the author gives us a sufficient outline of the creation of SETI an
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Stan James
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is a fun read and my biggest complaint is that it came out in 2009 (just as the Kepler space observatory launched) and hasn't been updated, so there's a lot of near-future discussion about systems that have since come online.

Conversely, we still haven't detected extraterrestrial intelligence since then, either. :P

Some might be put off by Seth Shostak's breezy writing style, peppered with puns and humor, but I felt he always pulled back just in time to let the hard science and sober speculat
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Jamie Brady
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I had the extreme honor of sharing a 2 hour car ride with Seth. This was sometime in the 1990s, when I believe SETI was still part of NASA. I was DJing at a weekend-long rave in Kentucky. The promoters were huge X-Files and sci-fi fans, so they booked Seth to give a speech on the outdoor stage under the stars. Here I was, having a conversation with the main person on the planet in charge of searching for alien life. One of the coolest experiences in my life. I remember him predicting that the fi ...more
dudu
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
why do some people insist that ayy lmaos don't real

time is infinite from this point backwards, therefore, a chance that ayy lmaos already came to existence before — is 100%

my personal interpretation is that the ayy lmaos made this computer simulation we are living on as a test of faith and they made Heaven to be a hidden reality of the simulation for the simulands who do good to others — I mean, the ayylmaos have a culture that emphasizes cooperation and helping others so they made Heaven a hidd
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Ronald Mccoy
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-science
Comprehensive and well thought out guide to the search for extra terrestrial intelligence. It is very well written, highly informative but a little bit annoying. I suspect the author needs some sensitivity training. The author peppers the text with what I'm sure he thinks are highly amusing and witty remarks, but they borderline on being insensitive and are often inappropriate. Using words like "psycho" is not very good. It was a little bit hard to finish this book, because these comments appear ...more
Roberto Hortal
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The content is good, particularly the first half. The style, however, quickly grates. How many similes does the author need on each page? Is there really no other way to indicate size, or difficulty, or temperature, or any other kind of measurable stuff, than a failed attempt to a humorous comparison?
Joshua
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
More of a Shostak Memoir but does give us an inner look at SETI and others who work to find life in the Universe.
Dennis
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is largely around the SETI project (using radio telescopes to look for signals from other worlds), but covers a range of related topics. Very interesting.
Ushan
Aug 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
My favorite science fiction novel about aliens is The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. My second favorite science fiction novel about aliens is Roadside Picnic by Russian writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which has been reissued in 2012 in an excellent new English translation. In the 1970s, aliens land in a few places on Earth, taking off a few days later and leaving behind artifacts and phenomena that apparently violate the laws of physics as Earth scientists know them, looking as strange t ...more
Gerald Lizee
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Gérald Lizée Comprehensive presentation of human ET search

Seth Shostak's book answered many questions I had about extraterrestrial intelligence and scientific endeavour to find it. The SETI organization became active only a few decades ago: its goal, detect intelligent signals emanating from distant planets surrounding one of the 100 billion stars of our galaxy, the Milky Way, or coming from one of the other 80 billion galaxies in the universe. Using radiotelescopes and optical telescopes, astro
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Heather
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Shostak, a senior astronomer for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, chronicles the search for extraterrestrial life in this well-written, wide-ranging book covering the inner workings, physics and philosophy behind SETI.

What I loved best about this book was the clear, logical practical tone of the author's voice. I expected a book about SETI to be either unbelievable dry and political or overblown and ridiculous. Instead, this is a marvelously well-grounded, evidence-based s
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André Spiegel
That's just me: I found very little new information in this book, but that's because I have been interested in all things SETI for many years. I was particularly interested in one number that I have struggled to find a reference for: Up to what distance would we be able to detect a civilization with the same capabilities as our own, i.e. a civilization that broadcasts the same amount of inadvertent stray radiation into space as we do?

The answer is »a few dozen light years«, but the book does not
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Lise
Jul 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, library
An overview of the SETI project, covering history, purpose, and projected future, written by the chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group.

I found the author's style a bit distracting. The book is peppered with colorful metaphors ranging from the very evocative "as adaptable as a little black dress" to so current they'll be dated tomorrow "observed as closely as Lindsay Lohan's social schedule". The book is so full of pop culture references that I think the au
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Joshua Taylor
Dec 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Considering that the SETI program has had no successes and only occasional 'near misses,' it might seem that there's not much material for a book. Shostak demonstrates in Confessions that this is markedly not the case, providing not brief but interesting snippets of history about the SETI program itself but also a wealth of information on the how and the why of the SETI program, with plenty of speculation on the nature and motives of alien life thrown in for a dash of spice.

I ended up disagreei
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Jacquie
This book acts mainly as an introduction to SETI, and it's probably going to be most useful for people who are looking for that and/or have misconceptions about what SETI actually is. I think the title lead me to expect a more in-depth and personal account of Shostak's daily life and experiences as a SETI researcher, so in that way it was disappointing. As far as the science in the book, I wasn't introduced to a lot of concepts that I wasn't already familiar with, but that's probably my "fault," ...more
Mick
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is a strong introduction to the history and aims of the SETI project, the search for life on other worlds, and the field of radio astronomy, written by a man who's been there from the beginning. As the senior astronomer and public face of SETI, Seth Shostak is the ideal person to write a book about the search for life on other worlds. He tackles all the key issues and controveries, such as the Fermi paradox, the role of Moore's Law in driving SETI, and the question of whether extraterrestri ...more
Mizumi
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I hardly judge books by their covers, but I'm glad in this case, because I would have missed out hadn't I picked this up.
Shostak talks about his work for SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence throughout. The book begins with a general introduction about the developments in astronomy, to the eventual acknowledgement it's a good possibility other intelligence is out there somewhere. Then Shostak discusses techniques used by SETI to find signals of said intelligence, and even goes into
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Rajesh
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, own-a-copy
Most of the issues broached in this book wasn't very new to me. The reason for this is very easy to fathom: I'm a long time listener to the SETI institute podcast that Seth coshosts, "Big Picture Science" aka "Are we alone?". Nevertheless, I found this book very enjoyable. I like Seth's style and wit, but more importantly, the book is written in a engaging fashion about such interesting topics as the history and future of search for aliens in the context of modern astronomy and the current rapid ...more
Ann Nicholas
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shostak's "confession" is that despite his years as a scientist and involvement with SETI, he doesn't think we're going to find ETI any time soon. 2049 appears to be the earliest date he's willing to suggest we could make contact. Even then, he says it will only happen when we can both detect a message being sent by intelligent beings and send one of our own for them to pick up.

The book is well-written and gets readers up to date on the history of SETI, but sadly, it didn't tell me what I wante
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Dimitri Paulyn
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I didn't get to learn what the extra-terrestrials really look like. All kidding aside - what were you expecting. The book has a lot of hypothesizing and conjecture, but then again, what can you expect reading about a subject that has - to all evidence - never been observed.

An entertaining read - good to see some de-bunking of 'government intervention'.

I was puzzled regarding why extra terrestrials might always choose to manifest themselves in a location in the United States, and why the United
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Cialan
Sep 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Ginsburg
Oct 14, 2013 rated it liked it
The book wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be. It could have been a lot shorter - about 100 pages were spent explaining the history of alien hunting, then maybe another 50 on pseudo-science (i.e. people who think little green men come to visit them in the middle of the night). The humor wasn't that good either (unless you think humor is supposed to fit inside parentheses, like this). But yes, it was filled with some interesting facts, maybe (if you can make it through until the last 75 pag ...more
Meg Hannah
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Definitely a "read, skim, skip" book. I know a fair amount about the topic already, so I'm only actually reading the most interesting (to me) bits. Interesting, informed speculation about what forms and compositions alien life would take.

The author's writing gets in the way sometimes. He definitely tries too hard with his adjectives and similes.

Just can't help being in awe of the number of galaxies, stars, and planets. Wow.
Louis
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: SETI, Astronomy fans
If one wishes an overview of the SETI program I recommend this book. It stays focused on its subject. If one is expecting an overview of the Fermi Paradox as it relates to SETI or questioning the base assumptions of SETI, there are other books that do that better. If the subject interests you I would say this book should be part of a personal library on the subject, but it’s not a book that tackles all aspects of the subject.
Steve
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shostak is an entertaining author who writes passionately about one of the most interesting puzzles facing mankind. This is an excellent summary of the current search for extraterrestrial intelligence, from a mainstream science-y point of view, rather than an aliens-abducted-my-neighbor-and-built-the-pyramids point of view.
Brianna
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone even marginally interested in science (or science fiction)
I know the title is tongue-in-cheek, but based on the number of cheesy National Enquirer-type cheap nonfiction books there are out there, it almost made me leave this book on the library shelves.

I'm glad I didn't. Read alot that I'd forgotten about since my formative teenage (aka astronomy obsessed) years, and it was just as fun as learning it the first time.
Tom Schulte
I hear "meetings about meetings" and know there is an ineffectual prelude to and uncertain future. Such is with this alient-hunting literature. I love the subject, but there is really no "there" there: hoaxes, false alarms, and suppositions of what would happen if only... A good narrator and the inside story of the birth and life of SETI make this a good read.
Vanessa
Jun 15, 2009 rated it liked it
I was glad that this informative look at the search for alien intelligence was not too dense or dry since this is such a fascinating subject. More pictures (especially those of the color variety) or diagrams would have really created more interest and sparked up this book.
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