In this densely written book, Heidelberg University professor Peter Ulmschneider covers a remarkably wide range of questions related to extraterrestrial life and intelligence, and does so with convincing authority. His work, part of Springer's Physics and Astronomy series, has the flavor of a university textbook, with numerous graphs, tables, and diagrams, and a few equations. Readers will need either a basic knowledge of science or a willingness to learn while reading.
Part I, about planets, discusses the origin of chemical elements, planet formation, the search for extrasolar planets, and planets suitable for life. Part II, about life, begins at the most basic level of organic chemistry, then moves on to a condensed discussion of biological evolution on Earth. A much briefer chapter provides a quick overview of the search for extraterrestrial life. Part III, on intelligence, takes an unusual approach by beginning with the future of Humankind, emphasizing human expansion into the solar system and possible threats to our survival. Ulmschneider argues that, by thinking about our own future development, we can gain insights into the nature of extraterrestrial intelligence. He concludes his book with a discussion of extraterrestrial intelligent life, briefly noting some of the proposed explanations for the Fermi Paradox.
This book is not for casual readers. Because it covers so much territory, the discussions are highly condensed. Nonetheless, Ulmschneider has done an impressvie job. The book includes some small but well-reproduced colored pictures.