Xenobiology

Tagged: Theme

The study of lifeforms that may exist elsewhere than on Earth is called xenobiology or exobiology. It is one of the few legitimate sciences to have, as yet, no direct experimental application other than the tests carried out on the surface of Mars to see if the soil showed any of the biological activity that might be associated with the presence of microscopic lifeforms. (It seemed for a time as if some of the results of this experiment might be positive; it is now thought they were caused by nonbiological factors.) Numerous essays on exobiological themes have appeared in scientific journals, on subjects ranging from SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), through speculations about non-carbon-based lifeforms to the thoughts of Freeman J Dyson and others about the relation of Cosmology to biology. Popular introductions to speculative biology of this sort include Life in Darwin's Universe: Evolution and the Cosmos (1981) by Gene Bylinski and Darwin's Universe: Origins and Crises in the History of Life (1983) by C R Pellegrino and J A Stoff. Two pioneering works, both more theoretical and the latter a little more technical, are Intelligent Life in the Universe (1966) by I S Shklovskii and Carl Sagan (based on Vselennaia, Zhizn, Razum [1963] by Shklovskii alone; trans Paula Fern, rev and exp so greatly by Sagan as to become a co-authorship) and Interstellar Communication: Scientific Perspectives (1974) edited by Cyril Ponnamperuma and A G W Cameron. A good overview is given by The Search for Life in the Universe (1978) by Donald Goldsmith and Tobias Owen. The subject is, of course, central to sf about Aliens and Life on Other Worlds; a survey of it written very much from an sf writer's viewpoint is Extraterrestrial Encounter: A Personal Perspective (1979) by Chris Boyce. There is an exobiology lab at the University of Hawaii. [PN]

further reading

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.