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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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The Signature Of Life

The Signature Of Life

Designing the Astrobiological Imagination

Chapter:
(p.73) Chapter 7 The Signature Of Life
Source:
Sounding the Limits of Life
Author(s):

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Michele Friedner

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.003.0007

This chapter examines the project of astrobiology and its object, the “signature of life,” by drawing on the work of Hillel Schwartz, particularly his writing on time in Century's End, on duplication in The Culture of the Copy, and on signification in “De-Signing.” Schwartz's work can provide a fresh angle on the doublings, redoublings, definitions, and redefinitions at the heart of astrobiology's quest for extraterrestrial life. His crabwise approach offers provocative paratactical techniques for traversing the networks of association, acknowledged and unacknowledged, that support the concept of the signature of life. The chapter first considers the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), through the optic of Schwartz's writings on copying and his work on noise before discussing astrobiology's notion of the signature of life. It also offers suggestions for thwarting the overreaching of the theoretical impulse in both life sciences and humanities.

Keywords:   astrobiology, Hillel Schwartz, time, Century's End, The Culture of the Copy, signification, extraterrestrial life, extraterrestrial intelligence

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