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Are we alone in the universe? In “First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth” (Simon & Schuster), Washington Post science writer Marc Kaufman suggests that, as never before, we now have the knowledge and technology to answer that question, and will likely find life beyond Earth in the next generation. He traveled the world to learn firsthand about the innovative and extensive research under way to understand and ultimately identify extraterrestrial life, and he reports from the Vatican about efforts to reconcile some of the discoveries with religious belief. Kaufman says his past work as a foreign correspondent prepared him for this study of the newly emerging and dynamic field of astrobiology.