Fifty years ago, a young astronomer named Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope at nearby stars in the hope of picking up a signal from an alien civilization. Thus began one of the boldest scientific projects in history, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). But after a half century of scanning the skies, astronomers have little to report but an eerie silence---eerie because many scientists are convinced that the universe is teeming with life. The problem, argues leading physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies, is that we've been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way. Davies should know. For more than three decades, he has been closely involved with SETI and now chairs the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, charged with deciding what to do if we're confronted with evidence of alien intelligence. In this extraordinary book, he shows how SETI has lost its edge, then offers a new and exciting road map for the future.
Davies believes that our search so far has been overly anthropocentric: we tend to assume an alien species will look, think, and behave like us. He argues that we need to be far more expansive in our efforts, and in this book he completely redefines the search, challenging existing ideas of what form an alien intelligence might take, how it might try to communicate with us, and how we should respond if we ever do make contact. A provocative and mind-expanding journey, The Eerie Silence will thrill fans of science and science fiction alike.
"Paul Davies has written a most delightful book, perhaps the most thoughtful, thorough, and comprehensive book ever published on the key question: are we alone in the universe? Davies addresses one of the most pivotal questions facing humanity, and does it with wit, style, and rigor. The Eerie Silence will satisfy the curiosity of anyone interested in big cosmic questions about intelligence in the universe." (Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics and author of Physics of the Impossible, Hyperspace, and Parallel Worlds)
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Scientifically Curious? Hmmm.
Equal parts history, science, informed speculation
This book is an excellent listen. At the outset, the author does an excellent job of setting the table, summarizing everything we know to date about the possibility of extraterrestrial life, from science and from theory. Specific programs (notably SETI), physical laws, experimental observations, astronomical and cosmological phenomena, are all covered. From there, the author consider various possibilities for what and where ET might be, and how it might be discovered. His discussion proceeds according to a chain of inductive reasoning, taking the listener through one fact pattern after another, and explaining the conclusions about alien life that would appear to flow from each. His analysis is well organized, beginning with conclusions we might draw from the limited evidence we understand today, then moving on to consider evidence that we do not have today, but that science may be able establish in the future. Finally, he does a great job of explaining the limitations imposed by science and physics, and where the science runs out, he applies theory, math, and imagination, to take the reader through an intelligent and well-reasoned summary of where we may end up. The book leaves with listener with much to consider. At the same time, for a book that focuses on a subject as inherently mysterious and unknowable as ET, the Eerie Silence leaves the listener remarkably satisfied. I would recommend it to anyone who wonders why - in a universe compromised of trillions of stars - we feel so alone.
- Michael J Canning