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Book Cover Image: The Eerie Silence by Paul DaviesTitle:  The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence

Author:  Paul Davies

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):  “Are we alone in the universe? This is surely one of the biggest questions of human existence, yet it remains frustratingly unanswered. In this provocative book, one of the world’s leading scientists explains why the search for intelligent life beyond Earth should be expanded, and how it can be done.

Fifty years ago, a young astronomer named Frank Drake first 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).

After a half-century of scanning the skies, however, astronomers have little to report but an eerie silence—eerie because many scientists are convinced that the universe is teeming with life. Could it be, wonders physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies, that we’ve been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way?

Davies has been closely involved with SETI for three decades, and chairs the SETI Post-Detection Task group, charged with deciding what to do if we’re suddenly confronted with evidence of alien intelligence. He believes the search so far has fallen into an anthropocentric trap—assuming that an alien species will look, think, and behave much like us. In this mind-expanding book he refocuses 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 it does.”

Thoughts: Are we or aren’t we alone in the universe?  Mr. Davies presents valid points for both sides of the argument.  Because of the hypothetical nature of any of his points, a reader may find some of his more esoteric of his conclusions difficult to follow.  As befits Mr. Davies’ background, there is a heavy reliance on theoretical physics.  While he does an admirable job of trying to explain the science behind the ideas, the science itself is at too advanced a level for the masses.  Nutrinos, cosmic rays, quantum physics – while interesting, it can be mind-numbing and difficult to follow.

Mr. Davies shines when presenting more theological and social implications for the eerie silence.  Granted, no matter what the outcome, the implications for mankind are scary and rather depressing, an effect Mr. Davies himself acknowledges.

The Eerie Silence is a fascinating study of reasons why being alone in the universe, or that we will most likely never make contact, is more probable than the idea that the universe is teeming with life.  Mankind has, to date, taken for granted the idea that ET exists, but after fifty years, it may be time to make some adjustments in our assumptions.  Mr. Davies makes a great case for the fact that should extraterrestrial life exist, it most likely will be either microbial or machine in nature rather than humanoid. 

In spite of some of the difficulties with the more hypothetical nature of the arguments, Mr. Davies presents his ideas clearly and concisely.  His use of mathematics and well-known scientific laws helps make his theories more plausible and the book more enjoyable, even if they are at such a level that automatically precludes enjoyment by a large portion of the population.  His image of possible alien life is extraordinarily rich and detailed, making it easy for a reader to be able to envision these possible life forms.  The result is a rich and varied presentation on the possibilities behind
The Eerie Silence and suggestions for how to work around our current constraints. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book!

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