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The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence | [Paul Davies]

The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Paul Davies (P)2010 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"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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  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 10-30-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 10-30-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I love the topic and I love this book"

    This is a great book. The greatest potentially answerable question 'are we alone in the universe?' is explored from every imaginable perspective and with its possible ramifications. I don't think any one explains science to non-scientist better than Paul Davies does. He excels at giving both sides of an argument to a dilemma and lets the reader make the informed decision.

    The book doesn't just look at radio astronomy but considers all the other evidence or lack of evidence for what it takes for other intelligence to be elsewhere in the universe. For example, the lack of evidence for non-DNA based life on earth or other planets in our solar system implies that life might not be as easily created as some might state. No systematic harnessing of black hole energy through out parts of the galaxy implies we just might be alone.

    The narrator is the same one who read "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil. That is good since the themes between the books overlap so much and my mind would naturally go back to that book as I was listening to this book. He gives the best refutation to the Fermi Paradox I've seen so far.

    This book is much more than what the title implies. He covers everything related to "are we alone?" and fairly provides all relevant arguments to the table. He has his opinions and states them but always realizing that it's just his opinion and there are not necessarily right answers.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pete Mypaycheck SE Michigan 07-10-11
    Pete Mypaycheck SE Michigan 07-10-11 Listener Since 2009
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    "Love it!"

    Given the billions of galaxies in the Universe, I imagine the Universe is teeming with life. So, why HAVEN'T we heard from any of them? This book examines the paradox in simple terms that even lay people can appreciate.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Silver Spring, MD, United States 05-03-14
    Mike Silver Spring, MD, United States 05-03-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Equal parts history, science, informed speculation"
    What made the experience of listening to The Eerie Silence the most enjoyable?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Walnut Creek, CA United States 09-17-11
    Steve Walnut Creek, CA United States 09-17-11 Member Since 2007

    Steve (Walnut Creek, CA, USA)

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    "Pretty Good"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Yes. It brought up some interesting points.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Theories of what forms life could take after it evolves intelligence


    What three words best describe George K. Wilson???s performance?

    Adequate, not exceptional.


    Could you see The Eerie Silence being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Not at all. Maybe a discovery channel program.


    Any additional comments?

    A decent read. Lots of interesting thinking in the book, however some of the conclusions seem to be limited - not possible to make with the amount of evidence we have.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    marcus indianapolis, indiana, United States 11-25-10
    marcus indianapolis, indiana, United States 11-25-10
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    "Carl Sagan, phone home"

    There are probably many others like me, who are utterly skeptical about the possiblity of encountering intelligent alien life forms, but deep down wish we would live to see the day...

    Author Davies resets the business of seeking alien life forms on a foundation of sound science. He proposes that the "alien" life form we are most likely to discover is at the bottom of the ocean, or deep inside the earth. The odds of contacting intelligent life through projects such as SETI are so remote, why not look for life forms on this planet that may be traveling along unique evolutionary paths.

    As much as I was inspired by Carl Sagan's Cosmos, I am persuaded that science has not exhausted the search for the origins, nature and prevalence of life right here in our own backyard.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Johnson Victoria, BC 03-08-14
    Mike Johnson Victoria, BC 03-08-14 Member Since 2004

    rower55

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    "Topol/Hill 5*"

    Great book written by Dr. Topol! Great narration by Mr. Hill.
    This is for info/tech types inclined to 21st Century medicine.
    Not for Doc Adams ( Gunsmoke ) type doctors or possible patients.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Master New York, NY, United States 09-09-13
    Master New York, NY, United States 09-09-13
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    "If a picture were to illustrate the SETI people..."
    What disappointed you about The Eerie Silence?

    Not "provocative" and definitely not "mind-expanding". The author is only slightly less parochial and idiotic than the typical SETI mindset.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Paul Davies again?

    NO!


    What does George K. Wilson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Nothing


    What character would you cut from The Eerie Silence?

    The author


    Any additional comments?

    The picture would be a cartoon where SETI would be represented by a myopic nitwit caveman with his ear against the bottom of a wooden cup held against a desert cave wall with his eyes wide shut, while alien visitors buzz all around him in spaceships far above his perceptual ability, sometimes attempting to communicating with him, but to no avail, because the closed dummy only believes that these were his hallucinations and the taps on his shoulder must have been icicles falling from the ceiling of his desert cave. carl sagan, seth shostak, and others in that lineage of dunderheads are the Lord Kelvins and Charles H. Duells of the present era. Paul Davies is only slightly less hardheaded and has a slightly better clue than the rest of that bunch.


    Einstein was right about human stupidity being infinite. Reincarnation will always ensure that the dumb ones will represent the majority in every era.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sasha Winston-Salem, NC United States 02-05-13
    Sasha Winston-Salem, NC United States 02-05-13 Member Since 2003

    Loves science.

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    "Science needs a science reader."

    I was into the third chapter when I realized the many references to temperatures could not be correct. But I'm not going to dream of the need to correct a well known physicist. It then hit me that the values of the temperatures were off by a factor of 10. Mr. George K. Wilson is adding a decimal to each value. It is disconcerting to have to analyze the information while listening.

    This book should be narrated by someone else.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Kingsport, TN, United States 01-02-13
    Michael Kingsport, TN, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Issues with playback"
    What made the experience of listening to The Eerie Silence the most enjoyable?

    Easy listening voice.


    Any additional comments?

    At each chapter mark my iPod skipped to the next book in my playlist. I had to go back manually and enter the unheard chapter area by scrolling with the diamond cursor. I tried downloading a second time to see if that would help, but no luck. I'm using 3 audio.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy EDMONDS, WA, United States 12-28-12
    Nancy EDMONDS, WA, United States 12-28-12 Member Since 2001
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    "It seemed like a rather long 10 hours"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would recommend the book only to someone who either is absolutely fascinated with the concept of alien intelligence or who simply devours outer-space-related science fiction. I am truly confident this book is the definitive "retail" description of the state-of-the-art search for such intelligence. I can't imagine any more informed author than Paul Davies. It is a virtually encylopedic enumeration of what we've discovered thus far (i.e., nothing much) and of the many possible ways we humans could discover alien beings going forward, whether they are intelligent or not. However, such an enumeration--in my opinion--got to be tedious after the first few chapters. On the positive side, the reader will encounter some interesting new scientific developments and increase his understanding of the gargantuan hurdles scientists face in the detection of alien intelligence.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Make it a little less speculative about all possible technologies that aliens might employ to find us or that we might use to find them. It got to be a catalog of scientific frontier knowledge that conceivably could be exploited like creating monopole magnets, or using nanotechnology to create tiny data-encoded vonNeumann computers which could be distributed around the universe in millions and powered by dark energy, etc. etc.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator was OK. I'm satisfied.


    Did The Eerie Silence inspire you to do anything?

    No.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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