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Given the fact that there are perhaps 400 billion stars in our Galaxy alone, and perhaps 400 billion galaxies in the Universe, it stands to reason that somewhere out there, in the 14-billion-year-old cosmos, there is or once was a civilization at least as advanced as our own. The sheer enormity of the numbers almost demands that we accept the truth of this hypothesis. Why, Given the fact that there are perhaps 400 billion stars in our Galaxy alone, and perhaps 400 billion galaxies in the Universe, it stands to reason that somewhere out there, in the 14-billion-year-old cosmos, there is or once was a civilization at least as advanced as our own. The sheer enormity of the numbers almost demands that we accept the truth of this hypothesis. Why, then, have we encountered no evidence, no messages, no artifacts of these extraterrestrials? In this second, significantly revised and expanded edition of his widely popular book, Webb discusses in detail the (for now!) 75 most cogent and intriguing solutions to Fermi's famous paradox: If the numbers strongly point to the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, why have we found no evidence of them?Reviews from the first edition:"Amidst the plethora of books that treat the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, this one by Webb … is outstanding. … Each solution is presented in a very logical, interesting, thorough manner with accompanying explanations and notes that the intelligent layperson can understand. Webb digs into the issues … by considering a very broad set of in-depth solutions that he addresses through an interesting and challenging mode of presentation that stretches the mind. … An excellent book for anyone who has ever asked ‘Are we alone?’." (W. E. Howard III, Choice, March, 2003)"Fifty ideas are presented … that reveal a clearly reasoned examination of what is known as ‘The Fermi Paradox’. … For anyone who enjoys a good detective story, or using their thinking faculties and stretching the imagination to the limits … ‘Where is everybody’ will be enormously informative and entertaining. … Read this book, and whatever your views are about life elsewhere in the Universe, your appreciation for how special life is here on Earth will be enhanced! A worthy addition to any personal library." (Philip Bridle, BBC Radio, March, 2003)Since gaining a BSc in physics from the University of Bristol and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester, Stephen Webb has worked in a variety of universities in the UK. He is a regular contributor to the Yearbook of Astronomy series and has published an undergraduate textbook on distance determination in astronomy and cosmology as well as several popular science books. His interest in the Fermi paradox combines lifelong interests in both science and science fiction.


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Given the fact that there are perhaps 400 billion stars in our Galaxy alone, and perhaps 400 billion galaxies in the Universe, it stands to reason that somewhere out there, in the 14-billion-year-old cosmos, there is or once was a civilization at least as advanced as our own. The sheer enormity of the numbers almost demands that we accept the truth of this hypothesis. Why, Given the fact that there are perhaps 400 billion stars in our Galaxy alone, and perhaps 400 billion galaxies in the Universe, it stands to reason that somewhere out there, in the 14-billion-year-old cosmos, there is or once was a civilization at least as advanced as our own. The sheer enormity of the numbers almost demands that we accept the truth of this hypothesis. Why, then, have we encountered no evidence, no messages, no artifacts of these extraterrestrials? In this second, significantly revised and expanded edition of his widely popular book, Webb discusses in detail the (for now!) 75 most cogent and intriguing solutions to Fermi's famous paradox: If the numbers strongly point to the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, why have we found no evidence of them?Reviews from the first edition:"Amidst the plethora of books that treat the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, this one by Webb … is outstanding. … Each solution is presented in a very logical, interesting, thorough manner with accompanying explanations and notes that the intelligent layperson can understand. Webb digs into the issues … by considering a very broad set of in-depth solutions that he addresses through an interesting and challenging mode of presentation that stretches the mind. … An excellent book for anyone who has ever asked ‘Are we alone?’." (W. E. Howard III, Choice, March, 2003)"Fifty ideas are presented … that reveal a clearly reasoned examination of what is known as ‘The Fermi Paradox’. … For anyone who enjoys a good detective story, or using their thinking faculties and stretching the imagination to the limits … ‘Where is everybody’ will be enormously informative and entertaining. … Read this book, and whatever your views are about life elsewhere in the Universe, your appreciation for how special life is here on Earth will be enhanced! A worthy addition to any personal library." (Philip Bridle, BBC Radio, March, 2003)Since gaining a BSc in physics from the University of Bristol and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester, Stephen Webb has worked in a variety of universities in the UK. He is a regular contributor to the Yearbook of Astronomy series and has published an undergraduate textbook on distance determination in astronomy and cosmology as well as several popular science books. His interest in the Fermi paradox combines lifelong interests in both science and science fiction.

30 review for If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Seventy-Five Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life (Science and Fiction)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Point a decent-sized radio antenna at any part of the sky, or just look up at it all on a cloudless night: not a trace of aliens - doesn't that strike you as odd? It struck physicist Enrico Fermi as very odd: if the laws of nature are universal, working in the same way all over the galaxy, and have produced the Earth, life (and us) here, then they should have produced Earths (and 'us') everywhere. Worse, our solar system may be more than four billion years old, but the Universe itself is more tha Point a decent-sized radio antenna at any part of the sky, or just look up at it all on a cloudless night: not a trace of aliens - doesn't that strike you as odd? It struck physicist Enrico Fermi as very odd: if the laws of nature are universal, working in the same way all over the galaxy, and have produced the Earth, life (and us) here, then they should have produced Earths (and 'us') everywhere. Worse, our solar system may be more than four billion years old, but the Universe itself is more than thirteen billion - so there should have been Earths out there with their versions of us for aeons already. Yet here we are, apparently alone. This has become known as the Fermi Paradox - in Fermi's own words, 'Where is everybody?' - and the more we learn, the more mystifying it becomes: the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence programme has been running for decades now, without detecting even a single stray signal, while at the same time the latest space probes are discovering new planets by the truck-load. In fact, this isn't a full-blown paradox at all, just a flat contradiction between what, on the one hand, we believe to be the way the Universe works (its laws of nature, science as a rationale, reason itself for that matter) and, on the other, the Universe we seem to be living in. One of these must be incomplete or even wrong in some way. Perhaps the former; to give just one example, perhaps there are unknown phenomena at work, vast cataclysms which periodically sterilize the entire cosmos and set the clock of life back to zero each time - if that were the case then we would, in a sense, be the first. Or maybe it's the latter: Fermi's 'everybody' are all out there, but for some reason don't want us to know that. This book is a compendium of fifty possible explanations of that sort, from the stolidly scientific to the wildly speculative - and flawed: many contain assumptions about alien psychology for instance (just one alien civilization behaving differently from the rest would flood the galaxy with radio transmissions or speeding spaceships). It's a thorough round-up which also reminded me just how odd all this is; any way you look at it, that silent sky may be the single most important fact our civilization has.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Very very fun. All the science-based speculations that I love about science fiction, without the misogynist plots.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Examining their navels? This is the most up-to-date and thorough discussion of the Fermi Paradox that I have read. Stephen Webb examines all the popular solutions as well as some esoteric ones, giving us considerable background on each along with the benefit of his knowledge on a wide range of relevant subjects including microbiology, plate tectonics, evolution, intelligence, language, philosophy, as well as astronomy and cosmology. And then he gives his solution: we are alone. That was Fermi's so Examining their navels? This is the most up-to-date and thorough discussion of the Fermi Paradox that I have read. Stephen Webb examines all the popular solutions as well as some esoteric ones, giving us considerable background on each along with the benefit of his knowledge on a wide range of relevant subjects including microbiology, plate tectonics, evolution, intelligence, language, philosophy, as well as astronomy and cosmology. And then he gives his solution: we are alone. That was Fermi's solution of course, and it is a popular one; however I don't think that Webb comes anywhere near to making a convincing case; and at any rate he is somewhat equivocal about whether his answer applies to the entire universe or to just the galaxy. It is clear that his answer applies only to life as we know it, having a carbon based biochemistry and a cellular structure. My feeling is that intelligent life forms may evolve from some other chemical basis or even from some use of energy and matter we know nothing about. On pages 237 to 239 Webb presents his argument that we are the only extraterrestrial civilization (ETC) in the galaxy by a process of elimination, i.e., life must be on a planet within both a galactic habitable zone (GHZ) and a solar continuously habitable zone (CHZ) around the right kind of star; must avoid cosmic disasters like supernovae; must have the right kind of moon, Jupiter, and plate tectonics; must evolve beyond single cells; must develop tool use and language, etc. He ends up sifting out everything except us, and the only reason he doesn't sift us out is that he has set us aside since we actually exist! This is close to sophistry, perhaps, but it has been argued before. I might call it the Fallacy of Elimination by Unknown Probabilities about Matters that May or May Not Be Essential. Putting that aside, consider this: If we extrapolate from what we know (as opposed to any speculation) about the existence of life in just our own galaxy, we should expect on average--at the very least--one ETC per galaxy. Wow. Far from being alone, this suggests more than 100 billion other ETCs are out there, although we are not likely to ever communicate with them. One of the things this book demonstrates, as others have before (see especially, Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee's Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe [2000:], which Webb acknowledges as influential), is that when you're dealing with so little concrete information in such a vastness, it is impossible to be entirely convincing one way or the other. The conclusion in Rare Earth, with which Webb concurs, is that life is common in the universe, but intelligent life is rare. I agree substantially with this, but my "rare" is perhaps larger than their "rare." Some of the familiar but crucial questions considered here were addressed in the excellent Extraterrestrials: Where Are They? (1995) edited by Ben Zuckerman and Michael H. Hart. For example, How long do ETCs exist before they go extinct? Is space travel enormously difficult and expensive or is it just very difficult? Do ETCs have a psychology similar enough to ours to make them want to communicate? How would they communicate, using what sort of medium?--even: would we recognize a communication from an ETC if we received one? The answer to these questions and many others is, we don't know. But it's fun to speculate; and in speculating at least we can eliminate many conceptual and logical errors that might crop up. Furthermore such speculations expand the mind and allow the imagination a greater range. In direct contrast to Webb I think there's only the smallest chance that we are alone. Amazing how people can come to such divergent conclusions from the same evidence! For such answers as, They are so advanced that they have no interest in communicating with us, and They are so into their own self-constructed pleasure-enhancing virtual existence that they care not to look outward, etc., Webb has a ready response. For such answers to solve the Fermi paradox, he says, they have to apply to every single ETC. Surely, he posits, not all ETCs would have such a psychology. But, by taking all such solutions and playing an elimination game similar to the one Webb plays on pages 237-239, we can reverse his conclusion and eliminate all existing ETCs as non-communicative for one reason or another, arriving at the grand conclusion that we are not alone and that there are indeed a whole bunch of ETCs out there. I wish I had the space to address some other Stephen Webb arguments that I think are faulty, but perhaps just one more will be suggestive. On page 229, while arguing that only humans have symbolic language, he relates an experiment in which a dolphin learns to operate an apparatus to release food. The dolphin is timed. Then the scientists close that dolphin off and release a second dolphin into the pool with the apparatus. The first dolphin can send signals to the second dolphin. The scientists then time how long it takes for the second dolphin to learn to work the apparatus. They discover that it takes the second dolphin on average just as long as it did the first. Webb writes: "We can conclude from this that the first dolphin was unable to tell the second dolphin how the apparatus worked." Well, maybe. But replace the dolphins with humans, and the reward of food with hundred dollar bills, and perhaps we might conclude that humans are also unable to communicate how the apparatus worked! Bottom line: for SETI enthusiasts and anyone interested in the prospect of extraterrestrial life, this is a book, despite its flaws, not to be missed. --Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Not really my sort of thing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens…Where is Everybody?: Seventy-Five Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life [2015] – ★★★★1/2 I am continuing with my Non-Fiction November Reading Challenge with this curious book on the Fermi paradox. This paradox states that, if there are billions of stars out there in galaxies, and they are similar to and much older than our Sun, there is a high probability that those distant systems have planets that resemble our planet Eart If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens…Where is Everybody?: Seventy-Five Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life [2015] – ★★★★1/2 I am continuing with my Non-Fiction November Reading Challenge with this curious book on the Fermi paradox. This paradox states that, if there are billions of stars out there in galaxies, and they are similar to and much older than our Sun, there is a high probability that those distant systems have planets that resemble our planet Earth. In turn, the typical nature of our planet means life must have developed and accelerated on other planets too, and, if beings there developed interstellar travel, they should have visited Earth already (or at least sent their probes). The paradox is that we do not see/perceive any extraterrestrial activity. Dr Stephen Webb is a theoretical physicist who proposes and discusses seventy-five solutions to the Fermi paradox in this book, solutions which he divides into three sections: (i) Alien Are (or Were) Here; (ii) Aliens Exist, but We Have Yet to See or Hear from Them; and (iii) Aliens Do Not Exist. This is an enjoyable, mentally-stimulating book that impresses with the number and diversity of different solutions and theories that may explain the Fermi Paradox. It is important to note from the outset that, although the book indulges in speculations on science, the topic of this book is not some kind of easily dismissible pseudo-science, but a perfectly scientific question that have been posed by serious scientists, including by Stephen Hawking. The paradox itself is named after Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist and a Nobel Prize Winner, who came up with the proposition after a series of laborious calculations that left him to conclude that we should have been visited by extraterrestrials a long time ago. I will obviously not describe each of the seventy-five solutions proposed, but will comment and share my thoughts on some of the more convincing or interesting ones under each heading of the book. I. Extraterrestrials Are or Were Here In this section of the book, Stephen Webb provides ten solutions and most of them border fantasy, such as theories that aliens are watching us from UFOs or that we are aliens. It is true that there was much publicity in the past about Kenneth Arnold’s sighing of an UFO in 1947 or about the Roswell UFO incident, but there is no hard evidence so far to substantiate these claims or prove the existence of extraterrestrial life. Given this, the belief that God exists is probably the most convincing argument in this section of the book. II. Extraterrestrials Exist, but We Have Yet to See or Hear from Them This line of reasoning is the most convincing one in the book and it is the most popular theory among scientists. In this section, Webb explores solutions to the Fermi paradox that revolve around the idea that aliens are signalling, but we are not receiving their signal for some reason. He also explores theories that stars may be too far away or intelligence is not permanent. One of the convincing solutions in this section is that advanced civilisations have simply become too inward-looking, rather than driven by exploration and a colonist mentality. That is why we do not see their presence in our solar system. I think that, given that human beings already “live in the Internet”, it is not too far-fetched to suggest that advanced civilisations on other planets are information-driven, and may be living in an artificial reality. They may have different values than us, having moved beyond exploitive and colonist worldviews. Another hint on a solution that I found convincing in this section is that, galaxies may be swarming with alien civilisations, but “differences in age, abilities, physicality, etc. might lead to a qualitative difference between our minds and theirs…[resulting in] communication being impossible” [Webb, 2015: 196]. Clement Vidal, a Belgian physicist, also proposed that aliens might have already learnt now to manipulate energy from stars and space-time, not to mention them having different mathematics or being capable of manipulating molecules and atoms [2015: 197]. They may know the secrets of the universe and have a perfect control over the mind, space and time. This means that they may be simply too advanced or different from us to make any contact. I also believe that we may be simply too different to even recognise what they are – us understanding or imagining them is like a cat being able to understand all the concepts in a philosophy book or a prehistoric man imagining a game played on an iPad. Humans are also confined to their senses and consciousness, and we cannot see the world through another apparatus than a human brain. Also, given that the universe is thirteen billion years old, humans may simply have not listened long enough for any signals since, given the universe time-frame, the intelligent life has only been on the planet some seconds out of one hundred years universal time. III. Extraterrestrials Do Not Exist This section of the book also has some convincing arguments because we still do not know how special our planet is and how unique is life. Moreover, questions remain as to how unique consciousness and intelligence development are. It will only be possible to say for certain that extraterrestrials do not exist if we first answer this question – how precisely life started on Earth? There is still no definite answer to this question. Thus, in this section of the book, the author talks about such solutions to the paradox as “planetary systems are rare”, “planetary systems are too dangerous to live in”, “life’s genesis is rare”, “our moon is unique” and “high technology is not inevitable”. Exoplanets that have conditions that are similar to Earth are already said to exist, even though another argument is that “conditions on Earth have simply been too right” [Webb, 2015: 291]. Perhaps, there are conditions on other planets that make it possible for other life forms to emerge, life forms that do not need perfect-for-life-on-Earth conditions. The unfortunate aspect of If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens is that it goes for breadth, rather than depth; the author is quick to dismiss theories that he personally finds ludicrous; and all the quotations that begin each solution come off as more unnecessarily pretentious, rather than insightful or helpful. Webb’s own solution at the end of the book is odd. It is like the author is trying to say: “I wrote a book on the Fermi paradox, proposing all these solutions, but I don’t believe in the paradox in the first place and do not think it should even exist”. It is clear from reading this book that we still know very little to answer seriously such a big question as – do extraterrestrials exist? As Stephen Webb put it: “we have little idea about the nature of dark matter…and dark energy is a complete mystery….and we are still to reconcile gravity with quantum theory” [2015: 186]. If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens provides both more or less serious and science-fiction solutions to the paradox, and is really one mind-boggling journey into one of the mysteries of the universe that echoes the mystery of our own planetary existence.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Quinton

    I loved the premise of this book so much, but the execution fell a bit flat for me. Why? I think it was just because the author takes a sort of detached and tedious elaboration of all the different possibilities so that it fills a whole book. I would have preferred something with more pop and pizazz. Give the big picture summary, then break out the key parts, wrestle with the parts and try to really engage with the arguments to highlight the strengths and weaknesses. Instead, it seemed kind of dr I loved the premise of this book so much, but the execution fell a bit flat for me. Why? I think it was just because the author takes a sort of detached and tedious elaboration of all the different possibilities so that it fills a whole book. I would have preferred something with more pop and pizazz. Give the big picture summary, then break out the key parts, wrestle with the parts and try to really engage with the arguments to highlight the strengths and weaknesses. Instead, it seemed kind of dry and passive. The whole "50 solutions" is a bit misleading too. The premise is still great though and no one else thought to write a book on this topic so the author deserves credit for being the first to address the topic. I just felt like he didn't really tackle it in a satisfying or definitive way and perhaps someone can still come along later and do just that. And to be fair it's a sort of slippery problem where we don't exact have definitive data yet so there's probably only so much that we can expect.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    5 I had never heard of the Fermi Paradox prior to reading this book, but by the end it really puts a lot of the UFO conspiracies and evolutionary idea's into perspective. This is not an Alien book. I will get this out there as soon as possible to ensure everybody looking at this book knows that. This is an interesting look into the idea that just maybe, we are very lonely in this universe. Who honestly knows. Stephen Webb has created a great book that asks all the questions and answers most of th 5 I had never heard of the Fermi Paradox prior to reading this book, but by the end it really puts a lot of the UFO conspiracies and evolutionary idea's into perspective. This is not an Alien book. I will get this out there as soon as possible to ensure everybody looking at this book knows that. This is an interesting look into the idea that just maybe, we are very lonely in this universe. Who honestly knows. Stephen Webb has created a great book that asks all the questions and answers most of them as well. The book is split into various number structures so at one point you use these as chapter points. The book is full of investigations and if you're a believer of Alien life, this book will fit nicely into your world. I had once thought that maybe the universe is full of life and that one day mankind would reach the stars and join into the scheme of things. Sadly this book gives you a solid gut punch and the realities of just how likely or unlikely life outside Earth will be. How often have you heard about UFO sightings? A lot yeah. The one thing that is puzzling is the fact they haven't bothered to make contact. These are the types of questions that you should be asking. Stephen Webb should take another look back into this book and setup a sequel of sorts with what it is like now. It would be a shorter book to say the least, but a lot is happening in the world of science since the publication of this book. This is why reading science books from the last 10 to 20 years is a tough act, so much has now changed. Technology is going to be the key to reversing the devastation mankind has caused on this Earth, mainly the raising of CO2 levels to dangerously crazy levels. Consider it has now been 10000 years since the last ice age and that the Earth was riddled with Dinosaurs for millions of years. What if, and this is a huge what if, Aliens visited and noticed that there was no intelligent life. Why would they come back? Why the 5? The concluding chapter is incredible, it is a must read for everyone. If you check out the hash tag on Instagram in a few weeks I'll be writing the very last paragraph. When I suggest Webb should write a sequel, it is based on the whole evolution of man that has now been linked to the 150000 year mark of the y chromosome. So much has now been discovered. The next 100 years will be insane. There is going to be discovery and the colonisation of Mars. We now have the capabilities to alter our own DNA, that will ensure safe space travel, something that was a huge risk. Webb covers so much in this book and it is worth reading, just to learn what have been our errors for attempting first contact and what other books you should be reading. Fermi is a name I came across with Cosmos, and now I understand so much more. In a modern world of corporations and capitalism, we tend to forget our bigger purpose in life is exploration. I enjoyed how the book hits on points about our humanity and lack of it. Take the gamble and check it out, well worth the read and very relevant.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    I started this book with a sense of foreboding. The subtitle is 'Seventy-five solutions to the Fermi paradox and the problem of extraterrestrial life'. Any premise based on giving 75 different answers to the same question - in this case, effectively 'Where are the aliens?' - sounds like a trainspotter of a book. A title that is obsessed with collecting every possible viewpoint, over and above any value that can be gained from reading it. However, the first proper chapter, giving some background I started this book with a sense of foreboding. The subtitle is 'Seventy-five solutions to the Fermi paradox and the problem of extraterrestrial life'. Any premise based on giving 75 different answers to the same question - in this case, effectively 'Where are the aliens?' - sounds like a trainspotter of a book. A title that is obsessed with collecting every possible viewpoint, over and above any value that can be gained from reading it. However, the first proper chapter, giving some background to the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, and the 'where is everybody' paradox that it is named after him, reassured me hugely, as it was entertaining and well written. I can honestly say that if Stephen Webb had continued in this vein and had written a book about the Fermi paradox and its possible solutions in the same narrative style as his chapter on Fermi and the origins of the paradox, I would have given this book four to five stars. That chapter demonstrated just how well Webb can write. But the format of 75 'different' solutions lets him down. By about the 12 mark, the whole thing was getting a trifle samey. And by solution 20, I was skip reading, searching for interesting bits. The book has a lovely range and covers many fascinating topics - for example, it went from Bayes' theorem to stone axe manufacturing in a few pages - but the constant return to yet another solution to the Fermi paradox gets, frankly, boring. Structured as a continuous narrative, the content of this book would have been excellent, but as 75 bitty 'solutions' it just doesn't work very well. This proved particularly irritating when Webb goes through all the different reasons why life could be rare in the universe, and says at the end of each, over and over variants on 'but of itself, this is probably not enough to justify the conclusion.' I found myself wanting to throw the book against the wall and scream 'But why should it be taken by itself? Why not combine the solutions?' .... And then Webb cheats and does exactly that in his own 'solution', number 75. This was so near an excellent piece of popular science (I'm not really sure why it's part of Springer's 'Science and Fiction' series, as it merely references ideas from SF, but the majority of popular science books do that), just let down by the structure. I'd also say that the publisher is making a mistake pricing the book as if it were an academic title: it's more expensive than any normal hardback popular science title, let alone a paperback.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    The Fermi Paradox is the subject of this comprehensive analysis by Webb. The paradox is named after Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who, when working in the US in the 1950’s posed the question ‘Where is everybody?’. He wasn't some loner, but was in fact referring to the lack of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations. If there are billions of stars in the galaxy, and some of these stars have Earth like planets that develop life, and some of this life becomes intelligent and travels in to The Fermi Paradox is the subject of this comprehensive analysis by Webb. The paradox is named after Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who, when working in the US in the 1950’s posed the question ‘Where is everybody?’. He wasn't some loner, but was in fact referring to the lack of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations. If there are billions of stars in the galaxy, and some of these stars have Earth like planets that develop life, and some of this life becomes intelligent and travels in to the cosmos, then, assuming modest probabilities for each of these steps, the galaxy should have been comprehensively conquered by intelligent beings by now, and we perhaps should have seen some evidence of this. The book takes the form of 75 solutions to the paradox, ranging from the comedic (they are here, and they’re called politicians!) through to the latest astrobiological predictions for how common the emergence of life from pre-biotic materials is. Webb is a light hearted narrator, and each solution comes with his personal take. The format might not be for everyone, but I found it enjoyable and stimulating, and expect to return to it often in the future. The planetarium hypothesis taken to extreme is similar to solipsism. The true solipsist believes that everything he experiences.. is part of the content of his consciousness, rather than an external reality in which we all share… The true solipsist when defending his philosophy presumably has to inform his opponents that they don’t exist, which seems a rather ludicrous thing to do

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Fun casual science read. Its interesting because solutions to the fermi paradox range from things relating to astrophysics, sociology, biology, and statistics, and he gives a good 0verview of the context for any given explanation he's dealing with. So it ends up being a little about how stars are formed, a little about amino acids, a little bit about baynesian inferences,, etc. Nice variety. Anyways I think the most plausible explanations are the ones in a the general bucket of aliens have no des Fun casual science read. Its interesting because solutions to the fermi paradox range from things relating to astrophysics, sociology, biology, and statistics, and he gives a good 0verview of the context for any given explanation he's dealing with. So it ends up being a little about how stars are formed, a little about amino acids, a little bit about baynesian inferences,, etc. Nice variety. Anyways I think the most plausible explanations are the ones in a the general bucket of aliens have no desire to expand into the cosmos in general (there are multiple varieties of this-- they flee to another universe, they become computerized and miniaturized and go dark, they dive into black holes or into deep space for multiple reasons, whatever), or that life itself, or complex life is just extremely rare and fragile and we are truly alone. One of the more disturbing possibilities he mentions (aside from the apocalyptic ones) is that even if complex intelligent life is fairly common, consciousness might be rare. In which case we might eventually run into some kind of drone or zombie esque race which we haven't detected because they don't communicate much and possibly don't expand much or advance technologically at a slower rate.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bálint

    Absolutely fascinating read. The author compiled an enormous amount of special knowledge into this book for the general reader. The solutions are intriguing and I've learned about a ton of new things: canonical artefact, waterhole, genetics, ramjet, panspermia and a lot more. The explanations are quite clear and I was able to follow along. My only issue with the book was that, by his own admission, the author did the typesetting which is quite lame, as special characters, equations and such are Absolutely fascinating read. The author compiled an enormous amount of special knowledge into this book for the general reader. The solutions are intriguing and I've learned about a ton of new things: canonical artefact, waterhole, genetics, ramjet, panspermia and a lot more. The explanations are quite clear and I was able to follow along. My only issue with the book was that, by his own admission, the author did the typesetting which is quite lame, as special characters, equations and such are images - consequently don't show up in my highlights. I can live with this though. Highly-highly recommended for any thinker.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ingvaras

    What I loved most about this book was the breadth of material in it and all the various references to sci-fi stories, papers, biographies, and textbooks. It is a popular science book, so it doesn’t go too deep into the details of most things. Dr Webb tries his best to explain things plainly, which sometimes can feel kind of cringy if you’re knowledgeable about the topic. But for the most part, it’s quite enjoyable, even if you knew the theories and facts before. I guess this makes it well-writte What I loved most about this book was the breadth of material in it and all the various references to sci-fi stories, papers, biographies, and textbooks. It is a popular science book, so it doesn’t go too deep into the details of most things. Dr Webb tries his best to explain things plainly, which sometimes can feel kind of cringy if you’re knowledgeable about the topic. But for the most part, it’s quite enjoyable, even if you knew the theories and facts before. I guess this makes it well-written. Personally, I think the parts to do with biology were quite a bit more involved than anything else in this book, but everything was still understandable (intuitively, at least). Although maybe it’s just me not having enough experience with these topics. The author goes a little in-depth on every solution (explaining certain things that a casual reader wouldn’t know) and in doing so, he provides all the references to the source materials, historic context, the names and so on. Makes it feel a lot more sciency! While reading I made a bunch of notes - just things and people to look up later and filled my goodreads' "Want to read" section with quite a few books. Of course, you're bound to disagree with some of the proposed solutions, so from time to time I just found myself low-key thinking "just get on with it!". This book can be really inspiring. I haven’t read a popular science book in a while, and this one really managed to boost my curiosity and excitement about science and ~~SPACE~~! This is why I’m giving this book... 4⭐

  13. 4 out of 5

    Claus Appel

    This book has a lot of good information and analysis. My chief complaint is that Webb is tremendously biased towards technological optimism. He describes some of the arguments why interstellar travel and colonization may be so overwhelmingly difficult and expensive as to be completely infeasible... and Webb goes "nah, I'm sure we'll solve all that". I was hoping for a deeper analysis of the feasibility of interstellar travel, but Webb skirts past it. There are many other good things in the book, This book has a lot of good information and analysis. My chief complaint is that Webb is tremendously biased towards technological optimism. He describes some of the arguments why interstellar travel and colonization may be so overwhelmingly difficult and expensive as to be completely infeasible... and Webb goes "nah, I'm sure we'll solve all that". I was hoping for a deeper analysis of the feasibility of interstellar travel, but Webb skirts past it. There are many other good things in the book, though.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luai Alrantisi

    Very deep, very dense, very detailed. One of the best books I ever read in my whole life, it's as if you are reading a sci-fi novel. The author takes you to worlds and thoughts and possibilities you never thought of. The author, and in 338 pages, checks 75 anwers to the question: Why haven't we heared anything from aliens, where are they..?? If the universe is immensly huge, and if the conditions that helped life to develop on earth, should also exist in some other planets, and end up with advan Very deep, very dense, very detailed. One of the best books I ever read in my whole life, it's as if you are reading a sci-fi novel. The author takes you to worlds and thoughts and possibilities you never thought of. The author, and in 338 pages, checks 75 anwers to the question: Why haven't we heared anything from aliens, where are they..?? If the universe is immensly huge, and if the conditions that helped life to develop on earth, should also exist in some other planets, and end up with advanced technological creatures like us, the humans. So, if we assume that such conditions should have existed for a long time out there in many places of the universe, and with the fact that there are hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy aline, and that also there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, so some people would argue that the conclusion must be, (the universe should br teaming with other creatures, just like us). But, "Where are they, why we haven't heared from them".The author in this book gives 75 answers to this question. He takes you in a trip to a world of many many weird possibilities, and many ideas you didn't even think of. He has a vast knowledge about the latest discussions and scientific developments in this regard. And in the last few pages he gives his own thought about his own idea about this matter, which was almost a shock for me ( I will not mention it; not to spoil it). This book is a (Must read) for every one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ondřej Plachý

    If you are interested in the Fermi's paradox, this book offers a profound and scientific take on the topic. I really liked the authors approach to deal with complex astrophysics, biology, genetics etc. in a way that left me completely understanding the key concepts. The book is packed with relevant information, and it is put to good use. If you want to refresh your memories about the aforementioned topics, then you would not be dissapointed. Great feature of the book is also authors take on popul If you are interested in the Fermi's paradox, this book offers a profound and scientific take on the topic. I really liked the authors approach to deal with complex astrophysics, biology, genetics etc. in a way that left me completely understanding the key concepts. The book is packed with relevant information, and it is put to good use. If you want to refresh your memories about the aforementioned topics, then you would not be dissapointed. Great feature of the book is also authors take on popular science fiction and its explanations of the topic. There are several interesting books and stories mentioned that I will seek reading in the future. I don't give this book five stars, because it is a little outdated, which is its only disadvantage - but it is not authors fault, but rather fast development of cosmic observation which allow us to see that there are probably many exoplanets (one was just found today, 100 light years from us).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom Söderlund

    Relatively comprehensive cross-scientific coverage of current thinking about the possible existence of "intelligent" life elsewhere. Surprisingly less human centric than popular science books from humans on average, but the question itself is quite much so... Relatively comprehensive cross-scientific coverage of current thinking about the possible existence of "intelligent" life elsewhere. Surprisingly less human centric than popular science books from humans on average, but the question itself is quite much so...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marina Windevoxhel

    "If we destroy ourselves, if we ruin Earth before we are ready to leave our home planet... well, it could be a long, long time before a creature from another species loos up at its planet's night sky and asks: 'where is everybody?' " Very clear explanations to complex theory. Only took so long to finish because I got distracted often. Loved it. "If we destroy ourselves, if we ruin Earth before we are ready to leave our home planet... well, it could be a long, long time before a creature from another species loos up at its planet's night sky and asks: 'where is everybody?' " Very clear explanations to complex theory. Only took so long to finish because I got distracted often. Loved it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Simon Hohenadl

    Well-structured, entertaining and full of interesting facts about our planet and the universe. Scientific but also deeply philosophical. Minus one star for the lack of an audio version.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Kim

    DNF @9 %, more like a 0.5 rating. Too much historical bargage for my liking. I won't be held hostage by the sunken cost fallacy 😉 DNF @9 %, more like a 0.5 rating. Too much historical bargage for my liking. I won't be held hostage by the sunken cost fallacy 😉

  20. 4 out of 5

    adam

    Science and science fiction collide to pose answers to a fundamental question about our universe If the universe is so old and so big, shouldn't there have been ample opportunities for other solar systems, planets, life forms, intelligence, and technology to form? Some these civilizations must be millions of years older than us on Earth, so surely should have developed the capability to communicate and travel through from star to star and galaxy to galaxy. But we haven't heard from or seen anybod Science and science fiction collide to pose answers to a fundamental question about our universe If the universe is so old and so big, shouldn't there have been ample opportunities for other solar systems, planets, life forms, intelligence, and technology to form? Some these civilizations must be millions of years older than us on Earth, so surely should have developed the capability to communicate and travel through from star to star and galaxy to galaxy. But we haven't heard from or seen anybody else. Where is everybody? This a big and provocative question that has scientific, philosophical, and religious implications. Webb breaks the question down by posing 50 possible solutions to this paradox. He brings in concepts from physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, history, geology, science fiction, sociology, cognition, and engineering. To think about this question involves the combination of so many disciplines, and that's why it's so very intriguing. Not only that, our best answers are at the frontiers of most of these fields of knowledge. So, in this book you get a whirlwind tour of the biggest thinking, cutting edge, and open questions in so many different areas. I recommend this book to science lovers and science fiction lovers. Webb's structure takes a big getting used to. It can be repetitive at times, as he's tried to make each potential solution self-contained (as he states in the introduction). I read the book straight through. I found the book to be thoughtful, well researched, and thought provoking. It had reviews of basic science, which came off a big elementary (as if Webb had just reviewed a college 101 textbook and parroted back information [he is not an expert in evolutionary biology, for example]). Some of my favorite ideas are: Berserkers which are self-replicated robots that can quickly consume a galaxy; the singularity hits and human life, creativity, and curiosity is no longer necessary, civilizations are destroyed; and that "perhaps it is possible to develop a mathematical system based upon the concepts of shape and size, rather than numbers." I like that Webb can be creative at times. At other times, I found his repetitiveness about not being creative enough to get old quickly.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Swapnil Bokade

    50 years ago the great Enrico Fermi posed this question to 3 other physicists while out on lunch, " where is everybody?" Which is known as Fermi Paradox now. The crux of the paradox is as follows. Given there are so many billion stars and so many billion planets, if we follow the principle of mediocrity which says there's nothing special about life on earth and it can evolve anywhere given the right conditions, there should be an awfully large number of civilizations capable of communicating wit 50 years ago the great Enrico Fermi posed this question to 3 other physicists while out on lunch, " where is everybody?" Which is known as Fermi Paradox now. The crux of the paradox is as follows. Given there are so many billion stars and so many billion planets, if we follow the principle of mediocrity which says there's nothing special about life on earth and it can evolve anywhere given the right conditions, there should be an awfully large number of civilizations capable of communicating with us. So the question is why don't we see signs of intelligence anywhere else at all? The author has collected various ideas, theories or hypotheses which attempt to explain this Big Silence in this book. The book is divided into three sections 1. Alien are already here 2.aliens exist but haven't communicated 3. Aliens don't exist. The author himself tends to support the 3 group. He argues that given the vast number of parameters that are fine tuned for life on earth to have evolved it is highly unlikely that we would find another place where all these Parameters have been so similarly tuned. This idea had been explored much more in depth in book called Rare Earth which is also a good read on the topic. Personally I tend to disagree with this pessimistic view which says we are alone but since we have absolutely nothing in data to argue in one way or other this is as good a theory to support as any other. This book introduced me to some really novel explanations for the paradox like Von Neumann probes , zoo hypothesis or interdict scenario. All in all a really interesting read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Hedlund

    Discusses history of Fermi Paradox and fifty representative solutions. Life seems to have arisen soon after life-supporting environment developed on earth. But if it's that easy for life to arise naturally, why haven't we seen any others? 1. Helped me appreciate why many solutions that seem initially reasonable are unsatisfying when you investigate them. Yes, stars are far away, but within our own Galaxy, if intelligent life arose somewhere else a billion years earlier, even fairly conservative a Discusses history of Fermi Paradox and fifty representative solutions. Life seems to have arisen soon after life-supporting environment developed on earth. But if it's that easy for life to arise naturally, why haven't we seen any others? 1. Helped me appreciate why many solutions that seem initially reasonable are unsatisfying when you investigate them. Yes, stars are far away, but within our own Galaxy, if intelligent life arose somewhere else a billion years earlier, even fairly conservative assumptions should have galaxy colonized in a hundred million years. Sociological arguments (ex. They don't want to explore, they're hiding out of caution, etc) require *every* other civilization to behave that way. Even "virtual" addicts would still eventually have to outrun the death of their star. 2. Helped me appreciate how long-term life actually requires *more* fine-tuning than young-earth creationism. Introduced me to concept of the *continuously* habitable zone. 3. Found it interesting that the breadth of solutions never seriously considered the possibility that the Christian God deliberately created life. Even seeded/alien type solutions assume a natural initial origin. Fun easy read that covers a lot of science, primarily astronomy but many related topics as well.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

    This book discusses in the detail the decades-old "Fermi paradox" -- if the universe is so congenial to the formation and evolution of life, then where are all of these other civilization? Webb presents a list of 50 proposed "solutions" to the paradox, including: (a) societies lose interest in space exploration and colonization; (b) societies invariably destroy themselves before they venture out; (c) there is a "galactic ethic" that civilizations not disclose their existence to nascent civilizat This book discusses in the detail the decades-old "Fermi paradox" -- if the universe is so congenial to the formation and evolution of life, then where are all of these other civilization? Webb presents a list of 50 proposed "solutions" to the paradox, including: (a) societies lose interest in space exploration and colonization; (b) societies invariably destroy themselves before they venture out; (c) there is a "galactic ethic" that civilizations not disclose their existence to nascent civilizations such as ours; (d) space travel is impossibly difficult; and (e) colonization would take too long. Webb analyzes each of these "explanations", and then presents his own conclusion -- there are no extraterrestrial societies; we are literally the first, at least within the confines of the Milky Way. I personally feel this is a very significant question. This is a very good reference to unravel the mystery.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Francesco

    Very interesting book, full of brilliant ideas across multiple fields! Trying to answering to the Fermi paradox (on why we didn't meet extraterrestrial intelligent forms of lives yet or the Great Silence), the author shares with us brilliant ideas on the evolution of our galaxy, of our solar system, of our planet and on terrestrial life in itself. Particularly insightful the last chapters, where Webb explains the exceptionality of the transition from mono-cellular to multi-cellular life and the p Very interesting book, full of brilliant ideas across multiple fields! Trying to answering to the Fermi paradox (on why we didn't meet extraterrestrial intelligent forms of lives yet or the Great Silence), the author shares with us brilliant ideas on the evolution of our galaxy, of our solar system, of our planet and on terrestrial life in itself. Particularly insightful the last chapters, where Webb explains the exceptionality of the transition from mono-cellular to multi-cellular life and the peculiarity of humans being the only species out of 50 billions to enjoy language, being language a necessary ingredient of an Intelligent life. The only negative point of the book is that the first part, dedicated to why ETIs already contacted us or not, is the least interesting one. So you need to get to the second half of the book to read the best pages.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Lugo

    This is one of the most interesting books I have read in some time. It is an easy read for the non-scientific types but addresses one of the most important questions I think people can consider at this moment in our cultural development. Unfortunately I think that I agree with the conclusions of the author that perhaps intelligent life in the universie is exceedingly rare.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    Couldn't make it through it, but I don't think that's the authors fault. Engaging and funny at time, just not for me, I guess. Couldn't make it through it, but I don't think that's the authors fault. Engaging and funny at time, just not for me, I guess.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fresno Bob

    some of the 50 are mostly repetitive, would have like to have seen more depth of discussion

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susi

    blew my mind & broke my heart, basically

  29. 5 out of 5

    K.L.3

    I really loved the theories in this book that they listed out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doctor Moss

    The simple formulations of Fermi's paradox seem very compelling. There are countless stars in countless galaxies in the universe. We now know that planets are very common around those stars. We even have good reason to believe that the basic building blocks of life are abundant among those stars and planets. Surely, out there, what happened here on our planet has happened elsewhere -- the development of intelligent life and a technological civilization. In fact, there should be civilizations muc The simple formulations of Fermi's paradox seem very compelling. There are countless stars in countless galaxies in the universe. We now know that planets are very common around those stars. We even have good reason to believe that the basic building blocks of life are abundant among those stars and planets. Surely, out there, what happened here on our planet has happened elsewhere -- the development of intelligent life and a technological civilization. In fact, there should be civilizations much older than our own, given the age of the universe and the age of the stars and galaxies in it. So why haven't we detected or even just stumbled upon any evidence of the existence of those civilizations? As Fermi said, "Where is everybody?" Evidence could come in the form of anything from actual visitations to detection of artificial signals -- radio signals or other sorts. But, UFO enthusiasts and such aside, we have no solid evidence of any sort. Webb is gripped by Fermi's question and discusses, usually briefly, 50 solutions -- 49, plus his own -- to the paradox. The first set of solutions discuss the possibility that, in fact, extraterrestrial civilizations do exist and are in some sense "here", hiding or observing or the like. The second set explores the idea that they exist, but have not communicated or visited. And the third set discusses the possibility, depressing to some, that they just don't exist. Many, many of the solutions could be books in and of themselves (and some have been). The price for the scope of Webb's discussion is the brevity of his treatment of each of the solutions. I have to admit I was growing a bit weary as I read through one after another, building up more and more unfinished answers. But Webb's final chapter, his own solution, saved the day for me. What he does there is a kind of reversal of the famous Drake equation. The Drake equation purports to compute the number of likely civilizations, based on a relatively small set of factors -- rate of star formation, percentage of stars having planets, likelihood of life developing, etc. on up to the average lifetime of a civilization capable of communication. Compared to when Drake first formulated the equation in 1961, we know much more about the factors in the equation, both their values and the subvariables that complicate computing them. It's gotten messier, in a good way, and the Drake equation may seem out-dated, but there is plenty of room for optimism about the number of civilizations that should be out there. What Webb does is take an estimate of the number of planets in our own galaxy and then apply a succession of filters to winnow that number down, eliminating percentages for planets that orbit too close to their stars, that orbit very short-lived stars, that may not have protective radiation belts like our own, or suitable atmospheres, and so on. He combines many of the factors he has discussed among the 49 previous solutions to arrive at a compelling argument that the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations isn't really so surprising at all -- what happened here, when you look in detail, isn't so likely to have happened elsewhere at all. I have to say, I feel more strongly pulled toward that "pessimistic" conclusion after having read Webb's book. It's not that life seems improbable, but life with our peculiar characteristics -- the adaptation we call intelligence, the specific form our intelligence takes, our specific ways of communicating and making our presence known, the very things we are prepared to understand as signs of "intelligence" . . . All of these things, when each is considered by itself, seem fragile. The universe no doubt contains unimaginable things -- a tremendous diversity of environments in which who knows what has developed or evolved. What has happened here may just be one thing that can happen in that immeasurable diversity -- there's nothing that compels nature to produce intelligent civilizations, no directionality that would favor or drive towards it. In that largest scheme of things, intelligent civilizations may be a blip (or two or three). If you want to look more on the optimistic side, that diversity may be more exciting to explore than the discovery of others like ourselves.

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