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The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe? Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846141427
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141423
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 480,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A magnificent cosmic tour d'horizon of what we know, and what we might yet encounter out there, in the apparent emptiness of deep space (Christoper Hart Sunday Times )

An immensely readable investigation of the SETI enterprise (Michael Hanlon New Scientist )

Davies is the most engaging of writers (Clive Cookson FT )

In an area more given to fabulation than fact, [Paul Davies'] level-headedness is positively refreshing. If you ever start worrying about why no one is talking to us, this is the book to calm you down (David Papineau Observer )

About the Author

Paul Davies has achieved an international reputation for his ability to explain the significance of advanced scientific ideas in simple language. He is the author of some twenty books and has written and presented a number of TV and radio programmes. He has also won the prestigious Templeton Prize, the world's largest award for intellectual endeavour, and a Glaxo Science Writers' Fellowship. He is currently Professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science.


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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Timothy Jones on 28 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, or SETI, is in a rut. That is Paul Davies's message in `The Eerie Silence - Are we alone in the Universe' - a thorough taking stock of the programme started by Frank Drake in 1959 to search for alien radio messages from outer space.

Davies wants a rethink from scratch, where we shake off the blinkers of anthropocentric thinking and question exactly what we should be looking for. Listening out for a direct radio message is fine, but lets extend the search to include more subtle evidence of alien legacy and the very origin of life.

ET has indeed been strangely quiet, and for Davies two rather extreme explanations for that are providing signposts to a `New SETI'.

Under the first option, we have to accept that life on Earth was born of a series of events so incredibly flukey they will never be repeated. Under the second, we face the chilling prospect that intelligent life pops up quite frequently, only to develop a propensity for technology fueled self-destruction.

Holding out hope for a middle way, and putting speculation over self-destructing aliens aside, Davies argues there is a raft of solid science we could be getting on with to better understand the scarcity of life. Those up for the task (and skilled enough to secure funding) will enter a field of polarised opinions and a paucity of hard evidence. The prize? - possibly the final word on the question of whether life is ubiquitous in the universe - a `cosmic imperative' - or that you and I here on Earth are a one-off, somewhat lonesome, rarity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon on 2 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book. I always enjoy reading Paul Davies' work - he is an amazing thinker, writer and communicator. Part scientist, part philosopher, Mr Davies has spent his life seeking answers to the biggest questions, the greatest of which is 'Are we alone?' - the subject of this book

Do not be lulled into thinking that this is simply a round up of all the credible evidence for extra-terrestrial life we have so far uncovered. That would be a very short book indeed because, put simply...there is none

By contrast, this book contains a wide ranging analysis of the implications of our hitherto failed attempts to search for extra-terrestrial life - the 'eerie silence' of the title. Given our failure, this leads Davies to the question: 'What should we look for instead?'

And the fact is, the answers are far from simple. Most people are aware that the SETI programme is actively searching for radio signals from inter-stellar space. But, as the author (himself head of SETI's Post Detection Task Group) argues, is this really the best place to look? In a universe as vast as ours, radio signals from distant galaxies will take millions of years to reach us. Given that the Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, countless numbers of advanced civilisations could have arisen and then simply disappeared in that time. If life is rare - as we are increasingly forced to accept - and the universe is both very large and very old, can we ever expect technologically advanced civilisations to exist within communicable distances of each other? The fact is, we search the radio spectrum because it is a technology we have mastered, not because it is necessarily a good place to look...

Davies then goes on to sketch out what we might look for instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Risto on 6 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is perfect for the non-professional reader looking for an educated opinion about extraterrestrial life. The book is very thorough, the author takes the trouble to discuss his subject from just about all imaginable points of view. It is well written, and the author manages a few surprises along the way.

If you are, like me, fascinated by the vast universe and the search for life out there, this book is a real find.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jazzrook TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
SETI - the search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - was founded 50 years ago and cosmologist Paul Davies(chairman of the SETI post-detection task group) has written a fascinating book to mark this anniversary. Despite an exhaustive search using state-of-the-art technology, scientists have yet to detect any signal that would indicate any extraterrestrial civilisation. Paul Davies puts forward various reasons for this 'eerie silence', one being that the chances of life emerging in the universe are extremely remote and was a freak occurence on planet Earth.
On the other hand the universe could be teeming with advanced life forms but the vast distances involved make any communication with Earthlings highly unlikely.
Parts of the book verge on the speculative(e.g aliens seeding the Earth with viruses) but on the whole 'The Eerie Silence' is a rational, hard-headed and enlightening account of the possibility of ETI and deserves to be widely read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Mankin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over the years I have read many of Paul Davies' books. He continues to write with great clarity and is adept as ever at explaining often complex concepts in ways that are relatively easy for a layman such as I to understand. I was always intrigued by science at school but struggled with physics and chemistry. I always keep an eye out for any new books by this, and a handful of other science writers - if only there had been as many good 'popular science' books published when I was a teenager struggling to understand the intricacies of physics and chemisty (late 60s/early 70s). This is a very different book as it is aimed at making sense of the SETI project which most people know from the novel 'Contact', and the film of the book, as well as the opening sequence of 'Independence Day'. It is an enjoyable and insightful account of how the search for extraterrestrial life has evolved over the last 50 years and where it is likely to be headed in the future. The book makes you appreciate just how vast the universe is and, possibly, just how rare life may actually be - or at least life that we might recognise. It's a thoroughly good read.
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