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on 27 April 2015
Cool book - haven't finished reading it yet
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on 10 August 2007
This fine book by Stephen Webb offers fifty different solutions for the Fermi paradox. In short, Enrico Fermi wondered that since universe is so big and should contain lots of life, where are they? Why haven't we seen any evidence at all of extraterrestrial intelligence?

Well, there are plenty of good explanations, as this book proves. The solutions are divided in three categories: "they're already here," "they exist but we can't communicate with them," and "we're alone". Since there's a real lack of proper knowledge about these things, reader will find plenty of educated guesses, hazy probabilities and that sort of thinking, but that's the nature of the whole question.

I'd definitely recommend this book to anybody who's interested in the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial life. While there are no set answers, this book will give the reader a lot of material to chew on. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)
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on 7 January 2004
Not being a science fiction fan, initially I doubted the scientific value of the book as the author includes some rather sci-fi solutions to the Fermi paradox early in the book. Presumably they have to be included for completeness. But he presents some very sensible, interesting solutions with his own as the last one, No. 50. I was particularly interested in the solutions dealing with the evolution of human characteristics, such as language and the probability of an extraterrestrial civilisation developing it. These factors are also treated like terms in the Drake equation.
I can recommend it to anyone wondering if there really is intelligent life in space. A less scientific, but worthwhile companion to "Rare Earth" which to me still represents the "bible" on planetary evolution.
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on 7 November 2012
For anyone that asks the eternal question " IS there anyone out there ?", this book is simply a MUST. Absolute.

It argues for and against each case and is a thought provoking and highly enjoyable read.

It explores the Fermi Paradox in great depth with the respect that the subject matter deserves.

The author draws his own conclusions at the end, which I now share ( I didn't before ). A real testament to the power of books !

There is no better broadly based book on the subject.

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on 27 August 2014
The author discusses 50 solutions to Fermi's paradox. However, he does not come over as unbiased. His conclusion - that Earth is unique - seems to have already been formed before the discussion of the possible solutions.

The conclusion of the author could be correct, although he did not seem convincing.

There is very little real data on the subject. We have reasonable knowledge of the conditions on the 7 other planets in our solar system. There are over 1000 exo planets now known to exist. Some guesses can be made as to the likelihood of life on these planets, by virtue of their mass and proximity to their parent stars.

The author does not ask why some people would like to believe that the earth is unique. This seems to be an echo of pre Copernican thinking, which placed man at the centre of the universe. Surely this belief is as childish as a young child believing that the whole world revolves around its cries and temper tantrums. To believe that we are unique is to foster a childish outlook on another level.
Webb casts his web widely but not widely enough. There is too much concentration on what present technology can do.So he assumes that aliens may try contact via radio. What he does not investigate is how a meaningful conversation could take place. Assume for example a technological civilisation is 1000 light years away. So a simple 'Hello' would take at least 2000 years for a reply to come back.
Not enough emphasis has been given on how unstable the technogical civilisation on Earth is. It is simply not sustainable and is doomed to disappear quite soon. Think of the 4.5 billion years of the Earth and the probable lifetime of a radio using civilisation as not more than 300 years. Then think how rare a planet of the right size, constitution, benign parent star and so on is. The likelihood that there is another radio broadcasting civilisation in the Milky Way now must surely be very small.
It seems that advanced civilisations must use techiques beyond what we know, provided they have overcome the dangers of technology (war with destructive weapons, unsustainable use of their planet). Perhaps they have solved or partially solved the riddle of consciousness. John Lilly maintained that he had contacted beings from advanced civilisations via telepathy. Far fetched? If telepathy really does exist, then there may be little need for expensive space ships using enormous quantities of energy.
Webb does not investigate in enough detail why other civilisations would want to contact us. Would you want to contact someone who has discovered enough to make terrible weapons and is killing his fellow inmates ? You would only do so if you were convinced that he had matured enough not to use violence anymore. Impressing that person with the jewels of a greater civilisation would not ensure that the good in him is actually intrinsic, rather than imposed.
The apparent silence in the Universe, in my opinion, is because we expect advanced civilisations to be primarily technological civilisations. I do agree with the author that intelligent life is exceedingly rare, but not that the Earth is unique. If we overcome the present crisis of unsustainability, and war, I believe that other civilisations will then contact us as every intelligent and mature civilisation will be special in its own way and have gifts to offer others.

General points:
1) The black and white photos are quite poor. Some colour photos would have been appreciated.

2) As previous reviewers in the USA have noted, the author makes some mistakes in his calculations.

On the good side, the author has been quite systematic, the chapters are succint without excessive detail. It is provocative in a good way.
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on 8 December 2013
Good, clear, well-written overview of potential solutions to the Fermi Paradox. A little bit out of date on some of the latest work now, but I've not come across anything that I felt organised all the different ideas and literature better. I felt some of the discussion of non-scientific contributions (philosophy, sociology etc) was unduly flippant, but that was the only real weakness. I found Webb's eventual conclusion very plausible and well justified. Still (2013) well worth purchase if you are interested in issues around alien life.
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on 8 September 2014
I found this book very interesting. It is full of well researched information on a huge range of astronomical, geological and biological topics. Every solution looked at could give rise to a plethora of debates. I don't want to give away the author's own solution to the problem but I discussed it at my own blog: http://3stes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/how-many-extra-terrestrial.html
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on 22 February 2015
Very good read that gives you a whole new perspective of life and space. There is a bit of science involved but it is all written clearly and can be followed with a bit of effort
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on 26 January 2015
If you have an interest in any of: Astronomy, Biology, Paleontology, Geology, Chemistry, Cosmology, SETI or just love a good read on a fascinating topic - recommended highly.
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on 6 August 2015
The best book ever. It's not just about science, it's also about wondering who we really are. Loads of profound insights. Do read it!
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