The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Apr 13, 2010 - Science - 256 pages

One of the world’s leading scientists explains why—and how—the search for intelligent life beyond Earth should be expanded.

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. Physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies has been closely involved with SETI for three decades and chairs the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, 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 provocative book Davies 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.

 

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Contents

1 Is Anybody Out There?
1
Freak SideShow or Cosmic Imperative?
24
3 A Shadow Biosphere
42
4 How Much Intelligence is Out There?
66
Widening the Search
93
6 Evidence for a Galactic Diaspora
116
7 Alien Magic
140
Photo Insert
152
8 PostBiological Intelligence
153
9 First Contact
169
10 Who Speaks for Earth?
196
Appendix
209
Bibliography
211
Notes
213
Index
231
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

PAUL DAVIES is an internationally acclaimed physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist at Arizona State University, where he runs the pioneering Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He also chairs the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Post-Detection Taskgroup, so that if SETI succeeds in finding intelligent life, he will be among the first to know. The asteroid 1992OG was officially renamed Pauldavies in his honor. In addition to his many scientific awards, Davies is the recipient of the 1995 Templeton Prize—the world’s largest annual prize—for his work on science and religion. He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Mind of God, About Time, How to Build a Time Machine, and The Goldilocks Enigma. He lives in Tempe, Arizona.

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