Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
Eminently Readable for Non-Scientist Astronomy Buffs
on December 8, 2013
Five Billion Years of Solitude really means 4.6 billion years of solitude, because that's how old the Earth is, and it is the only planet in the universe that we know for sure has life. Our planet has spent 4.6 billion years in solitude.
This book is about all aspects of humanity's search for life in the universe. It's a technical/scientific book told by Billings like a thriller. I love scientific subjects, and speculation about extraterrestrial life and exoplanets has always fascinated me.
Billings tells about the gyrations of NASA when trying to squeeze as much of its various projects out of limited dollars, the fickle behavior of short-lived congress that supplies the funds, and the lack of vision of most of our presidents, save John F. Kennedy.
He also tells the personal stories of the major players, the superstars of this burgeoning new scientific field, introducing a new key character almost every chapter. This gives a sometimes dry and scientific story a human touch that draws the reader in.
However, the reader must be interested in science, astronomy, and astrobiology, at least, to be able to work through this book. For me, it was perfect.
Five Billion Years of Solitude is a completely up to date (2013) study of the search for extraterrestrial life and all that this pertains, from mundane things like budgets for space telescopes, to human stories of the people involved and the competition of the planet finders, to the hard science of how one finds a planet around a star dozens of light years away where the star outshines the planet by a billion to one.
Some of the reviewers here blasted the book for inaccuracies, sloppiness and unfocused writing. I suspect that those reviewers are hard scientists, and I am sure they will find plenty of "glossing over" of scientific detail. I don't believe this book was meant to be a textbook on finding life in the universe, or an article for a scientific journal. I sense the book was written exactly for people like me: Science-minded amateurs, folks fascinated with and in awe of astronomy, philosophical minds that grapple with the place of humanity in the universe. I learned a lot of details of subjects that I knew nothing about before and had only read about in the occasional article in Time magazine. For me, it was an excellent introduction and an inspiration to read more on the subject and buy other books.
An eminently readable book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in science.