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Showing 1-10 of 45 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 86 reviews
on June 17, 2015
It is remarkable that Davies is heavily involved in SETI, yet clearly ranks the probability of intelligence elsewhere near Zero! This is a logical position, as there is always "that one chance..." Since no one knows for sure the viability of SETI to find anything, or even if life of any kind exists elsewhere, it pays to keep looking. However, Davies' reasons for pessimism about alien life is well-founded. The complexity of even the simplest life (Archea?) defies our previous naive view, "find a warm pool, stir and mix." And, in the ironic words of Joel Achenbach, if by some chance it happens there are no aliens, it would certainly make the search for them considerably more difficult. This book well worth your perusal and helps round out an understanding of where current SETI efforts stand.
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on November 28, 2013
A comprehensive book detailing the beginnings of the quest for intelligence in the universe. I found the book fascinating, especially the author's speculations about the possible alien life forms that my inhabit the universe, and how their discovery could impact our solar system and all life on earth. This book has it all, from the chemistry on earth, to the universe, to aliens living among us on earth. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is an amateur astronomer, or who just loves science.
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on November 25, 2012
"The Eerie Silence" by Paul Davies (2010, nonfiction, hardcover).
Note: The book was rated 4-stars on November 25, 2012 by this reviewer. The written review was published later on March 12, 2013.

To date, Humans have found no evidence of life outside our solar system, and we have not been contacted by extra-terrestrials. If life, more importantly intelligent life, is so prevalent in our known Universe, then where is everybody? Paul Davies asks this very question in his book.

The author briefly outlines the history of evolution of life on Earth, followed by civilization's development and the advent of technology allowing humans to send and receive information concerning forms of life existing elsewhere. He discusses how life might evolve on other planets, become intelligent, civilized, and technologically advanced. He discusses the enormous amount of time required for intelligent civilizations to evolve, interact with others, and eventually die, as well as the immense distances in space that inhibit both communication and planetary travel. He ponders the pros and cons of a civilization being "artificial" versus "biological" in nature.

Davies also speaks to the question of what people of Earth should do if a message is received or if "first contact" occurs. Might the first message be recognized by SETI? Who should acknowledge and speak for the people of Earth? What should we say? What should we do? What might happen to our societal structure or to humanity as a whole?

Some excellent questions and possible answers coupled with relevant information in this entertaining and thought-provoking book regarding intelligent life in our known Universe. A fun read in non-fiction for any astronomer, cosmologist, or science fiction aficionado. - Gene2155
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on July 8, 2014
Davies has produced a book that needed to be written. In science no theory is ever proven, instead evidence is accumulated to support the hypothesis. But, as Einstein pointed out, it only takes one contrary piece of evidence to throw a hypothesis out. In the case of SETI, evidence is definitely NOT accumulating, hence Davies' title. While some new evidence is hopeful, such as the now almost daily discovery of extraterrestial planets, making the notion that planets are commonplace, the evidence of ET biology. let alone ETI, is non-existent. Davies is being the true scientist here; maintaining a skeptical attitude and pointing out the now alomst 50 year search for ETI has yielded surprising no results. He also however, has not given up, and points to some new strategies. As he states, the scientist in him is thinking we may be truly alone, the more humanist is him has not given up.
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on January 17, 2012
My first thought after reading Eerie Silence, was "What a let down." I was expecting to be left with a much more optimistic feeling about the search for ET, filled with all the brainy ways we can use to find the little critters. With advanced tools like super powerful space-based telescopes, interplanetary probes, roving robots and remote chemistry detectors, I thought for sure that we were on the verge of finding the perfect habitable exoplanet. We could determine its orbit and mass, analyze its atmosphere, detect water on its surface, and identify the telltale indicators of photosynthetic life. Hallelujah! It would be the most profound discovery in human history. And with the recent news that there are potentially billions of habitable exoplanets right here in our own Milky Way galaxy, I thought for sure that such a discovery was right around the corner, possibly in my life time. I couldn't wait to read all about it, so I bought "Eerie Silence," by Paul Davies. But Mr. Davies didn't go there. Instead, he chose to give all the reasons for why our chances of finding ET are, at the very best, dismally futile.

Having said "Eerie Silence" was a let down, however, doesn't mean that I didn't like the book. I did. For even though I wanted to believe that our chances of finding ET were better than meager, I enjoyed the author's explanations of why such an endeavor is a very steep uphill battle. Obviously, there's a multitude of reasons. The distance between stars is too great, the universe is too violent, planet earth may be a unique fluke of nature, or extraterrestrial life could have come and gone long before our solar system ever swirled into existence. Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't unicellular or viral life all over the place. Here on earth, we know that if microbiology ever got started, it's apt to be still in existence no matter where it lives. Our own extremophiles have shown us that life can exist and prosper in horrendously extreme environments. Neither cold, hot, pressure, acid or radioactivity can kill it. But in terms of sentient life forms, no matter how sensitive our detectors, or how large our antenna, when it comes to intelligent messages from other solar systems, we can't hear anything but intergalactic static. We are all alone. Thus, eerie silence. It's sad, but after reading this book, that's probably the most likely scenario. But my gut tells me different. As far as I am concerned, Earth itself is evidence enough of life in the universe, and of the trillions of possibilities, there's bound to be more of us somewhere out there in space. We just have to keep looking. Life is worth looking for.

A little about the author: Mr. Davies is a physicist, cosmologist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University. Plus, he is a strong supporter of SETI as well as being the current Chair of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup. So he knows a lot about this subject. He's dedicated his life to it. And he writes so the common reader can understand it. His arguments were just technical enough to keep me interested, but not so deep as to be over my head. I think the average science reader would enjoy this book.
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on March 8, 2017
His speculations on the potential for alien intelligence make for really interesting reading, and as someone involved in SETI, he's well-positioned to write about it. One of my favourite books on the subject of astronomy.
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on March 6, 2011
In the name of cutting to the chase, it should be pointed out that by nature, any book on extraterrestrial intelligence will have to end up by saying "we don't know." This book is no different. It is short, but very thorough consideration of the issue of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence on the 50th anniversary of SETI. The author is a well-know particle physicist who also writes a lot of books for laypersons. He is also currently involved in a group that deals with questions of SETI and what to do if evidence were ever uncovered. As such, he can be considered an expert on the topic. When most people think of SETI, they think of listening for radio broadcasts or signals from other planets. While this certainly has been a central tenet of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence up until now, this book adds a huge dimension by expanding the entire topic to include consideration of whether or not traditional searches make sense, and what form extraterrestrial intelligence might take. He opens up many new areas of thought for most readers. Over the course of the book, he reviews how we have traditionally searched, talks about how life might have developed and what forms it might take in other places, what kinds of technology other societies might use, how they might be detectable and what we could look for in addition to traditional radio signals. He also covers the things like the question of whether or not we should try to make our own presence known and what we would do if we were to discover evidence of alien civilizations.

Some parts of the book are highly practical such as discussion of distances between planets, the speed of light, how long civilizations actually emit radio signals and so forth. Other parts of the book are much more speculative such as his discussion of the advance of technology and the potential for artificial intelligence to exist in exotic settings such as colonies orbiting black holes. Overall, the book tends to nicely meld practical considerations with more theoretical ones to give a very comprehensive coverage of everything there is to think about.

In the end, the author has to admit that as a scientist, the most likely conclusion is that we are alone in the observable universe. However, he leaves the question open and does not suggest that this is the final answer. If you are curious about SETI or wonder why there has been no evidence whatsoever of alien intelligence elsewhere in the universe, you might find this book to be an excellent place to start.
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on June 6, 2011
This book received some big blurbs and, given Davies' background as a science expositor who tries not to dumb down the science, I couldn't resist. As promised, Davies delivers a critique of some of the highs and lows of SETI objectives and work over the past fifty years and distils the major lessons learned. Some interesting capitulations are thrown up - for example, the much loved Pioneer plaque scores a direct hit - but these are cast constructively as lessons for the next fifty years (unless SETI's mission is accomplished - wow!). Davies analyses these lessons, providing an appraisal of the chances of encountering alien intelligence at this juncture in our respective histories, the possible nature of such an alien, and the consequences of contact. Davies draws from a 2008 `Sounds of Silence' workshop to strengthen his analysis, and customarily includes the `Notes', a feature which has enriched his other books.

The role of gamma ray bursts in filtering embryonic life surges, the perils of Sol's oscillation in the galactic plane and autoteleological super systems - these are but a few of the topics treated in Davies' usual eclectic style. Davies also considers the possible detection of alternative phylogenies of life on Earth which could represent extraterrestrial life on our doorstep, seeded actively or inactively from beyond. These snippets, especially those from physics which is Davies' strong suit, are the strength of the book.

On the other hand, when seeking to answer the questions of extraterrestrial intelligence, it's hard to weigh up the importance of different factors - even Davies comments that an anything goes approach yields "speculative anarchy with no useful predictive power". Davies' assay of facts and theories ranges very broadly and at times, especially in his discussion of multiple geneses of life, his approach erred towards too broad and a little shallow. However, in fairness, he weighs up a multitude of factors as well as anyone could and I can't think of anything that should have been omitted. This is, after all, a field of science with many indeterminate parameters, as evidenced by Drake's equation itself. Some readers may be a little surprised at the concluding answer of Paul `The Scientist' Davies in respect of "are we alone in the Universe?"
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on November 11, 2010
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has genuine intellectual curiosity. As I was reading the book, I could not help but think, several times, what a rare and special treat it is to be exposed to new ideas that make perfect sense, but which you've never thought about before. More than anything, it does a great job of explaining how anthropocentric our thinking is regarding aliens. For my money, it ranks alongside "Guns, Germs, and Steel", and "A Brief History of Time" as must-reads for understanding the world -- indeed, the universe -- around us. It provides as much insight into our own future as it does toward answering the question of whether other intelligent life exists in the universe. It accomplishes all of this without getting too technical, yet includes plenty of backup material for anyone wanting to dig deeper.

As great as this book is -- and it is a great book, not just a good one -- by its very nature it causes you to really think, and you may question the author's assumptions and conclusions. That's fair, because one of his main points is challenging the existing SETI program's assumptions. As an example, I wasn't at all convinced by Davies' dismissal of the possibility that aliens might be hostile. But that's part of the fun of reading this book -- you are free to draw your own conclusions.
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on September 22, 2017
An interesting in site into the search for life beyond earth. Written in a style that a non scientist can understand the challenges faced by the SETI project!
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