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March 5, 2010
Friday Book Recommendation
Here's another outside the field - in fact, it's outside of a lot of people's fields. Where Is Everybody? presents fifty possible solutions to the Fermi Paradox: if there are a lot of planets in the galaxy, and if life is pretty easy to get going, and if it's possible to travel or just communicate between solar systems. . .why haven't we seen anything? Enrico Fermi, in his typically disconcerting way, ran the math on this question during a lunchtime conversation in 1950, and realized that at least one of the common assumptions behind it must be off, and by a great deal.
I was thinking about this last night, because this weekend I'll have swarms of fourth graders and their parents looking through my telescope (if the weather cooperates), under the auspices of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston. And it's impossible to look at the night sky without wondering what life might exist out there and what form it might take. That Wikipedia article is quite good, but if you find it interesting, this book goes into the question in greater detail. I should note that a new book, The Eerie Silence, has just come out on the same topic, but I haven't seen that one yet.
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