These books are a little different to the books about aliens that I have previously reviewed. They are not books by/about alien abductees, books about people that can channel messages from alien entities, books about ancient aliens nor books about the UFO phenomenon. No, these two books attempt to use science and mathematics to work out if there is other life in the universe and if we will ever encounter it. BORING!
Are We Alone? – Robert T. Rood & James S. Trefil
Scribners – 1981
Professors Rood and Trefil, two handsome hunks.
Are We Alone? focuses on the Drake Equation and its variables. I’m not much of a math/science guy, so I’m just going to quote directly from the Drake Equation’s wikipedia entry to explain it.
The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The number of such civilizations N, is assumed to be equal to the mathematical product of
- R, the average rate of star formations, in our galaxy,
- fp, the fraction of formed stars that have planets,
- ne for stars that have planets, the average number of planets that can potentially support life,
- fl, the fraction of those planets that actually develop life,
- fi, the fraction of planets bearing life on which intelligent, civilized life, has developed,
- fc, the fraction of these civilizations that have developed communications, i.e., technologies that release detectable signs into space, and
- L, the length of time over which such civilizations release detectable signals,
for a combined expression of:
N = R x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L
The authors devote a chapter to calculate the range (from optimistic to pessimistic) of values for each variable. This book was far more academic than I wanted it to be, and I didn’t understand a lot of what the authors were talking about. I found myself skimming through large sections. Rood and Trefil conclude that while not impossible, it is highly, highly unlikely that our galaxy houses other forms of intelligent life. This book was boring as hell, but I don’t think it was bullshit.
We Are Not Alone – Walter Sullivan
Laffont Special Edition – 1970? (originally published 1964)
Despite its title, We Are Not Alone was written before Are We Alone? It’s a little broader in its scope, providing a fairly detailed history of astronomy and discussing potential implications of contact with an alien race, but the focus here is largely the same. Written before man walked on the moon, the science in this one is probably quite dated – I’m assuming that there have since been breakthroughs in astronomy that affect the calculations and speculation herein, but the author was a well respected science journalist, and he doesn’t seem like a huge bullshitter. He concludes that it is very likely that intelligent alien life exists elsewhere in the universe.
Sullivan discusses some interesting points about religion and contact with aliens. Could other planets be home to creatures that never fell from grace with God? Is there Gardens of Eden on strange distant lands? Did God separate us because one race had fallen further than another? Can we use technology to spread the word of Christ through the Cosmos? What if visitors to Earth are religious missionaries, spreading a bizarre alien faith? All pretty interesting ideas. There was also a chapter on meteorites, and it made me think of Jordy Verrell.
Sullivan reckoned that aliens are out there. Rood and Trefil say that we’re probably alone. Neither provides any definitive conclusions, and as far as I know, as of 2018, we’re not much closer to determining whether we are alone in the universe or not. Personally, I still have my fingers crossed that an Independence Day style invasion is approaching. I assume that tyrannical Alien overlords would do a better job of running this planet than the idiots we’ve chosen for the job.
Both of these books were a little sciencey for my tastes. I’ll try to stick with books about aliens written by/for gullible idiots in the future.
One thought on “Are We Alone? We Are Not Alone.”
Pierre Boulle, author of both “Planet of the Apes” and “The Bridge Over the River Kwai,” once wrote a short story about what would have happened if Adam and Eve hadn’t fallen, in his short story collection “Because It is Absurd” (1966/1970). Not to spoil it, but the result was a disaster!