Is Anybody Out There?
Nick Gevers and Marty Halpern, eds.
DAW (312 pp, $7.99, June 2010)
Reviewed by David Soyka
The $64 question of the modern era is not whether God exists. How you answer that depends on intangibles and inferences based more on faith than the scientific method. What is nearly as imponderable is the empirical evidence of a vast universe (and possibly co-existent multi-verses) within which conditions exist (or once existed) that may give rise to life as we know it (putting aside consideration of life as we don’t know it and are incapable of comprehending). Moreover, given the age of the universe, it is further conceivable that there is, somewhere in some galaxy, more advanced civilizations capable of interstellar travel that, by now, should be aware of our existence. Even if we are in an Einsteinean universe in which speed of light travel cannot be exceeded, seeing as how that we are already capable of mapping distant universes, presumably a more advanced civilization would have the technology to find us and make radio contact, just as we have been launching Elvis recordings out beyond the solar system in hopes of doing the same. With no results.
So, where are they? This is the crux of the famous Fermi Paradox, posed by the Nobel physicist who reasoned that given the mathematical probabilities of the existence of alien civilizations, why hasn’t anyone phoned home? Is it truly possible that we are the only intelligent beings in the universe? Or, more depressing, are “intelligent” beings fated to self-destruct, allowing technology to harness their fate instead of the other way around, before becoming capable of interstellar travel?