I’m doing a book review, the books by Stephen Webb; it’s called ‘If the Universe is Teeming with Aliens… Where is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life’. People in the know just call it ‘Where is Everybody’ though. It’s great. But then I would say that, I’m a bit of a nerd.
I’ve mentioned the book before, in my Fermi Paradox solution post. Most of what I wrote in that post, and some others, was inspired by this book.
To summarise what’s inside, Webb begins with an introduction to Enrico Fermi, his paradox and a few other important titbits. Then the meat of the book (book meat, euh) begins and Webb gives us 50 solutions to the paradox. Each is discussed intelligently, in detail, but all science is kept to a level that a lay person can easily understand, and Webb has clearly done his research on each, as many explanations have surprisingly long histories. Overall he divides the solutions into three categories ‘they are here’, ‘they exist but have not yet communicated’, and ‘they do not exist’, arrogantly ignoring my own categorisation, see Some Fermi Paradox Answers: some cool, some lunatic, some faintly disturbing.
Webb does investigate some of the more lunatic solutions, such as God existing, but he is a bold man of science and doesn’t shy away from treating each idea on its scientific merit. This is not to say that his ideas are boring; many are downright mind-blowing, but scientific.
This is not an in-depth, technical textbook (I’ve seen some people on Amazon criticising the book for not being so, but if you’re going to be that obtuse you may as well criticise Chinese food for not being Japanese food), it’s a pleasurable read in which you’ll end up learning something new. Webb is clearly a fan of both the science and the science fiction, and as a physicist he knows his stuff. The book’s written with intelligence, clarity and passion and it’s something I regularly go back too, as most of the book is split into the 50 solutions, you can quickly dip in and read your favourite ones again if you’ve got a few mins to kill.
So, a quick review, but a glowing one, I recommend you buy or steal this book.
- Is Anybody Out There? edited by Nick Gevers and Marty Halpern (tor.com)
- What Technology Wants: growing order v. the great silence (gearfuse.com)
- Where is everyone? (bbc.co.uk)
- “Fermi Bubbles: Remnants of an Ancient Jet?” and related posts (centauri-dreams.org)