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Adam Frank is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and a regular contributor to Discover and Astronomy magazines. The cofounder of NPR's 13:7 Cosmos and Culture blog, his work has been featured in Best American Science and Nature Writing, and he has been the recipient of an näytä lisää American Astronomical Society prize for scientific writing. näytä vähemmän
Image credit: Adam Frank

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Associated Works

The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science (2018) — Avustaja — 6 kappaletta

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How likely it is that a signal will be found, and what this might mean, are hard questions to answer.

Yes, very hard. It might take up to a minute to stumble across the news that a repeating FRB had been discovered in 2019 - the first of its kind.

Humanity became aware of Fast Radio Bursts over 10 years ago. But they were all singular events. However this signal is long-lasting and has a 16 day pattern to it. It comes from a galaxy 500 million light-years away. That raises the next point: that even if this is a sign of intelligence, of if the collaboration between SETI and the New Mexico array does reveal anything, it won't be a local phenomenon.

And to discover "intelligence" (or signs of it) that are so distant we can't interact with it - even if it still exists, after taking millions of years to arrive here - makes the issue abstract in the extreme. The universe is so large there certainly is/has/will-be intelligence in it. Or another intelligence, depending on personal opinion. Whether it is detectable, contactable, and local or approaching makes all the difference regarding its scientific importance.

There remain equally or more plausible explanations that don't employ extraterrestrial intelligence. One big problem for the alien idea is the variety of locations and distances involved. Of the FRBs that have been localised, some are from billions of light-years away; others are from hundreds of millions. As astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute has noted, that alone is reason enough to discount the hypothesis that FRBs are extraterrestrial communications.

As Arthur C. Clarke said " Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying"

The immensely bizarre and fantastical prospect that life has only emerged once and will only emerge once in all of space and time throws up questions that could never be answered. And I'm speaking as someone who currently doesn’t believe in god.

I believe that there must be or will be other life out there at some point,

But if there really isn't, in the past or future?

Unfortunately Frank's book is the wrost kind of book when it comes to Science. Humans were not the first on Earth?? WTF? I love SF, but when I want to read SF I'll go and get me one...I don't want to read SF disguised as Science.
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antao | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Aug 27, 2020 |
An interesting topic and history oriented book relating to life among the planets, including our own. This was an audio book for me and I found it easy and attention getting to follow.

The questions delved into were how life begins, as we know it. And if we are the only ones out there or here. And as typical of humans we are still like the cavemen looking out of their caves wondering. The book gets very much into ecosystems and environment with a bent toward the save the planet crowd. Regardless of your persuasion on this topic, lots to chew on here.… (lisätietoja)
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knightlight777 | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 19, 2019 |
Astrobiologist Frank makes a strong and interesting case for the relevance of his discipline for public policy and the future of the human species. The chance of Earth's present high-tech civilization (HTC) being the first one in the history of the observable universe, he calculates, is an ultra-minuscule 1 in 10^22. Following predecessors like Carl Sagan, he wonders whether HTCs having a too-small average longevity accounts for the non-observance (so far) of evidence for exo-HTCs. Whereas Sagan thought self-obliteration by weapons of mass destruction could be a reason for HTCs' low longevity, Frank explains how the reason could be their failure to cope with inevitable self-caused warming of their planetary environments. He proposes a research program to make this theory more quantitative.… (lisätietoja)
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fpagan | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Oct 9, 2018 |
What practical use is research into possible extraterrestrial live and civilizations?

We need a new frame to think about our own planet and our relationship. It's just false to all the evidence that we don't affect the habitability of Earth. It's unhelpful, providing no useful path forward, to think of ourselves as a completely malign, destructive force.

We need a new story to tell ourselves, that correctly places us as an active force on Earth, currently doing a lot of damage out of our ignorance until now, but able to change direction and, through use of our growing knowledge, able to make different, more useful decisions.

Adam Frank looks at both the history of our thinking and investigation of the idea of alien life, up to and including the recent explosion of discovery of extrasolar planets and what that means for the likelihood that other technologically advanced civilizations at least have existed, and the history of our growing understanding of our real impact on the habitability of Earth for us and our technologically advanced civilization. It turns out that that history of growing understanding of the crucial factor of our contribution to global warming goes back not to the 1970s, but to the latter part of the 19th century.

He looks at how early life changed our planet to make in habitable for life like us, the crucial fact that it's not Earth we need to worry about protecting, but ourselves (Earth, and life, will go one almost regardless of what we do, but we might not), and how even the study of certainly lifeless Venus and so far not proven to harbor life Mars have enhanced our understanding of Earth and our relationship to it. Even understanding that planets, at all sizes and types, are fairly common in the universe, and that therefore it's wildly unlikely that we're the first technological civilization to exist, expands our understanding. We further need to understand whether it's common, possible, or wildly unlikely for civilizations to survive the technological and environmental bottleneck we are currently struggling through.

We want to be a civilization that survives.

It's a fascinating book, and well worth reading. Recommended.

I initially borrowed this book from my local library, and then bought it.
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LisCarey | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Sep 19, 2018 |



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