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In a 1950 conversation at Los Alamos, four world-class scientists generally agreed, given the size of the Universe, that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations must be present. But one of the four, Enrico Fermi, asked, "If these civilizations do exist, where is everybody?" Given the fact that there are perhaps 400 million stars in our Galaxy alone, and perhaps 400 million galaxies in the Universe, it stands to reason that somewhere out there, in the 14 billion-year-old cosmos, there is or once was a civilization at least as advanced as our own. Webb discusses in detail the 50 most cogent and intriguing solutions to Fermi's famous paradox.
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Stephen Webb is a physicist working at the Open University in England and the author of MEASURING THE UNIVERSE.Review:
From the reviews:
"Webb offers coherent, understandable, and sometimes humorous coverage of a diverse range of topics. He provides readers with non-trivial insights into research fields they may not have encountered previously . . . I think everyone who has ever considered the possibility that other intelligent civilizations exist elsewhere within our galaxy will enjoy Where Is Everybody? They will find much to agree with, and much to argue about, in this very accessible volume." - Science
"Where Is Everybody? is a delightful mental romp. With a light-hearted, enthusiastic tone, Webb offers lively coverage of UFOs, crop circles, and the books of Erich von Däniken, the infamous proponent of the idea that aliens visited the Earth in the distant past. Science-fiction fans will enjoy the frequent references to Star Trek, and science buffs will appreciate mention of the ideas of Carl Sagan, Fred Hoyle, Frank Drake, and Freeman Dyson. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever pondered the question, "Are we alone?"
"There have been many attempts to resolve the Fermi paradox, and Stephen Webb.. presents his favorites in compelling detail... [he] writes informatively - even authoritatively... His writing is encyclopedic in scope, lucid, often poetic – and in the end is both enormously inspiring and a little sad if he is right, as I’m afraid he might be, in concluding that we are the only advanced civilization in the Galaxy. Readers are free to differ with Webb’s conclusion, but they will be surprised to learn how convincing it is.
"I have read a number of good astronomy books this past year, but this is the one I regard as indispensable. If I were Robinson Crusoe – shipwrecked and lonely on an island in space -- I would want this book with me."
MERCURY Magazine (published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific)
"Stephen Webb provides a fascinating a guide to the rousing scientific debate over the existence of extraterrestrial life in Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life ... . The reader of the book will get a very broad education in many basic fields of science, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology and even psychology. Webb is clear, entertaining and fair to every one of the 50 opinions, and even gives his own solutions in a concluding chapter." (Jeffrey Marsh, Washington Times, January, 2003)
"Physicist Stephen Webb examines 49 hypotheses and theories that attempt to solve the Fermi Paradox and offers his own explanation in this fascinating survey of the opinions of astronomers, physicists and philosophers. ... Where is Everybody? is engrossing and thought-provoking, a science book that every fan of science fiction should read." (Mark Graham, Rocky Mountains News, December, 2002)
"Amidst the plethora of books that treat the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, this one by Webb ... is outstanding. ... Each solution is presented in a very logical, interesting, thorough manner with accompanying explanations and notes that the intelligent layperson can understand. Webb digs into the issues ... by considering a very broad set of in-depth solutions that he addresses through an interesting and challenging mode of presentation that stretches the mind. ... An excellent book for anyone who has ever asked ‘Are we alone?’." (W. E. Howard III, Choice, March, 2003)
"‘Where is everybody?’ ... The question encapsulates what is now known as the Fermi paradox. Webb, lecturer in physics at the Open University in England, presents 49 solutions that have been proposed for the paradox, grouping them according to whether they hold that intelligent extraterrestrials are here, exist but have not communicated, or do not exist. He makes a splendid and enlightening story of it, concluding with his own solution, the 50th: ‘We are alone’." (Scientific American, June, 2003)
"In response to Enrico Fermi’s famous 1950 question concerning the existence of advance civilizations elsewhere, physicist Webb critically examines 50 resolutions to explain the total absence of empirical evidence for probes, starships, and communications from extraterrestrials. ... His comprehensive analysis covers topics ranging from the Drake equation and Dyson spheres to the panspermia hypothesis and anthropic arguments. ... This richly informative and very engaging book is recommended for most academic and public library science collections." (H. James Birx, Library Journal, December, 2002)
"Here’s a fascinating science book filled with ideas for SF writers. Physicist Webb examines the question about where are all the alien civilizations if life isn’t confined to lonely little Earth. ... There’s an interesting, accessible discussion of Fermi’s paradox and even the more technical ‘explanations’ are provided in understandable layman’s terms. Very interesting and thought provoking." (Science Fiction Journal, May, 2003)
"The question posed by the title of this fascinating book is Fermi’s Paradox. ... nicely organized and laid out for the general reader. Fortunately, Webb’s often witty comments make this an eminently readable book without sacrificing scientific rigor. You may agree or disagree with any of his particular solutions, but on the whole he presents each argument fairly. This is a terrific book for anybody with any interest in the extraterrestrial life question, and perhaps especially for those new to the field. Highly recommended." (Netsurfer Digest, June, 2003)
"In Where is Everybody? Stephen Webb ... examines proposed solutions to this conundrum, known as the Fermi Paradox. ... The proposed solutions ... are well explained, and Webb skillfully argues their pros and cons with science. ... Where is Everybody? is a delightful mental romp. With a light-hearted, enthusiastic tone, Webb offers lively coverage of UFOs, crop circles, and the books of Erich von Däniken ... . This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever pondered the question, ‘Are we alone?’" (Jennifer Birriel, Astronomy, April, 2003)
"‘Where is everybody?’ ... . it became known as Fermi’s Paradox. Now Stephen Webb ... has suggested fifty reasonably sensible answers to the puzzle. ... Where is everybody? is a classic book and one that you will be happy to refer to for decades to come. It is beautifully written, concise, thorough, interesting, and mentally stretching. This huge subject has been summarized with skill. And there are pages of notes and references encouraging you to read more and delve further." (David W. Hughes, The Observatory, Vol. 123 (1175), 2003)
"There have been many attempts to resolve the Fermi paradox, and Stephen Webb, the author of this remarkable book, presents his 50 favorites in compelling detail ... . His writing is encyclopedic in scope, lucid, often poetic ... enormously inspiring ... . I have read a number of good astronomy books this past year; but this one is the one I regard as indispensable. If I were Robinson Crusoe – shipwrecked and lonely on an island in space – I would want this book with me." (William Sheehan, Mercury, January – February, 2003)
"Fifty ideas are presented ... that reveal a clearly reasoned examination of what is known as ‘The Fermi Paradox’. ... For anyone who enjoys a good detective story, or using their thinking faculties and stretching the imagination to the limits ... ‘Where is everybody’ will be enormously informative and entertaining. ... Read this book, and whatever your views are about life elsewhere in the Universe, your appreciation for how special life is here on Earth will be enhanced! A worthy addition to any personal library." (Philip Bridle, BBC Radio, March, 2003)
"In his highly entertaining and thought-provoking book, Where is Everybody, Stephen Webb sets out a host of possible solutions to the so called Fermi paradox, famously posed by the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi." (Markus Chown, New Scientist, April, 2003)
"Webb offers coherent, understandable, and sometimes humorous coverage of a diverse range of topics. He provides readers with non-trivial insights into research fields they may not have encountered previously ... . The author cites an impressive collection of primary resource materials ... . I think everyone who has ever considered the possibility that other intelligent civilizations exist elsewhere within our galaxy will enjoy Where Is Everybody?" (Jill Tarter, Science, Vol. 299, January, 2003)
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