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Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  81 ratings  ·  15 reviews
The acclaimed author of "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" searches for life on other planetsAre we alone in the universe? Surely amidst the immensity of the cosmos there must be other intelligent life out there. Don't be so sure, says John Gribbin, one of today's best popular science writers. In this fascinating and intriguing new book, Gribbin argues that the very existenc ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by John Wiley & Sons (first published October 31st 2011)
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Scott Lupo
Super interesting book taking the view that Earth, and the technological, intelligent beings inhabiting Earth, is a totally rare event in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way. I come from the view that with billions of stars in a galaxy and billions of galaxies throughout the universe that it just comes down to pure numbers. There has to be intelligent life out there somewhere. John Gribbin does a good job of saying "Hold on!", maybe we are the only intelligent life in the universe. He consedes th ...more
In this book, the author (a prominent British scientist) lends one more voice to the stark conclusion, which several other authors have raised lately, namely that we are alone in the Milky Way. Yes, this is in spite of the numerous recent discoveries of potentially habitable planets around other stars.

This all stems from Fermi's paradox -- in 1950, noted nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, while having lunch with colleagues, suddenly blurted out "Where is everybody". He reasoned that if there was a
I thought that the author was actually a little weak on the science. Gribbin would make certain assertions about why particular conditions or processes in evolution were likely to be uncommon, attempt to support with one or two facts, but would then use these assertions later in the book as assumptions that formed the basis of other assertions. For example, he discussed the possibility of the earth crossing certain boundaries of density in the intergalactic medium made by the arms in the spiral ...more
The Universe is full of galaxies and stars and planets of every kind, yet nowhere have we seen any sign of life than the profuse and abundant kind we find on our own tiny planet Earth. Could ours really be the only living planet in the Universe with life - or, at least, life any more complicated than pond scum?

This is the argument made by John Gribbin in Alone in the Universe. It is essentially the same as the case for uniqueness made by Ward and Brownlee in Rare Earth, and by Brian Cox in his
Until I read this book, I was of the opinion that intelligent life somewhere in the Universe was a foregone conclusion. With all the billions of galaxies and stars out there, how could intelligent life not be all over the place? The Drake Equation helped frame up the numbers for me. Certainly the Fermi Paradox (Where are they?) gave me pause, but still the unimaginable numbers of possible stellar systems meant that they were out there, even if they haven't visited us. Well, I'm not so sure anymo ...more
Anyone who has taken a significant number of science classes will likely come to this book with the same bias I have, having been repeatedly taught that the Earth, the solar system, and the Milky Way are in no wise special. But Gribbin argues a perspective different from most scientists - that in the galaxy, at least, intelligent life is a rare occurrence, and that the Earth is likely exceedingly special, if not completely unique.

Gribban's arguments are often hampered by the fact that they are f
An intriguing if somewhat depressing argument that a combination of factors makes it very likely that we are the only technnological socity in our galaxy. He points out that our place in cosmic time, our position in the galaxy, the amount of elements heavier than helium, chance encounters with a supernova in the past, and a variety of comet interactions and climate accidents have made life, complex life, and our species possible, but that these conditions are very unlikely to have occurred any w ...more
I'm not well-versed in the technical language of physics and astronomy but Gribbin did a fantastic job in making the content accessible and fascinating. This book made for a great book club read and a lively discussion on the prospect of life, let alone intelligent life, out there in the universe. You may not have thought that a book like this could have you laughing out oud, but Gribbin's writing is as amusing as it is thought-provoking and enlightening. The book is also chock full of reference ...more
His thesis is that we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, which I admit that I agreed with before reading the book. John Gribbin writes from a astronomer's perspective, so that part is what interested me - how many things would have to "go right" for intelligent life to even survive. While I take issue with the consistently evolutionary viewpoint that is assumed, along with so many unproven assumptions, it was still possible to learn many interesting astronomical phenomena. In the last ...more
B Kevin
Bad news for SETI enthusiasts. Our intelligent, technological species and civilization are the result of a long chain of very low probabilities. Multiply together a string of very small numbers, (i.e. the Drake Equation) and you get a vanishingly small number. Gribbin, as usually, provides a clear, cogent review of how we came to be. Finally an antidote to the Drake/Sagen groupies who think the universe is teaming with radio astronomers. Fermi's unanswered question. "Where are they?" has been an ...more
Dave Schey
John Gribbin explains why he thinks we are probably alone in our Milky Way Galaxy. Whether this science is all new to you or you are already familiar with the science of cosmology and evolution, this book is a nice summary and review of what's new; written, as usual, in an easy, well explained, entertaining manner.
It's good to hear compelling arguments that counter your beliefs or seem to fly in the face of what's intuitively "right". It's even better when those compelling arguments are spoken in everyday English and flow gracefully enough to stimulate and entertain rather than merely pedantically logically.
Gribbin puts forth a strong argument and a fascinating look at all the reasons why there is life on our planet. Well worth the time!
Chris Cookson
Depressing, but this guy makes a lot of good points. Oh well.
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John R. Gribbin (born 1946) is a British science writer, an astrophysicist, and a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex. The topical range of his prolific writings include quantum physics, biographies of famous scientists, human evolution, the origins of the universe, climate change and global warming. His also writes science fiction.

John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's de
More about John Gribbin...
In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality: Solving the Quantum Mysteries The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors In Search of the Multiverse Science of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials

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