|Back in 1950, during a lunch break at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, several scientists were trading wisecracks about a recent spate of UFO reports when Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi offered an observation that has echoed through the decades. Given the number of places where life could exist in the vast universe, and|
the length of time it has had to evolve, the skies ought to be teeming with beings from advanced, space-faring civilizations — but nothing incontrovertible has shown up. You have to wonder, as Fermi did, “Where is everybody?”
His colleagues chuckled, but the “Fermi paradox” perfectly frames the profound absurdity of the search for life beyond Earth. Humans have beamed beacons into space, robotically visited every world in the solar system and discovered thousands of planets circling stars far from our own. Yet all we’ve encountered is a chilly void.
Still, the possibility that something is out there calls to us.
Three new books approach the mystery from distinctly different perspectives: the unlikely believer in UFOs, the visionary dedicated to rigorous investigation and the cadre of scientists who still plug away at the problem, probing the universe for an answer.