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The Contact Paradox

Challenging our Assumptions in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Keith Cooper



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18 May 2021
In 1974 a message was beamed towards the stars by the giant Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, a brief blast of radio waves designed to alert extraterrestrial civilisations to our existence. Of course, we don't know if such civilisations really exist. For the past six decades a small cadre of researchers have been on a quest to find out, as part of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. So far, SETI has found no evidence of extraterrestrial life, but with more than a hundred billion stars in our Galaxy alone to search, the odds of quick success are stacked against us.

The silence from the stars is prompting some researchers to transmit more messages into space, in an effort to provoke a response from any civilisations out there that might otherwise be staying quiet. However, the act of transmitting raises troubling questions about the process of contact.

In The Contact Paradox, author Keith Cooper looks at how far SETI has come since its modest beginnings, and where it is going, by speaking to the leading names in the field and beyond. SETI forces us to confront our nature in a way that we seldom have before - where did we come from, where are we going, and who are we in the cosmic context of things? This book considers the assumptions that we make in our search for extraterrestrial life, and explores how those assumptions can teach us about ourselves.
By:   Keith Cooper
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm, 
ISBN:   9781472960450
ISBN 10:   1472960459
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   18 May 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Keith Cooper is a freelance science journalist and editor. Since 2006 Keith has been the Editor of Astronomy Now, and he is also the Editor of Astrobiology Magazine. In addition he has written on numerous space- and physics-related topics, from exploding stars to quantum computers, for Centauri Dreams, New Scientist, Physics World, and Sky and Telescope. He holds a BSc in Physics with Astrophysics from the University of Manchester. @21stcenturySETI

Reviews for The Contact Paradox: Challenging our Assumptions in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

With concise and approachable writing, Cooper crafts a worthwhile popular science work about questions that, as scientists continually improve the human capacity for gathering information about the rest of the universe, are becoming increasingly important. --Starred review from Publishers Weekly There is growing interest in the possibility of 'alien intelligence', and in how best to search for it. Keith Cooper's broad and balanced perspective on current debates and programmes deserves wide readership. --Martin Rees A thorough and timely overview of the latest thinking in SETI and its controversial offspring, METI. This is a stimulating, provocative and ultimately optimistic enquiry into the biggest question we're ever likely to answer: are we alone? --Alastair Reynolds, Science Fiction Author The mystery of humanity's place in the universe enthrals millions. Whatever strangeness prevails out there, shouldn't we explore, at least with curious minds? The Contact Paradox surveys what science has revealed about this odd cosmos, the vastness of our ignorance and curiosity about any 'others' out there, and some of the steps we can take - even now - to prepare. --David Brin, Hugo and Nebula award-winning author In an engrossing narrative, Keith Cooper dissembles our expectations for intelligent alien life down to a set of assumptions we can gorge on with scientific precision. It is a meal guaranteed to expand what you thought was possible, and brings the search for life beyond the Earth from the realm of fiction to that of a scientific endeavour. --Elizabeth Tasker, Associate Professor at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and author of The Planet Factory. 'Are we alone in the universe?' has no answer yet, but Cooper delivers an enlightening exploration of the question. --Kirkus Reviews Cooper delivers an exciting, provocative tome to which science buffs will flock. --Booklist Earth has been broadcasting electromagnetic signals for a century and sending out mechanical probes - five of which have now left the solar system - for well over half a century. And despite countless science fiction cautionary tales, humans are still reflexively eager to meet sentient alien life. Those enthusiasts should read 'The Contact Paradox' before laying out the welcome mat. - Christian Science Monitor This eloquent, fascinating book likewise upends a standard assumption, in this case that humans would actually want to meet extraterrestrial intelligence. Whether you're the planet's biggest xenophobe or SETI's biggest fan, Keith Cooper will both delight and challenge you in these pages. --Open Letters Monthly Cooper offers the reader a balance of thought-provoking views and opinions, not only his own, but tapping into the thoughts of leading figures in SETI and related fields. --Inside Outer 'The Contact Paradox' is a fascinating look at the history of SETI and the possibilities inherent to extraterrestrial contact. What Cooper does that is so engaging is address multiple aspects of the issue. - The Main Edge

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