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Extraterrestrial Reviews

Extraterrestrial by Avi Loeb


The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth

Avi Loeb

Score pending

2 reviews

Category: Non-fiction
Imprint: John Murray Publishers Ltd
Publisher: John Murray Press
Publication date: 4 Feb 2021
ISBN: 9781529304824

The world's most eminent scientist of space explains why he believes in extraterrestrial life. He outlines his theory and its profound implications: for science, for religion, and for the future of our planet. A mind-bending journey through the furthest reaches of science, space-time, and the human imagination, Extraterrestrial challenges readers to aim for the stars-and to think critically about what's out there, no matter how strange it seems.

3 stars out of 5
27 Jan 2021

"I have a lot of time for Loeb... But this is a pretty thin book."

In Extraterrestrial, his sixth book, Loeb applies his unquestionable bravura to ‘Oumuamua, which he thinks is most likely to have been a piece of space junk, an interstellar buoy contrived by some long-extinguished alien civilisation. His case is founded on the sheer improbability that the object could have been wrought by any forces known to exist in nature. Rather than the cigar shape we know from a dozen artists’ impressions, Loeb argues that the data suggest it was a flat and reflective disc, less than a millimetre thick... 

I have a lot of time for Loeb. He has a joy in conjecture and an omnivorous spirit of inquiry that are more reminiscent of 20th-century thinkers such as Freeman Dyson or Carl Sagan than most of his peers. His readiness to stake his reputation on such an unconventional hypothesis is a mark of uncommon bravery. But this is a pretty thin book. It’s thin in a literal sense: the core thesis, which does not amount to more than a Scientific American cover feature, is padded out about 200 pages with excursions into memoir, the Sherlock Holmes stories and the imponderability of black holes.


3 stars out of 5
26 Jan 2021

"It sounds crazy but there is a larger point he has to make, one well worth making and reading"

It sounds crazy but there is a larger point he has to make, one well worth making and reading. Central to his argument is what he calls the “Oumuamua wager,” a takeoff on Pascal’s famous wager, that the upside of believing in God far outweighs the downside. Likewise, believing that Oumuamua could have been an alien spacecraft can only make us more alert and receptive to thinking outside the box. As Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”... Modern academic science, he complains, has overvalued topics such as multiple dimensions and multiple universes, for which there is no evidence, and undervalued the search for life out there, not just in the form of extraterrestrial radio signals but in the form of chemical “biosignatures,” or even technological artifacts — such as, Loeb believes, Oumuamua. We could try harder, he writes. The discovery of alien life would be the greatest discovery in the history of science.