Cover Image: Contact Paradox, The

Contact Paradox, The

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I love reading about science though a lot of it I don't really understand, but I understood this book and enjoyed reading it.
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Are we alone in the universe?

Simple math would seem to indicate that we are not; what are the odds that Earth is alone among an infinite number of planets in producing intelligent life? And yet, we have yet to encounter these other intelligences in any verifiable way.

So … where is everyone?

That’s part of the question being tackled by Keith Cooper’s new book “The Contact Paradox: Challenging our Assumptions in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It’s a look at the decades-long history of SETI – the Search for Extraterrestrial Life – and a deep dive into some of the presuppositions that we as humans have placed on that search. Through conversations with leading experts and long digressions into not just hard science, but fields such as sociology, anthropology and psychology, Cooper considers what it means to want to talk to the stars – and what it might mean were they ever to talk back.

Back in 1974, the giant Arecibo radio telescope beamed a signal out into the void, a brief explosion of radio waves intended to announce humanity’s presence to any extraterrestrial civilizations that might be out there listening. As of yet, we haven’t heard from anyone – but does that mean they aren’t there.

For decades now, a small but dedicated group of researchers has devoted their research efforts to SETI, seeking to make some sort of contact with any alien beings that might be out there somewhere. And yes, they haven’t found anything yet, but the realities of the universe’s vastness – more than a hundred billion stars in just the Milky Way, to say nothing of the other galaxies beyond it – mean that the likelihood of quick success is, well … infinitesimal.

But that doesn’t stop them from trying. There are scientists who seek to transmit even more messages out into the beyond in hopes of capturing the attention of those who have thus far remained quiet.

Cooper’s book addresses both sides of this particular quest. Yes, there’s a chance that we could make contact with a highly advanced civilization whose knowledge could lead to a quantum leap forward in our own society’s development. But who’s to say that those we contact would have out best interest in mind?

Our tendency is to anthropomorphize, to endow these hypothetical ETs with our own characteristics. But the truth is that the odds are stacked against them being, well … anything like us. The assumption of altruism is a big one – one that notables like Stephen Hawking himself have warned us against making. There are huge questions on both sides of the debate, but we’d do well to consider our own history – for instance, what has tended to happen here when two civilizations make contact for the first time? (Hint: It’s rarely good.)

“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. Sure, we’d love to come down on the side of someone like Carl Sagan, who believed that an extraterrestrial broadcast might well contain a sort of Encyclopedia Galactica, a collection of alien knowledge that could serve to elevate humanity. But consider the resources necessary to make and maintain such a broadcast – can we truly expect that sort of pure altruism? And what if we’re doing nothing but announcing ourselves as an easy target for a more predatory type of civilization? Our own history shows plenty of examples of what happens when a more advanced civilization encounters a more primitive one.

Obviously, it’s a moot point until contact is made – we can’t possibly know what is out there until that happens. What’s so intriguing about “The Contact Paradox” is the way Cooper juxtaposes direct conversations about the mechanics of SETI with thoughts about human nature and how that might (or might not) translate into our engagement with aliens should we ever establish communication.

“The Contact Paradox: Challenging our Assumptions in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” is the kind of book that anyone intrigued about what (or who) might be out there among the stars needs to read. It’s a smart and concise look at SETI, the people devoted to it and the potential consequences of its success.

Are we alone in the universe? We may never know the answer, but there will always be those committed to asking the question.
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I am not a science-minded person and a lot of upper-level math boggles my mind, but I do love reading about science, especially space and astrophysics and what lies beyond our atmosphere. When I had the opportunity to read The Contact Paradox by Keith Cooper, I jumped on it, because I love the idea of examining what it means to achieve contact with extraterrestrials.

I really loved how Cooper presented his argument, circled back around to clarify and reiterate, and also used pop culture and science fiction references to illustrate some of the ideas about which he wrote. It's not an easy book to read, but it is accessible and is not full of unexplained jargon so that a casual science reader like myself could pick it up, understand the concepts about which he wrote, and enjoy it. I think writing about a very specialized, specific field in a way that makes it accessible to people on the other side of the field is a difficult task, and I thoroughly enjoyed this from beginning to end.

The concept of extraterrestrial life is big in science fiction, and when I taught science fiction, I always liked to include bits like this (not so eloquently put, but I wanted to get my students thinking about what extraterrestrial life in fiction meant). Often times, in fiction, when characters go out exploring within the narrative laid out for them, they're not always just searching for something else or the other. A lot of the times they're also searching for themselves and their meaning within the greater context of their world, and the struggle in searching for themselves is that to themselves they must find definition. Who am I? Who are we? Who do I want to be? These and similar questions are also faced in the context of what it means to actually seek out or receive communication and visits from other planets and whether or not that's possible in our lifetimes or any near-future lifetimes. And if it isn't possible, then what? Then who are we?

Thank you to Bloomsbury for a gifted digital ARC! All opinions are my own.
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A great book about the many potential scenarios involved with first contact with aliens. You can tell that a lot of time and effort went into researching and writing this; every part of this book gives the science of whatever is being talked about, along with plenty of examples and comparisons to help make it easy for people who – like me – struggle to understand the sciences.  There are moments of humor and heart, and I think that this would have been that much better if there had been more of it. An incredibly well written, insightful read!
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The Contact Paradox is an interesting take in SETI's search for extraterrestrial life in the universe, detailing not only the agency's efforts and new discoveries, but also the inherent problems humanity would face as a species if we were to find something and be unprepared for how to handle it on a cultural level. The books covers a large variety of topics, including Dyson Spheres, Earth like planets, extinction events, and the science of black holes. 

While this is a highly scientific book, I was appreciative that it was written by Keith Cooper in terms I could fully understand, and as such it was never a chore to read. For those with an interest in learning more about what's possible in the vastness of the universe, this is a great pick up. 

**I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Bloomsbury USA**
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I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  It was written to cover a technical topic but in a manner that was understandable and not too dense and in the weeds with terms or math that would lose the reader.  I saw a preview copy with layout, typos, etc, but adjusting for that and assuming that those issues will be edited in final copy, I see the writing style, grammar etc as very good.  In fact In several places I liked the writers ability to eloquently and elegantly present ideas that helped visualizing concepts.

I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley and am grateful for the access and the opportunity to provide feedback.  I hope the book is successful in finding a good audience.
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I was impressed at the depth of this book and its detailed approach to such a complex topic. It reads as an accessible, though still academic, history book that provides a great background and look forward to the possibility of future contact.
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A very interesting, very well researched book about the possibility of making contact with an intelligent alien civilization.  The author not only takes us down the path of what humans would need to do scientifically to try and make contact (it's a lot) but he also spends a good portion of the book walking us through the broader issue of "Is it even a good idea?"

He discusses what exactly does "intelligence" encompass and is altruism solely a human trait- kind of an important topic wouldn't you say.  Cooper delves into the sociological and ethical issues of this as well as how risk assessment needs to be huge part of it.  We learn  about SETI,  METI, Dyson spheres, the Tall Tower concept, self replicating probes,  and of course, the Fermi Paradox........If they are indeed out there, then why haven't they made contact ?

The bottom line is that scientists have discovered thousands of exoplanets in our galaxy with more being discovered every day.  If contact is coming any time soon, we as a species, need to be totally prepared.  A fascinating read.

Thanks to Keith Cooper, Bloomsburg Sigma and Net galley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for a Kindle ARC of The Contact Paradox.

I love aliens; aliens books, movies, documentaries, I'll give anything with an alien theme a try. One of my favorite shows is History's Ancient Aliens.

Naturally, I had to request The Contact Paradox, hoping for more...well, aliens, but it was a different kind of read.

The author delves into the psychological, sociological and humanistic concepts behind SETI, or the search for extraterrestrial life, breaking down our society's, perhaps naive, beliefs behind the reasons we are looking for contact beyond the stars.

But, is it safe to do so?

Does our assumption that altruism and intelligence supersede any negative or destructive qualities a higher form of life may possess and initiate if they choose to communicate with us?

The author delves deep into research, and its clear he has done his homework.

There's a lot of scientific jargon, quotes and details and though it makes for a fascinating read, at times it became too science-y and overwhelming.

I just wanted to know more about aliens.

The Contact Paradox is an honest narrative discussing the pros and cons of seeking life beyond our own planet; should we do it, and are we doing it for the right reasons?

Hopefully, these questions will be answered before we make contact with another species, and they will be kinder than we are.
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Full review forthcoming.................................................................................................................................................................................
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