I recently listened to the audio book, “The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities” by Caleb Scharf. If you find yourself interested in this book I would go for the audio version as it is a heavy lift with a 10 hour reading time. The book was written in 2014 which is light years in physics but I am a science nerd and I still heard a lot of facts that were new to me.
Scharf is an astro-physicist and professor of astro-biology at Columbia University. The book is about the possibility of life on other planets. Not UFO’s or little green men. Right now the probability is low because we only know of life occurring on one planet; Earth.
He explains complex concepts in an easily digestible form without dumbing it down. It starts with a brief history of scientific discovery but quickly gets to explaining the title of the book. He is well versed in both the macro and micro universe and uses both to illustrate his points. He describes his ideas in a way that you can easily picture what he is talking about.
In this book he carries you through some mind blowing thought experiments both scientific and philosophical. It is always interesting and I felt focused on the topics all the way through unlike the first audio book I listened to which almost turned me off completely.
One concept he kept returning to was we don’t have to look for the “Goldilocks zone” on other planets to find the perfect circumstances for life to develop. This comes from the various forms of life that have developed in extreme conditions right here on Earth. From complex ecosystems based on sulphur compounds released by hydrothermal vents in the deepest parts of our oceans to organisms living beneath thousands of feet of glacial ice.
I’m also fascinated by the way we can deduce the workings of the distant universe with the scant evidence available to us.
If you have enjoyed books by Hawkings and Tyson then I am sure you will like this one. He does tend to keep you entertained by his ideas rather than his sense of humor though.
Scharf has books that are more recent which I want to read but I am limited to books I can find on the Hoopla, Digital app that works for free with my library card. If you can afford it I would recommend buying other books by him in the same vein.