his strange little book came to be in my Astronomy Club – they had a “for a good home” cart of books and I scooped this one up. Oddly, it comes from quaint old 1989, so yes, a lot changes in thirty years.
I’ll take my cheap shots early – the book is certainly dated. Mr. Ashpole (the author) is operating in the post-disco era. Several times he notes that no extra-solar planets have been detected (now there are hundreds). The Hubble is still a dream. All the technologies he discusses are outdated. Not his fault. That’s looking back from 2020.
Still, he does make a number of good points about the formation of intelligent life, like how long it takes. If it took four billion years for us to get to a point where we could dick around with radios, we shouldn’t be wasting our time beaming messages at stars younger than this. Also, there is a lot of thought given towards the technological ceiling in the universe (how much can actually be discovered). If it’s low, older races will get stuck in an era we can approach, making our communications relevant. If high, then they will advance beyond anything we can communicate with. Modern ranchers do not watch for Indian smoke signals anymore, right? So in this, it gave me a good idea how civilizations evolve, which stars and orbits are conducive to life, all that. All in all, a lot of food for thought here.
There is also the thought that has come around in recent decades. Should we be trying to communicate? Should we let alien races know we’re here and pretty much defenseless. That never came up in the book – I guess people are expecting ET, and no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.
So, a pretty good book which I’m glad I read – it pushed my understanding forward just a bit in a number of directions. And how can that be a bad thing?