The Bookworm Sez: Are we alone? Book explores possible answers

The Bookworm Sez: Are we alone? Book explores possible answers

Who’s out there?

On a dark, stormy night, you might ask yourself that if you hear scratching at the door. Your mind may play tricks on you then, making you wonder if you’re being visited by something spectral, though it’s really just your imagination. Or maybe, says the new book “Aliens” by Jim Al-Khalili (c.2017, Picador, $25, 240 pages), you’ve got company…

Are we alone?

That’s a question mankind has wondered since our ancestors first saw stars. In the late 1800s, astronomers presumed that we weren’t but modern scientists aren’t so sure: SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been around awhile and, accidentally or on purpose, we’ve beamed all sorts of electromagnetic babble into the galaxy with nary a reply. Is there anyone out there, or are they too far away to drop in for a cuppa to confirm their presence?

Let’s say that aliens are on their way here. What Earthly reason would they have for coming? It wouldn’t be for breeding purposes; the biology would undoubtedly be all wrong. If they’re advanced enough for intergalactic travel, they wouldn’t need humans for nutrition, nor would they need our oceans, resources, or even our planet for their survival. It’s true that they may want our knowledge or culture but why would they come in, um, person, when sending robots would be more efficient?

That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? But then, consider what reportedly happened in Roswell and Area 51, what Betty and Barney Hill went through, and all the abductions that supposedly happen every day, and you worry all over again. Science fiction only fuels the fire. Old black-and-white movies just fan the flames. Even so, have you ever noticed that movie aliens are basically human-like?

All kidding aside, what’s out there? Are we alone, or are other beings watching us and waiting for the right time to ring our doorbells? Does our knowledge of aliens start with knowing ourselves and our world?

Is the truth really out there – and do we honestly want to know it?

Beginning with the foundations of biology, octopi, and life’s elements, “Aliens” is one of those books that makes you feel as though you’ve entered a symposium of NASA and SETI researchers who are focused on answering the unanswerable.

That feeling isn’t far off, actually; here, author Jim Al-Khalili collected essays from science professionals and researchers – his “Team Aliens” – to delve into the mysteries of life on Earth and beyond. There’s a lot of mind-blowing in that, and plenty of food for thought on not just whether life exists in other galaxies, but what it might look like. With such kinds of hypotheses, readers may be led to think beyond a comfort zone they didn’t even know they had – something that’s possible to do between chapters on SciFi writing and the silliness of old B-movies.

For some readers, this book may ask more questions than it answers. For others, it may not answer one thing. But for anyone who’s wondered if we’re just super-special within this galaxy, “Aliens” isn’t so “out there.”

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

This summer salad is sweet and refreshing, the perfect accompaniment to salty meat and chips. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Fueling happy memories

Fresh salad accompanies an outdoors Father’s Day meal

File
Minister’s Message: The way life will be

“Is this the way it was all meant to be? Is this what God had in mind when He created us?”

Photo provided by Art We There Yet
José Luis Vílchez and Cora Rose with their retired school bus-turned-art and recording studio.
‘It’s all about people’

Traveling artists depict Kenai Peninsula across mediums

Promotional Photo courtesy Pixar Animation/Walt Disney Studios
In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) shows up unexpectedly. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters Summer 2024.
On the Screen: ‘Inside Out 2’ a bold evolution of Pixar’s emotional storytelling

Set only a year after the events of the first film, “Inside Out 2” returns viewers to the inner workings of pre-teen Riley

Calvin Fair, in his element, on Buck Mountain, above Chief Cove on Kodiak Island, in October 1986. His hunting partner and longtime friend Will Troyer captured this image while they were on one of the duo’s annual deer-hunting trips. (Photo courtesy of the Fair Family Collection)
The Road Not Taken: A tribute to my father’s career choice

For the first 40 years of my life, I saw my father professionally as a dentist. Period.

Edward Burke is ordained a transitional deacon by Archbishop Andrew E. Bellisario at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Photo provided by Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church)
Kenai’s Catholic Church hosts diaconate ordination

The event was attended by roughly 300 people, nearly a dozen priests and deacons and the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau

Rhubarb custard cake is ready to be baked. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Rhubarb and running to lift the spirits

Frozen rhubarb just won’t do for this tart and beautiful custard cake, so pick it fresh wherever you can find it

File
Minister’s Message: Prioritizing prayer

I am thankful I can determine to pray about choices and circumstances

Will Morrow (courtesy)
The adventure continues

I rolled into Kenai for what was going to be just a three- to five-year adventure

Most Read