The Copernicus Complex
by Caleb Scharf
Published by Allen Lane www.greenpenguin.co.uk
It’s a big (like, realllllly big) Universe but given what we’ve discovered about the menagerie of planetary systems around other stars in the last 20 years, Caleb Scharf, Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, suggests that we may be far less cosmologically insignificant than we thought. In a winding argument by way of history, astronomy, biology and a very comprehensible account of Bayseian reasoning, Scharf contends that we actually live in a particularly privileged point of spacetime – a cosmic “2 or 3 % club”.
The strongest chains of reasoning can’t budge the fact that we currently have only one example of life in the universe but we are, as Scharf says, “on the cusp of knowing”. The next generation of space probes and telescopes may be good enough to find life – if life is to be found – on alien worlds. Until then, ‘The Copernicus Complex’ is the state of the art – of our ignorance.