Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Palomar Paradox: a SETI Mystery by Richard Rydon

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This third book in the Luper series makes for interesting reading in two ways. Richard Rydon has written a mystery, but he has also written an educational book. Peopled with an eccentric array of characters, the excitement of discovery or possible discovery is palpable and makes for a good mystery. On the other hand, for each portion of fiction, there is supplementary non-fiction details about specific items mentioned in the conversations between the fictional scientists. Personally, I found this interesting, but it is laid out in such a manner that these educational bits or clarifications can be skipped over without losing the thread of the story.

Of course SETI is looking for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence through signals parlayed through space. The Palomar telescopes, situated on Mount Palomar, are well-known to the general public in North America. Some sudden activity at the station has everyone reacting differently. Excited scientists work on either eliminating the signals as "noise" or discovering intelligence in the signals they are receiving. In the meantime, the government is doing its best to squelch the possibility with a wall of silence.

Strangely, at the same time as these spikes are found, there are reported sightings of UFOs. Are they real? Are they hoaxes? Are they simply misidentified? What would be the purpose of a supposed crash of a UFO in the Salter Sea? A strange location at the best of times. And what was the man doing who was found on the catwalk of the large radio telescope?

The book goes through a range of emotions: concern, excitement, disappointment, disgust, and diligence. The mystery circles around whether the signals are intelligent or not. With three random scientific astronomers working from different perspectives, the mystery deepens. Why is the government so intent on keeping everything quiet? Maybe that is the biggest mystery, but maybe it is about to be opened up. An interesting read, I felt it could have been expanded on, but perhaps that's another story.

1 comment:

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