Alone in the Universe Publication date : September 21, 2022
Jean-Pierre Bibring is a Professor of Physics at the University of Paris-Sud and an astrophysicist at the IAS (Institute of Space Astrophysics) in Orsay. He has been involved in several space programmes at the highest level, including the Cassini-Huyghens mission. He is currently working on the NASA “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter” mission, as well as the ESA (European Space Agency) “Venus Express” and “Mars Express” missions.
Humanity’s entrance into the era of space exploration fundamentally changed our vision of the cosmos. A long-held vision of the plurality of worlds became widespread, according to which the universe is infinite, with an infinity of stars and planets, and consequently an infinity of worlds similar to the Earth. Ever since the dawn of the space age, mankind has had its eyes riveted on the stars, hoping to find life elsewhere than on Earth.
But knowledge resulting from the exploration of the solar system contradicts this vision. Ever since the first in situ observations made possible by space probes, everything seems to indicate that the Earth, the product of a long chain of coincidences, is unique in its kind. Is life therefore not a generic property of the universe? Are we, contrary to common belief, alone in the cosmos?
Jean-Pierre Bibring invites readers to a Copernican awakening: man is a unique example of a conjunction of circumstances, a particular and fascinating form of the organisation of matter, isolated from the stars.