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I’m writing this post for two reasons: to recommend a new book by Columbia astrobiologist Caleb Scharf, and to defend an old book of mine.

Scharf’s book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities. I liked it so much that I brought him to Stevens last month to talk about it. Here’s how I introduced him:

“The Copernicus Complex addresses some of the deepest questions humans have ever asked. How weird are we? Was our existence highly probable, or improbable? Even miraculous? You can break this question down into more specific questions: How probable was our universe? Our galaxy? Solar system? Planet? How probable was life? And how probable were creatures like us, who can ponder their probability? For thousands of years, anyone could speculate about our weirdness, from Plato to pot-smoking college kids, because no one had any answers. It was just philosophy, pure guesswork. But new scientific discoveries are informing and guiding estimates of our probability. This is the story that Caleb Scharf tells brilliantly in The Copernicus Complex.”

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