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Mondes d’ailleurs – Trinh Xuan Thuan

Thoughts: Part of my effort to read more books in French. The book began with a section of about 100 pages in which the author surveyed the evolution of Western philosophers’ thoughts about the possibility of extrasolar planets and life elsewhere, which began interesting but became a bit of a slog. The book picked up again when he reached the point of people actually discovering exoplanets, before taking several turns for the weird when he argued in favour of the strong anthropic principle (to his credit, he made it clear that his views were his own, and not those of most scientists) and then embarked on an earnest discussion of UFOs. He also has a habit, which I’ve noticed in other books of his, of talking about certain processes teleologically – processes occurring as the universe’s way that, for example, complexity might increase or life might spring into being, and talking about the emergence of consciousness and of life as a "cosmic imperative".

Despite its quirks, I found Mondes d’ailleurs to be a worthwhile and enjoyable read.

(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)

Trinh Xuan Thuan. 2021. Mondes d'ailleurs. Flammarion.


1. Les prémices des autres mondes

2. À la recherche d’autres mondes: Les exoplanètes

3. Le miracle de la vie terrestre

4. En quête d’une vie extraterrestre: le système solaire

5. Une vie autour des étoiles

6. À la recherche d’une intelligence extra-terrestre

7. Aller dans les étoiles

8. Où sont-ils? Le paradoxe de Fermi


Posted: Dec 13, 2022. Last updated: Aug 31, 2023.