Yesterday I finished reading The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities. Long ago, people used to think the Earth was the center of the universe until Copernicus showed the Earth revolved around the sun. These days, it seems obvious that we're just a Johnny-come-lately species stuck on an infinitesimal rock going around an average star in an average solar system...or are we?
This book attempts to help humanity figure out its place in the universe by looking at everything from the formation of solar systems to the beginning of life. Among other things I learned from this book is that our solar system is unusual compared to others that have been found around other stars, the inner planets of our solar system may not have stable orbits (Mercury could crash into the sun, or Venus into us), and megaviruses may have devolved from other life forms. Altogether, the evidence suggests that we do occupy a special niche in the universe, but our ultimate significance to the universe depends on how much we explore the universe, even if we have to do it by machine instead of in person.
Although this was an interesting book to read, it's not a research book full of information I can use in my own stories. It is useful to step back every now and then to look at the big picture--and you can't get a much bigger picture than this.
Do we dare disturb the universe? Feel free to comment below.