Paperbacks: Why Aren't They Here?, by Surendra Verma

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Though Voltaire envisaged a visit from a 36,000m giant from Sirius, Verma's lively book suggests it will be a while before we're on chat- ting terms with the neighbours.

There are only 1,000 stars within 100 light years of Earth and it will take 200 years to get a reply to any message we send. In any case, according to German scientist Peter Ulmschneider, if highly advanced civil- isations exist "under no circumstances will they disturb us... or allow us to trace them by radio waves". Still, this does not prevent "strikingly similar" stories of alien abduction, often involving "various forms of unwilling sex".