Back to index of science pages by Donald Sauter.
This page follows up the discussion presented in my page titled "The human race is special", or it stands alone as a discussion of published thoughts on the Fermi Paradox. It's quite interesting to compare the arguments of the "netheads" with those of paid writers. That might be worth a dissertation for someone . . .
Table of Contents:
Even after one talk.origins participant eventually pointed out that the position I was arguing was known as the Fermi Paradox and submitted a few small references in seemingly obscure scientific journals, I still had a notion that this "Fermi Paradox" was little-known.
Frank Drake's book Is Anyone Out There? was recommended to me and I found discussion of the Fermi Paradox there. I was more than a little baffled that Drake only considers the issue of extraterrestrials actually arriving here in person (little joke there), and completely ignores the issue of receiving signals from them. That gave me the bug to see what other writers had to say about it.
I wouldn't know how to quantify it, but surely no matter how difficult it is to explain why no intelligent aliens have visited us, it has to be many, many, many orders of magnitude more difficult explaining why they haven't signalled us.
Compare our own broadcast and space travel achievements. Completely unintentionally, earthlings have sent radio signals out to distances of tens of light years in all directions. (You don't need to tell me that, so far, our signals have not exactly been headbangers.) By comparison, Pioneer, launched in 1973, has gone about .001 light year. In a bee line.
Is Anyone Out There?; the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Frank Drake and Dava Sobel. Delacorte Press, 1992.
Frank Drake was a pioneer, and is a leader, in the search for alien intelligence. In Drake's book, at least, the Fermi Paradox refers only to the question of why aliens haven't physically landed here - the issue of radio communication is not melded in.
In the glossary, Drake brushes off the Fermi Paradox as "the seeming disparity, probably not significant, between the likelihood of the existence of other civilizations and the lack of evidence they have ever visited Earth."
Drake makes fun of physicist Frank Tipler's position (p204): "Tipler hypothesized that alien civilizations, if any existed, would colonize the Galaxy with von Neumann [i.e. self-replicating] machines. Mean, nasty robots everywhere, devouring all the sand dunes. The obvious fact that this had not happened constituted his case for humanity's being the only extant technological civilization."
Drake's response to this line of thinking yields the most frustratingly inscrutable (to me, at least) paragraph in the whole book: "The obvious rebuttal to this sorcerer scenario is simply 'Why? To what end?' Then again, who is to say that not once has there been a sorcerer in the Galaxy?" Huh???
Physicist Michael Hart got about the same treatment. Drake writes (p203), "Hart offered the absence of colonists from other stars as evidence that we are alone. He argued, as in the Fermi Paradox, that as soon as an intelligent civilization starts colonizing other stars, it can colonize its entire galaxy within a few tens of millions of years, which is a blink of an eye on the cosmic time scale. In other words, if it could have happened, it should have happened already, and since it hasn't happened, we are the first, if not the only technological civilization."
Drake's only rebuttal is that "Fermi had never taken the argument that far. He posed the question 'Where are they?' but then decided we didn't know enough to answer it. When Hart took up the reprise, he reached a firm - negative - conclusion, although he didn't have any more hard information than Fermi had."
So? Is Hart wrong because Fermi wimped out? Drake serves up possibly his best dig in the book to Hart: "Hart's line of reasoning, if you want to call it that, indicated that searching for other intelligent life is a waste of time."
It's funny to compare Drake's thinking here with his own on the opposite development. At the time that Drake made his first search in 1960, he estimates (p202) about one third of all scientists considered such a project not worth the cost, and another third, "totally flaky". Then he says, "By the late 1970s, perhaps 90 percent of the scientific community shared a belief in the existence of life on other planets of the Galaxy." He gushes about the "mission status" of the NASA SETI project (p222), which means that "SETI is supported all through NASA management, right up to the topmost level." On p236 he says, "Surprising numbers of our most brilliant scientists have turned their talents and committed their careers to SETI."
So where is the new, "hard information" to bring about such a change in thinking? In fact, with all of the failed searches, one would expect increased pessimism.
Drake (p131) does not believe that extraterrestrials will ever show up here, figuring all civilizations will find it too costly and hazardous. ("Money" was not brought up in the talk.origins discussion.) Drake dismisses even robot probes. His objection seems to hinge on money (again) and the difficulty of having a probe put itself in orbit in a distant solar system. (It's not clear to me why a probe has to stop anywhere.)
The willingness to accept that the barriers to interstellar space travel are insurmountable strikes me as very curious. In the book, Drake himself describes at least 3 fledgling, proposed ideas: hydrogen bomb propulsion; matter-antimatter engines; and scooping up hydrogen for fuel on the journey. Never mind the potential for new technologies we haven't even imagined yet. And at the risk of provoking a hearty laugh I point out once again that, modest though our first baby steps have been, humans have already sent out interstellar spacecraft. Makes it kind of hard to view it as impossible.
Drake lists (p205) his reasons for the "absence of alien presence on Earth":
1. They don't want to spend the money and expend the energy to attempt
2. They see no personal gain in creating a costly army of von Neumann machines.
3. They are content to colonize their own star system and leave the Galaxy alone.
4. They, like us, have found radio communication the more promising alternative, and are in fact engaged in it even as we debate the issue.
Points 1 to 3 all sound like much the same thing to me - and thoroughly unconvincing, at that. Point 4 brings us to the big question: As desperate as Drake's explanations for the lack of alien visits are, how does he explain the lack of radio contact? He tells us (p205): "There are any number of scenarios in which life exists, even richly intelligent life, but it remains undetected." Of this "any number" he describes just one: "For example, if certain aliens used optical fibers for all communications on their world, then no radio waves would leak out and the civilization would be invisible to us."
My response to that will sound worn out by now: that scenario cannot conceivably apply to all civilizations in all phases of their development.
He devotes another paragraph to the question on p233: "The silence we have heard so far is not in any way significant. We still have not looked long enough or hard enough. We've not explored a large enough chunk of the cosmic haystack. I could speculate that 'they' are watching us to see if we are worth talking to. Or perhaps the ethic exists among them that rules, 'There is no free lunch in the Galaxy.' If we want to join the community of advanced civilizations, we must work as hard as they must. Perhaps they will send a signal that can only be detected only if we put as much effort into receiving it as they put into transmitting it. NASA SETI is the beginning of the first truly meaningful effort to demonstrate the sincerity of our intentions."
To my mind, that would sound pretty far-fetched even if we were talking about just one alien civilization. It's surely impossible to swallow that all of the advanced alien civilizations would behave the same way. Consider that we certainly don't place such requirements on them.
About us not looking hard enough, Drake lists about 60 SETI projects in the appendix of his book. Also see his description of the NASA SETI project in the SETI section in my "Human race is special" page.
It's interesting to revisit the list of explanations given by talk.origins for the scarcity of aliens. Participants proposed (1) that the other alien civilizations all became energy blobs; (2) that they all communicate with some unknown form of radiation that is non-electromagnetic; (3) that they have all conspired to keep their existence unknown to us; (4) that they all lost interest in searching for alien life after one half-hearted attempt; or (5) that they all moved somewhere shielded from us.
Drake nowhere mentions (1), (4) or (5). Regarding (2), he talks of fiber optics (see above), but nothing exotic. (3) seems to be his biggest gun. He even gives another reason (p161) why a civilization would want to hide: if they have become immortal, they wouldn't want to risk getting blown up. Again, you could almost imagine this applying to one or a few civilizations, but certainly not all.
Joseph F. Baugher
On Civilized Stars; the search for intelligent life in outer space. Joseph F. Baugher. Prentice-Hall, 1985.
Baugher devotes 4 pages to the Fermi Paradox. Of all the writers here, he is the only one who offers rebuttals to the familiar answers, as I did in the talk.origins discussion. Since this is of great interest to me, I have allowed more repetition of previous discussion in this section devoted to his book.
He lays out the paradox as follows (p162): "The human race might be able to establish a significant presence in the galaxy within a time span as short as a few million years, an incredibly short time on a cosmic scale... Several people have reflected upon the fact that if large numbers of advanced technological civilizations have actually existed in the galaxy for as long as a few billion years, it appears at first sight rather odd that not a single one of them has ever attempted to colonize the Earth. If just one single ancient spacefaring civilization had begun to colonize the galaxy as recently as a few million years ago, all of the habitable worlds in the galaxy should now be occupied by descendants of their race... Every habitable planet in the galaxy should become completely and totally dominated by the descendants of the first intelligent race to undertake the colonization of the stars."
Baugher runs through the potential answers to the Fermi Paradox (p163). "Perhaps many millions of advanced technological civilizations have appeared in the galaxy, but the lifetime of every single one of them has been short." Baugher recognizes how difficult this is to swallow: "Every single one of them must have perished if [this] is to be a viable explanation... All that would be necessary for the complete colonization of the galaxy is for just one civilization to have survived technological adolescence."
(p164) "Maybe [they] voluntarily chose not to expand outward into the galaxy." Again, Baugher is not afraid to state the obvious rebuttal: "For the 'loss-of-interest' hypothesis to be an explanation for the Fermi Paradox, it would have to apply to every civilization which has come before us. Many societies may lose interest in expansion, but it is unrealistic to expect that all would do so. All that is required for the colonization of the galaxy is for just one civilization to have retained its outward expansive needs and desires after it had reached the starfaring stage."
(p166) "The 'zoo hypothesis' is another suggested explanation... Many aliens may have come to our solar system in the past, but they all have chosen not to disturb our world... Vastly superior intelligences may be watching and studying the Earth at this very moment... [and] they do not want to be seen." Baugher blasts this one to kingdom come: "The 'zoo hypothesis' is by its very nature unverifiable. Such speculations lead us away from scientific fact into the realm of science fiction."
Baugher doesn't touch on the much harder question of why they haven't signalled. He ends on a paragraph (p229) which suggests he wouldn't be stupefied - as the talk.origins crew was - by the word "special":
"After many years of listening, we may find that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is in vain. If we are alone, that too is a fact worth knowing. The Earth is then a unique spot in the universe; only here on this planet have intelligent creatures evolved, capable of looking out into space and wondering where they fit into the overall plan of the cosmos. We are more precious than any of the classical regions [religions?] have dared imagine, and there is an even greater obligation placed upon the human race to survive and ensure that the first emergence of consciousness into the universe is not snuffed out in its infancy."
We Are Not Alone; the continuing search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Walter Sullivan. Plume, 1994.
In the chapter "Where are they?", Sullivan gives a good rundown of the arguments of the SETI skeptics. He quotes more scientists on this subject than the other books. It's all familiar, but here's a sample (p247).
"In 1985, an attack on SETI was published by Ernst Mayr of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, which reflected many of the arguments made two decades earlier by his predecessor George Gaylord Simpson, the authority on vertebrate evolution. Like the other doubters, including Jacques Monod, Mayr's basic argument was that so many improbable events led to the origin of life that they had probably occurred nowhere else, making us unique: 'There is, indeed, the probability that the combination and sequence of conditions that permitted the origin of life on Earth was not duplicated on a single other planet in the universe.' To claim this was true, he said, was unscientific, since it could not be demonstrated, but, he added, 'the claims of the proponents of extraterrestrial life and intelligence are equally outside the bounds of science.'"
I choose this excerpt because it sounds a lot like a passage in Gould's Full House (p215) which I brought up for discussion in talk.origins. (It was pointed out that Gould was saying the opposite of what he meant. Don't look at me.)
Continuing with Sullivan: "Such arguments, based on cumulative improbability, have been attacked by many authors, including Paul Horowitz of Harvard. Even without trying to assess the probabilities of planetary formation, chemical and biological evolution, and the rise of intelligence an technology, Horowitz said, 'we can observe that, in all of nature's variety, there is no phenomenon that happens only once.' The absence of visitors, he said, may simply mean that aliens would 'rather communicate than commute.'"
To which I say, where is the communication?
The SETI Factor; how the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is revolutionizing our view of the universe and ourselves. Frank White. Walker, 1990.
White writes (p2): "One of the major questions facing human beings today is, 'What is the nature of the universe and what is the role of human beings within it?'... To living, thinking beings, the question focuses on whether life and intelligence are common or rare in the universe. What we are really asking is, 'Are we common or unique?' It's the same question we ask ourselves as individuals, and it is certainly one of the most important in our lives."
Again, this sounds a lot to me like a certain question which has caused talk.origins great brow furrowing due to a purported lack of definition: Is the human race special?
White elaborates on the 2 answers (p5): "The answer may be, 'Yes, we are alone. There are many wonderful things out there, but nothing quite like us has appeared in our galaxy or elsewhere.' If that is the case, then we would be facing an empty universe, devoid of life and intelligence as we know it. Then, too, life and intelligence may abound, but we are by far the most advanced forms; we are the mentors." (Does that work for "special"?)
"The answer could be, 'No, we are not alone. There are other beings of comparable or greater development in our galaxy and in other galaxies.'" (Does that sound like "not so special"?)
Slightly off topic, but still interesting is White's old-fashioned view of evolution (p23): "It's a long way from simple organics to complex organic molecules, cells, animals, intelligece, and advanced technological civilizations. And yet, if evolution shows us anything, it is a broad tendency to move from simple to complex forms, whether in physics, biology, economics, or sociology. This movement from simplicity to complexity is almost like another law of nature."
He apparently can't keep up with the evolutionists' feints and hasn't heard the current party line: evolution has nothing to do with progress. (No need to sweat over those questions about entropy anymore. Whew.)
Somewhat interesting, if not significant, is the mention of a Life magazine poll of 35 scientists on the question of whether extraterrestrial life exists (p24). 26 thought yes; 4 thought there was little chance of it; and 5 reserved judgment.
White gets around to the Fermi Paradox on p28. He lists "3 basic responses":
1. They are here (i.e. UFOs).
2. They are there.
3. They are nowhere.
I'm calling no. 2 a delaying tactic, not an answer. The question still remains, how can it be that they are there, but have never made it here? Later (p32), White gets around to the zoo hypothesis and space colony explanations.
White does consider the question of alien communication (p29): "If they exist, why haven't we heard anything in 30 years of listening? If the galaxy is teeming with advanced civilizations, it's difficult to imagine why the SETI efforts already undertaken haven't produced more results."
Kent Cullers of the NASA SETI project has an answer for that (p32). He points out the the "search space" is so large and the technology used has been so limited. "In effect, all the searches to date would not have found another civilization like the Earth even orbiting the nearest star." (Remember that this book predates the 1992 NASA SETI project.)
White quotes 3 scientists who believe life to be common in the galaxy, but that there is little chance of intelligent life (p30). For example, astronomer Edward Olson says, "The whole history of life on earth seems to have been composed of periods during which new species appeared very rapidly. At other times, there were mass extinctions. The whole process seems to have proceeded in a jumpy way... Astronomers who are optimistic about intelligent life elsewhere tend to think of evolution as a linear process. But it isn't..."
White says (p31), "Those who believe life is abundant, but intelligence is rare are emerging as a third school of thought.
"Even the most ardent proponent of the abundance position must feel a bit uncertain in the face of these counter-arguments. There are those who begin with a belief in the Assumption of Mediocrity, only to abandon it after further investigation."
Joseph A. Angelo, Jr.
The Extraterrestrial Encyclopedia; our search for life in outer space. Joseph A. Angelo, Jr. Facts On File, 1985.
The Fermi Paradox gets a half-page entry in this 250 page encyclopedia. Angelo summarizes it as follows: "While we might expect to see signs of a Universe filled with intelligent life (on the basis of statistics and the number of possible 'life sites,' given the existence of 100 billion stars in just this Galaxy alone), we have seen no evidence of such. Are we, then, really alone? If we're not alone - where are they?"
Angelo gives a list of possibilities:
1. We really are alone.
2. [They] don't want to have anything to do with us.
3. Not every intelligent civilization has the desire to travel between the stars, or maybe they do not even desire to communicate by means of electromagnetic signals.
4. [Maybe] we are they - the descendants of ancient astronauts.
5. [They] are out there right now but keeping a safe distance.
6. We are being kept as a 'zoo' or wildlife preserve by advanced alien zookeepers.
7. The wave of cosmic expansion has not yet reached our section of the Galaxy.
(Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6 are all closely related - and very un-humanlike behavior. No. 7 would seem to put humans among the earliest technological societies. No. 4 is rebutted under McDonough, below.)
Note that Angelo does touch on the issue of signals in no. 3.
Thomas R. McDonough
The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence; listening for life in the cosmos. Thomas R. McDonough. Wiley, 1987.
The relevant chapter is "Where have all the E.T.s Gone? - Scientists against SETI" (p191). McDonough does a good job covering the familiar pros and cons regarding the Fermi Paradox in these 13 pages, but completely passes over the question of why we haven't received alien signals.
McDonough gives a prominent place to Martin J. Rees' snappy little quote, "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" (p191). This was also quoted in the talk.origins discussion.
The problem, of course, is that it is not true. The absence of evidence certainly is evidence of absence - not proof, but evidence. The longer and harder you look for something - like unicorns, for example - without finding any evidence of it, the more likely it doesn't exist.
McDonough gave more ink than the others to the Garbage Hypothesis - that the trash of aliens became the seed of life on earth (p199). This was originally a joke by Thomas Gold. It didn't come up in previous talk.origins discussion, but to anyone who takes it seriously, I ask how reasonable is it that a civilization with that sort of mobility has never returned in the last 4 billion years? And putting it in the context of my original discussion, if it is only them and us, I hereby pronounce us quite special, indeed.
McDonough also made Frank Tipler's argument of the Anthropic Principle (p192) clearer than other writers. The idea is that the universe is just barely big enough for one intelligent species. If it were any smaller, it would have collapsed before now, not giving intelligence a chance to emerge. Sound pretty far-fetched to you, too?
Life Search. Writers not identified. A volume in the "Voyage through the universe" series. Time-Life Books, pre-1990.
After discussing the then upcoming (1992) NASA SETI program, the editors devote 2 paragraphs to the skeptics (p119). "In a study that began in 1970, American astronomers Ben Zuckerman and Patrick Palmer... observed more than 600 stars within a radius of 75 light-years of the Sun. Over the course of 4 years, 2 dozen of them showed some fluctuations in their radio emissions, but nothing that looked like a convincing artificial signal. Zuckerman finally concluded that there was little chance of finding extraterrestrial intelligence."
The next paragraph brings up the Fermi Paradox. It starts, "Skeptics have a lot of nonsuccess on their side of the discussion." It names Frank Tipler as "one of the main antagonists of the search for extraterrestrial life", and devotes a sidebar to him (p115). Tipler is quoted: "Intersteller travel would be simple and cheap for a civilization only slightly in advance of our own."
The editors continue: "Their autonomous space probes would use materials en route to fuel and rebuild themselves. At 100,000 years per interstellar flight and 1000 years to construct each new probe, Tipler figured a single probe would take 300 million years to send a descendant to every star system in the galaxy. Allowing 6 billion years from the formation of a planet to the time its intelligent species begins sending out probes, we should have heard by now from anyone whose star system is more than 6.3 billion years old, the age of about half the stars in the galaxy.
"If a civilization approximately at our level had ever existed in the galaxy, their spaceships should already be here. Since they are not here, they do not exist."
No mention here of the corroborating, if not overriding, evidence of the lack of alien signals.
John C. Baird
The Inner Limits Of Outer Space; a psychologist critiques our efforts to communicate with extraterrestrial biengs. John C. Baird. Trustees of Dartmouth College, 1987.
The most relevant chapter is "Radio telescopes and SETI". The Fermi Paradox is not discussed or named. Baird says (p67), "A few of the more courageous souls in the astrophysical community have raised the provocative notion that intelligent life in other parts of the universe has taken to beaming radio messages we might do well to receive and decipher. Alternatively, we may be able to eavesdrop on civilizations by monitoring radio activity that they are inadvertantly leaking into outer space."
He continues (p70), "When measured against the competition for contacting extraterrestrial intelligence - for example, space probes or colonization - the radio telescope is considered by many astronomers to be our best choice. It can receive signals transmitted over immense interstellar distances, it is less expensive than sending spacecraft, and it relies on the fastest mode of travel we know: electromagnetic waves."
Baird spends a lot of time going down the Drake equation factor by factor, and emphasizing the amount of guesswork involved. "The weakest link of all is the estimate of the lifetime of an advanced civilization, where sober discussion can generate values ranging from one hundred to 1 billion years." (p75) I'm quite sober, and I want to up the ante to eternity (or at least the remaining life of the universe).
Baird's point of view as a psychologist makes for a refreshing and fun presentation. "It is almost as if these astronomers have proclaimed, 'Look friends, we really have no idea about how to assign numbers to most of the factors in the Drake equation, but let's carry on as if we did, cross our fingers and hope for the best.' If social science were caught in a comparable sleight of hand, most astronomers and physicists would shudder in disapproval or chuckle at the naivete of their social science counterparts.
"Composing a string of factors into a form that mimics the equations used in the secure branches of science does not automatically confer validity on the SETI enterprise, just as the elaboration of a formula to estimate the number of psychics in the United States would not anoint that effort with social science's stamp of approval."
BUT... Baird writes (p79), "The erudite arguments leading to the Drake equation and its quantitative details are just faint shadows of a position widely accepted as valid. My guess is many people are already persuaded of the existence of other worlds like ours, populated by sentient creatures, and although it is reassuring to have the blessing of science, whether there is one or a million such civilizations is of little note."
Anyhow, using one set of numbers, the answer works out to 1.25 million communicating civilizations in our Galaxy. He notes (p74), "The task is to find at least one of these special civilizations among every 100,000 stars. This is like contacting a handful of individuals among the entire population of San Francisco or a few hundred in New York City... The search is up against tremendous odds."
My claim is that Baird's analogy is way off base. A better (not necessarily good) analogy would be with the search for another person in New York City assuming a population of a few hundred - and several million mannequins. That shouldn't be so hard; and even easier if any of them are on the lookout for you.
Arthur C. Clarke
First Contact; the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Various writers. NAL Books, 1990.
Arthur C. Clarke is represented by the essay, "Where are they?" Clarke does not mention the Fermi Paradox explicitly. Regarding the detection of alien radio signals, he says (p308): "It would be ridiculously optimistic to expect immediate success, since we have had the capacity of making such a search for less than half a human lifetime." (My response again: the signals should already be there when we crank up.)
Clarke doesn't buy the argument that the "failure" to find an artificial signal implies we are alone in the Universe. He admits "either answer [alone or not alone] will be awe-inspiring." He says, "The question can only be settled by evidence, not by any amount of logic, however plausible." (Hmmm, and I was led to believe that logic was pretty powerful stuff.)
Clarke brings up a point which hadn't occurred to me - one which goes far beyond piddling spacecraft and radio signals (p309). "Later writers have talked about "the greening of the Galaxy," and asked why the stellar sky is so untidy and badly organised. Where, indeed, are the Cosmic Engineers?"
Now I wouldn't press Clarke, or anyone, for an answer to that one, but he gives it go - and manages to sound pretty unconvincing. "Perhaps, like ants crawling around the base of the Empire State Building, we simply haven't recognized what's going on all around us." He points out that some observed astronomical phenomena are "not so readily explained." Maybe a certain titanic outpouring of cosmic energies was the result of an "industrial accident"!
Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Jean Heidmann. Cambridge University Press, 1995, 1997.
Heidmann does not directly discuss or mention the Fermi Paradox.
Regarding the number of extraterrestrials, Heidmann uses some pretty wild logic. He writes (p116), "How many extraterrestrials are there? Without hesitation, I would say that millions may exist." Now he's not talking civilizations - he's talking individual extraterrestrials! Here's his justification for choosing that number. "Let us imagine that there is just one extraterrestrial society for every 10,000 galaxies... If we reckon the number of individuals as 10 billion per society... we obtain for the observable universe, 100 million billion extraterrestrials! In comparison, suggesting that there may be some millions of them appears extremely modest." (I should say so!)
Now, if that's not bizarre enough, he uses this microscopic number to explain how hard it is to find them!!! "Talking of millions of extraterrestrials does not mean that all we have to do is switch on a simple transistor radio to capture their messages, because, on average, we would have to explore 10,000 galaxies to have a reasonable chance of finding one that is inhabited..." (p117). (Whew!)
Most everything else in Heidmann's book indicates his head is screwed on pretty good, but another thing I have to respond to his explanation for the difficulty of detecting an alien signal (p140): "We have to search for the right signal, from the right star, with the right channel, and at the right moment. That says everything!"
This would be a true statement if there were only one signal from one star on one channel at one time. If advanced civilizations are common in the galaxy, while we're missing this one, we should be stumbling on that one. It's like finding a favorite song on the car radio. You have to find a good one among thousands of lousy ones, on the right station among dozens, on the right band among two, and at the right moment! Sounds daunting when put like that, but even though you miss most of them, every now and then you snag one.
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