One of the most powerful questions we ask about the cosmos is: Are we alone?
The Possibility of Life traces the history of our understanding of what and where life in the universe could be, from Galileo and Copernicus through to our current tracking of exoplanets in the "Goldilocks zone", where life akin to ours on Earth might exist. Along the way, Jaime Green studies insights from a long tradition of science fiction that uses imagination to extrapolate and construct worlds, in turn inspiring scientists and their research.
Bringing together expert interviews, cutting-edge astronomy, philosophical inquiry and pop culture touchstones ranging from A Wrinkle in Time to Star Trek, The Possibility of Life delves into our evolving conception of the cosmos to pose an even deeper question: what does it mean to be human?
Jaime Green is a science writer, essayist, editor, and teacher, and she is the series editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing. She received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Columbia, and her writing has appeared in Slate, Popular Science, The New York Times Book Review, American Theatre, Catapult, Astrobites, and elsewhere. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and son.
"An entertaining and instructive rumination on both earthbound existence and the prospect of extraterrestrial encounter"
"Ostensibly a book about aliens, The Possibility of Life is really a treatise about how we think about the world – and the ways in which our discoveries fuel our imaginations, and vice versa. Thoughtful, witty and profound, Jaime Green has crafted a dazzling feat of imagination and synthesis that had me hooked from the first page"
– Ed Yong, New York Times-bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes and An Immense World
"A fascinating and thoughtful reminder of the fact that we may not be alone. Highly recommended"
– Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times-bestselling author of Annihilation
"Jaime Green's The Possibility of Life takes the reader on an utterly gripping, endlessly surprising voyage from the "hopeful monsters" of early multicellular organisms to the records of human existence hurtling beyond the edge of our solar system. Green's voice is rigorous, curious, tender, and often rightfully bemused. She is the best company I could imagine for this journey to the limits of what we can imagine, and a thrilling ruminator on what these acts of imagination might teach us about ourselves"
– Leslie Jamison, New York Times-bestselling author of The Empathy Exams
"Jaime Green casts her gaze deep into the universe for the possibilities of extraterrestrial life but, at the same time, looks deep into us, too, into our humanity and our history and into why we even want to look for that life in the first place. What results is an accessible, weird, funny and ultimately illuminating look into the search for life beyond our world"
– Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath
"A rivetingly good read [...] Even the most basic questions about extraterrestrial life have no meaningful consensus at all. With such a lack of consensus, the field is wide open for "what if"-type speculation – and that's what this book is all about. Fascinating and enjoyable, intelligent and well-informed"
– Andrew May, author of Astrobiology: The Search for Life Elsewhere in the Universe
"The Possibility of Life left me dizzy with awe and brimming with hope. Jaime Green elegantly uncorks our tiny patch of the universe and takes us on a tour of our best and worst approximations of aliens – unearthly heptapods, a manipulative ocean, and blue humanoids – and explains why the most likely aliens may be more like a platypus than a Klingon. Although The Possibility of Life asks us to fathom the unfathomable, Green is a steadfast, witty, and charming guide through this cosmic murk. I found myself yearning for a signal in the cosmos and this book acutely reminded me of how all life on Earth is already more than enough"
– Sabrina Imbler, author of My Life in Sea Creatures
"The Possibility of Life is both a delight and a marvel, widening the imagined potential of life on Earth, in the cosmos, and in our art and stories. Every page of this book makes our shared universe feel larger and more interesting than ever before, a true gift of fascinating science and engrossing storytelling"
– Matt Bell, author of Appleseed