Jaime Green

May 29, 2023

The Possibility of Life

Science, Imagination and Our Vision of the Cosmos

Hanover Square Press 2023

In this episode we talk to Jaime Green about her superb cultural and scientific exploration of alien life and the cosmos. It examines how the possibility of life on other planets shapes our understanding of humanity. Fans of Leslie Jamison, Carl Zimmer and Carlo Rovelli will find a lot to think about.

One of the most powerful questions humans ask about the cosmos is: Are we alone? Yet this very question is inevitably reduced to yes or no, to odds and probabilities that posit answers through complex physics. The science is fascinating, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. It is a reflection of our values and aspirations, our fears and anxieties, and most importantly, our enduring sense of hope. 

In The Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination and Our Vision of the Cosmos (Hanover Square Press, 2023), acclaimed science journalist Jaime Green, traces the history of our understanding, from the days of Galileo and Copernicus up through to our contemporary quest for exoplanets in the "Goldilocks zone," where life akin to ours on Earth might exist. Along the way, she interweaves insights from a long-standing tradition of science fiction writers who use the power of imagination to extrapolate and construct worlds that in turn inspire scientists. Weaving in expert interviews, cutting-edge astronomy research, philosophical inquiry and pop culture touchstones ranging from A Wrinkle in Time to Star Trek to Avatar, The Possibility of Life explores our evolving conception of the cosmos to ask an even deeper question: What does it mean to be human?

John W. Traphagan, Ph.D. is Professor and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor in the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations.

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John Traphagan

John W. Traphagan, Ph.D. is a visiting professor in the Center for International Education at Waseda University in Tokyo and Professor Emeritus in the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin.

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