Insightful, good-humored essays on the possibilities of alien life and the uses of space exploration, based on an astrobiologist’s everyday conversations with his fellow humans—taxi drivers, to be precise.
If you’ve ever sat in the back seat of a taxi, you know that cabbies like to talk. Sports or politics, your job or theirs, taxi drivers are fine conversationalists on just about any topic. And when the passenger is astrobiologist Charles Cockell, that topic is usually space and what, if anything, lives out there.
Inspired by conversations with drivers all over the world, TAXI FROM ANOTHER PLANET tackles the questions that everyday people have about the cosmos and our place in it. Will we understand aliens? What if there isn’t life out in the universe? Is Mars our Plan B? And why is the government spending tax dollars on space programs anyway? Each essay in this genial collection takes questions like these as a starting point on the way to a range of insightful, even poignant, observations. Cockell delves into debates over the inevitability of life and looks to both human history and scientific knowledge to consider what first contact will be like and what we can expect from spacefaring societies. He also offers a forceful argument for the sympathies between space exploration and environmentalism.
A shrewd and entertaining foray into the most fundamental mysteries, TAXI FROM ANOTHER PLANET brings together the wisdom of scientific experts and their fellow citizens of Earth, the better to understand how life might unfold elsewhere.
“From human societies on Mars to cosmic microbes and alien worlds, this superbly intelligent, erudite book offers an intoxicating look at how the cutting edge of scientific thought on life’s status in the universe connects to all of us. Faced with the fascinating questions of taxi drivers from around the world, Cockell is a convivial and inspiring passenger.” - Caleb Scharf
“Most astronomers find it hard to respond to questions from the public without lapsing into jargon or technicalities, but Charles Cockell is a natural communicator. TAXI FROM ANOTHER PLANET conveys an array of ideas―all fascinating, and some profound―with a light touch and utter clarity. Accessible to anyone curious about the cosmos.” - Martin Rees
“In this unique book, Cockell takes us on a journey through astrobiology―one taxi ride at a time. Combining scientific inquiries with personal stories, TAXI FROM ANOTHER PLANET is a fascinating conversation starter.” - Lisa Kaltenegger, Director of the Carl Sagan Institute, Cornell University
“Cab drivers spend mere minutes with their passengers, which motivates them to ask riders only the interesting questions: Could Martians be dangerous? Will talking to aliens be more enlightening than talking to a dog? Cockell’s answers from the backseat are clear and delightfully phrased in this informative and thoroughly entertaining book.” - Seth Shostak
“The ever curious and creative mind of Charles Cockell takes us on a ride that is both whimsical and thoroughly insightful. Science, society, and history are woven together throughout this delightful book, resembling the many intertwining streets of Cockell’s journeys, and ours.” - Kevin Peter Hand
“Conversations with cab drivers lead to discussions about space exploration in this fun outing from astrobiologist Cockell… Cockell fields questions regarding both space and life on Earth, wonderfully demonstrating how knowledge of the former can significantly enhance understanding of earthbound issues, and he does a great job blending cutting-edge science with philosophical considerations. This is a joy to read.” - Publishers Weekly
“The single most interesting space book I’ve seen this year… I remain very grateful for TAXI FROM ANOTHER PLANET, a book I will be returning to and recommending to others.” - National Review
“An interesting and humorous approach to questions about the universe with relatively in-depth subject exploration.” - Library Journal
"Hail a cab or stay at home and read this book." - New York Journal of Books
"With this timely new book, Cockell makes us consider a gamut of new possibilities that boggle the mind." - Forbes
"Insightful, good-humored essays on the possibilities of alien life and the uses of space exploration, based on an astrobiologist’s everyday conversations with his fellow humans―taxi drivers, to be precise." - Next Big Idea Club