In the vein of Randall Munroe's What If? meets Brian Green's Elegant Universe, a senior writer from Space.com leads readers on a wild ride of exploration into the final frontier, investigating what's really "out there."
We've all asked ourselves the question. It's impossible to look up at the stars and NOT think about it: Are we alone in the universe? Books, movies and television shows proliferate that attempt to answer this question and explore it. In Out There Space.com senior writer Dr. Michael Wall treats that question as merely the beginning, touching off a wild ride of exploration into the final frontier. He considers, for instance, the myriad of questions that would arise once we do discover life beyond Earth (an eventuality which, top NASA officials told Wall, is only drawing closer).
What would the first aliens we meet look like? Would they be little green men or mere microbes? Would they be found on a planet in our own solar system or orbiting a star far, far away? Would they intend to harm us, and if so, how might they do it? And might they already have visited?
Out There is arranged in a simple question-and-answer format. The answers are delivered in Dr. Wall's informal but informative style, which mixes in a healthy dose of humor and pop culture to make big ideas easier to swallow. Dr. Wall covers questions far beyond alien life, venturing into astronomy, physics, and the practical realities of what long-term life might be like for we mere humans in outer space, such as the idea of lunar colonies, and even economic implications. Dr. Wall also shares the insights of some of the leading lights in space exploration today, and shows how the next space age might be brighter than ever.
With a humorous, accessible tone, Wall, a senior writer for Space.com, answers questions about alien life and space travel. He draws on the opinions of various experts for instance, on the question of "Will Aliens Kill Us All?" he shares both the concerns of Stephen Hawking and the optimism of others like Doug Vakoch, president of METI ("messaging extraterrestrial intelligence") International. Wall does remind readers that, as on Earth, extraterrestrial life will be "mostly microbes," and returns several times to the subject of ALH 84001, the Martian rock that, in 1996, researchers reported had signs of life. After discussing these and other questions, such as "Could We Talk to ET?" (possibly not the gulf between species might be too vast), Wall turns to human space travel. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos get their obligatory mentions in the chapter on colonizing the Moon and Mars, while Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre and his theoretically possible warp drive leads off the chapter on interstellar travel. Readers of Michio Kaku's The Future of Humanity will find some overlap, but this should appeal to anyone who has ever looked up into the sky and wondered what is out there.