11:30-2:30, Hilton 210-211
September 3, 2017
Where do we come from? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? While the latter may seem like the stuff of 21st century science fiction, both questions have been integral to myriad cultures for millennia. Over the last decades however, research the life and physical sciences has brought these inquiries into the realm of science, and given rise to the field of astrobiology. But what do we know about our origins? And how do we search for life? The first part of this interactive symposium will introduce current scientific thought on the beginnings of our biochemistry, the evolution of our planet as a habitable system, and how we search for signs of life in space. The second half will explore the mutually influential roles science and science fiction, the implications of the discovery of water on Mars, and what life might look like on worlds far different than our own. Audience members are encouraged to come curious and ready with questions about the science and its place in our broader human context.
September 23, 2017
Among the oldest questions conceived by humans are: What is the origin of life, and does life exist on other worlds? Georgia Tech will host a day-long public Symposium on Astrobiology and Society in Fall 2017 with sessions dedicated respectively to Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth and The Search for Life Beyond our Home Planet. Each session will be rounded out by a half-hour discussion led by a panel of distinguished scientists and humanists. Anticipating discoveries that will alter our very concept of life, astrobiology pushes us to reflect upon the meaning of “creation”, our place in it, and how to accommodate scientifically plausible alternatives to longstanding hypotheses and myths. While astrobiology is often presented to the public as ‘other worldly’, and can easily carry utopian visions of possibility and hope, the force of astrobiology is first and foremost terrestrial. The aura of new worlds reminds us that our cosmic ‘other worldly discoveries’ above all concern the planet on which we live. Analysis of data from vent plumes in our solar system or in Pacific Ocean trenches show the ways our solar system has become a laboratory for better understanding our own planet. The symposium and related interviews with participants will be recorded and provide substrate for a documentary that focuses on how astrobiology drives research across science and the humanities, and sparks open and imaginative discussion about Big Questions, including, What is life? What is the value of different life forms? What is humankind’s destiny?
The Hidden Lives of Microbes in the Wild and How They Transform Our Planet
Nadia Szeinbaum, Potdoctoral Researcher, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
September 23, 7:00-9:00
We know that life began with single-celled microorganisms which, in contrast to us, remained unicellular, and “primitive.” Most of us are familiar with microbes in our daily lives, both in a good way (yogurt, yay!) or a bad way (cavities, boo!). However, most microbes aren’t so domestic; they live in the wild, and have intriguing lifestyles that affect our existence at a global scale. These cells, though minuscule, are major contributors to the living world on Earth. Because they are ancient, they also retain secrets about life on Earth before we showed up.
In this presentation, Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellow, Nadia Szeinbaum, will discuss these invisible giants and share with us what she has found out while investigating them in the lab.
More details coming soon