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?

September 23, 2017

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Paul Steffes, “How the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has Evolved in the First Two Decades of the 21st Century”

Nick Hud, “Exploring the Origins of Life- From the Bottom Up”

Loren Williams, “Exploring the Origins of Life- From the Top Down”

Eric Smith, “Making Sense of Evolution in the Light of the Rest of Science”

William Ratcliff, “Exploring the Origin of Multicellularity through Experimental Evolution”

Jennifer Glass, “Small but Mighty– How ‘Good’ Bacteria Transformed our Planet”


James Wray, “Upcoming Astrobiological Opportunities at Mars”

Carol Paty, “Searching for Europa’s Hidden Ocean”

Amanda Stockton, “High Impact Chemistry- How to Find Life on Other Planets”

Gongjie Li, “Searching for Habitable Exoplanets”

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