Week 8

More Conversations with Experts

Different sciences take different approaches to try to answer the question: Are We Alone? Here we present short and long versions of interviews with some of the world’s leading experts in geology, planet formation and planetary atmospheres — from planet-hunting astronomers to universe-quantifying cosmologists

Jim and David are experts in planetary atmospheres. Steve is one of the most insightful geologists interested in the origin of life. Oliver thinks about geochemical cycles.

Courtney and Shawn look for exoplanets and are designing the next generation of telescopes. Rory theorizes about exoplanets and their habitability.

Sara is one of the leading voices in the observational quest to find life beyond Earth. Ian likes to think about the Moon and Big History. Alessandro makes models of planetary systems. David is an expert on Venus and human influence on Earth. Robin is a planetary climatologist, and Sukrit is a planetary photochemist.

In this rich mixture of observers and theorists, Ewine observes molecules around young planet-forming stars, while Avi believes that aliens probably built ‘Oumuamua. Virginia says she likes to collect interesting facts, and Paul enjoys teaching students how to apply their scientific knowledge to real-world problems. John studies stellar nucleosynthesis. Maria tries to detect the building blocks of life in space, and Clara is a quantum astrochemist.

Here are some best-selling authors who have thought about the origin and evolution of the universe at both large and small scales. Paul has suggested that life on Earth may have come from Mars. John won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. Mike coined the term dark energy, and Thanu has modelled it. Max has claimed that our physical world is an abstract mathematical structure, and Sean has worked on the arrow of time problem. Chris has investigated supermassive black holes, Dave has measured the age and shape of the universe, and Richard has wondered if string theory can explain it all. Lawrence has suggested that the universe could have come from “nothing”.

Atmospheric Evolution on Inhabited and Lifeless Worlds
by David C. Catling and James F. Kasting, 2017, Cambridge University Press

Is there Life Out There? The Search for Habitable Exoplanets
by Sara Seager, 2009, www.saraseager.com/books/

Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life
by David Grinspoon, 2004, Ecco

by Avi Loeb, 2021, John Murray, London

The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence
by Paul Davies 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NY

Life 3.0: Being Human in the age of Artificial Intelligence
by Max Tegmark, 2017, Knopf, NY

Talking About Life: Conversations on Astrobiology
by Chris Impey, 2010, Cambridge University Press

Jm Kasting, an expert in habitable planets, thinks we are not alone because...