What is Life, and How Should We Look for it Elsewhere in the Universe?

David Grinspoon, Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Adjunct Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado

Friday, May 27, 2011, 3:30pm (refreshments at 3:15pm)

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

As we explore the universe, we are on the lookout for the signs of life on other planets. But what exactly are we looking for, and how would we recognize it? Since we have only one example of a planet with life, how do we know what we will have in common with alien organisms, and what our planet will have in common with other inhabited worlds? How can we search without simply projecting ourselves out into the universe? I will discuss different attempts to define life, our current efforts to search for life elsewhere, what we have learned from studying exotic life-forms on Earth, and how the quest for alien life sharpens our ideas about the nature of life and the place of Earth and humanity in the universe.

About the Speaker

David Grinspoon is Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Adjunct Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado. A frequent advisor to NASA, Grinspoon is lead scientist for astrobiology on an instrument that will fly on NASA's next Mars rover, and Interdisciplinary Scientist on the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission. His papers have been published in Nature, Science, and numerous other journals. His first book, Venus Revealed, was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. His latest book, Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life, won a PEN Literary Award for Research Nonfiction. Grinspoon's writing has appeared in Slate, Scientific American, Natural History, Astronomy, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. He is a contributing editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine, where he authors the monthly "Cosmic Relief" column. Dr. Grinspoon has been featured on numerous TV and radio shows, and is a regular astrobiology correspondent for ABC Radio. Grinspoon was awarded the 2006 Carl Sagan Medal for Public Communication of Planetary Science by the American Astronomical Society. He holds degrees in Philosophy of Science and Planetary Science from Brown University and a doctorate in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona.