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DoSER Summer Lecture: Exoplanets and Life Beyond Earth

1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

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Video Menu

  • Opening Remarks: 00:01 - 19:08
  • Stephen Freeland: 19:08 - 44:43
  • Steven Dick: 46:07 - 1:04:28
  • Audience Q&A: 1:08:07 - 1:29:26

The Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Program and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are pleased to have presented an event exploring new findings in the search for planets and life beyond Earth. No longer constrained to science fiction, the search for new extrasolar planets is accelerating at an incredible rate uncovering new worlds, some of them potentially habitable. Astrobiologist Stephen Freeland described how the burgeoning field of astrobiology is revealing the robust and tenacious nature of life even in extreme conditions on Earth and whether we can expect life elsewhere to be common. Historian Steven Dick responded with insights on the implications of these new findings for our understanding of the significance of life in the universe. We were fortunate enough to have collaborated with the fabulous Planetfall exhibition featuring a series of beautiful images captured by photographer Michael Benson from locations throughout our solar system. 

Opening Remarks: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Program Director, AAAS Dialogue on Science Ethics and Religion 

Speaker: Dr. Stephen Freeland, NASA Astrobiology Institute & Director of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Maryland Baltimore County 

Stephen Freeland is an Astrobiologist and the new Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at UMBC in Baltimore. He served 4 years as the project manager for the University of Hawaii node of the NASA Astrobiology Institute where he oversaw a highly interdisciplinary team working on diverse topics relating to the origin, distribution and evolution of life in the universe. Building from a bachelors degree in zoology (Oxford), a Masters’ degree in computer science (University of York), and a Ph.D. in genetics (Cambridge University), his personal research focuses upon the earliest evolution of life on our planet. In particular, he studies the emergence of the genetic code, the biochemical interface by which organisms translate genetic instructions into living bodies. In his new position, he seeks to foster scholarship and teaching beyond the interdisciplinary science of astrobiology with particular emphases on the interface of science and religion, and using the full spectrum of creative expertise presented by the arts and humanities to visualize and communicate science and engineering.

Discussant: Dr. Steven Dick, Historian, Author, & Incoming Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology, NASA/Library of Congress

Steven J. Dick has recently been named the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. He served as the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum from 2011-2012, as the NASA Chief Historian and Director of the NASA History Office from 2003-2009, and prior to that as an astronomer and historian of science at the U. S. Naval Observatory. Among his books are Discovery and Classification in Astronomy, Life on Other Worlds, and The Biological Universe.