Recordings of all of the talks in this series are available to view on our YouTube channel
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University College London
The hypothesis that life was brought to Earth by means of some form of cosmic debris has been extensively discussed. Of course this does nothing to solve the problem of the origin of life since it merely kicks the can down the road. More recently there has been a related discussion of the possibility that we might decide to send some form of living material from the Earth towards extra-solar planetary systems. This prospect has huge implications in areas that are of ethical, moral, philosophical and religious importance. I will describe the technical challenges of such an endeavour, and the chances of successfully injecting sustainable life onto an extrasolar planet. Then I will open up the big question of should it be done? An interesting adjunct to this is the point that if it can be done, if not by national actors, then it could be done by “lone wolf” billionaires.
University of Cambridge
Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement ICE, Dartmouth College
PO004, Department of Philosophy and online (on Zoom)
Exploratory Modeling and the Search for Life
How can models help us cope with epistemic uncertainty? This question is particularly pertinent to two fields: the origin of life studies and astrobiology. These fields are relatively new and face high levels of uncertainty that is not easy to reduce. The purpose of this talk is to provide some depth of understanding about the use of a particular model, the GARD model, in these fields. I will argue that this model is indeterminate; models that are indeterminate are a type of exploratory model and therefore have extensive potential and can prompt new lines of research. They are distinctive in that that they do not have targets and, given the current state of scientific understanding, we cannot specify how and where the model will be useful in understanding the natural world: in this case, how life can form. The purpose of introducing indeterminacy is to give depth to our understanding of exploratory models and to illuminate the relationship between uncertainty and targetless modeling.
Florida Institute of Technology
Are enough high risk, high reward space science projects/missions being funded?
How to search for extraterrestrial life without a definition of life