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Alien Life: Will We Know It When We See It?

Saturday, May 31, 2014
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Are we alone in the universe? Scientists haven’t found aliens yet, but by scanning the sky they’ve shown that our galaxy harbors billions of planets, many of which likely have conditions similar to those on Earth. Which brings new questions into sharp relief: When searching for life beyond our home planet, how do we know what to look for? What human prejudices might cause us to overlook intelligent life forms very different from what we expect? Learn how scientists across disciplines—astronomers, chemists and microbiologists—are intensely studying the evolution of life on Earth to help identify life abroad, a research agenda with wide-reaching ramifications for science, philosophy, religion, and much more.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation. 


John HockenberryJournalist

Three-time Peabody Award winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry has broad experience as a journalist and commentator for more than two decades. Hockenberry is the anchor of the public radio show The Takeaway on WNYC and PRI.

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Jack W. SzostakBiochemist, Geneticist

Jack Szostak shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his investigation of telomeres. His current research delves into self-replicating systems and the origin of life.

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Paul DaviesPhysicist, Cosmologist, Astrobiologist

Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and best-selling author. He is Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, where he is Director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science.

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Sara SeagerPlanetary Scientist, Physicist

Sara Seager is a planetary scientist and astrophysicist. She has been a pioneer in the vast and unknown world of exoplanets, planets that orbit stars other than the sun.

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Dimitar SasselovAstronomer

Dimitar Sasselov studies stars and planets at Harvard University, where he is the Phillips Professor of Astronomy. His research explores modes of interaction between light and matter. Sasselov and his team discovered several planets orbiting other stars with novel techniques that he hopes to use to find other planets like Earth.

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