Moon rise over the Earth's atmosphere. Photo credit: NASA

Moon rise over the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo credit: NASA

Course description: What is life, where is it likely to exist in the universe, and when will we encounter extraterrestrial life? The goal of this course is to explore the nature of life as we know it and theories on how life evolved from prebiotic matter on Earth. We will start with a review of what is currently known about microbial life on Earth, including when and where it likely evolved. We will explore how the building blocks for life formed, how molecules evolved the ability to self-replicate, and how protocells and early metabolisms may have evolved. This will be followed by discussion on the variability in the requirements for life that we see on the planet and biosignatures indicative of living matter. Finally, we will discuss the search for extraterrestrial life, touching on topics including the latest findings (December 2014) from the Curiosity mission to Mars, panspermia, what scientists would do if extraterrestrial life was encountered, and the precautions needed to prevent cross-contamination between earth and new worlds.

Readings

Seminar time: MF 2:00 – 3:30
Seminar location: Thimann 391

 

 

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