Event Title: Imagined Life: A Speculative Journey among the Exoplanets in Search of Life
Presenters: Dr. Michael Summers, Professor of Planetary Science and Astronomy at George Mason University (GMU). Dr. Summers is a planetary scientist who specializes in the study of structure and evolution of planetary atmospheres, his planetary research has dealt with the chemistry and thermal structure of the atmospheres of Io (one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter), Titan (largest of Saturn's moons), Uranus, Neptune, Triton (the largest Neptunian moon), Pluto, and Mars. Dr. Summers' research on Earth's atmosphere has focused on understanding middle atmospheric ozone chemistry, coupled chemical-dynamical-radiative modeling of active trace gases, heterogeneous chemistry on meteor dust, the influence of solar variability on the state of the stratosphere and mesosphere, and polar mesospheric clouds and their connection to climate. He has worked on NASA space missions that study the Earth from the Space Shuttle and orbiting satellites, and that probe other planetary atmospheres using deep-space robotic missions. In addition, Dr. Summers played a leading role in the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Abstract or Topic: The universe is not what we once thought. As recently as two decades ago we were still wondering if the Earth was unique in the universe in having the right ingredients -- such as liquid water, carbon compounds, and usable energy -- that are essential for life as we know it on Earth. However, over the past decade, we have discovered thousands of new worlds, some Earth-like, many of which have those ingredients. And it seems like just about every week we read of astonishing new discoveries that reveal a universe more complex and filled with more unexpected objects, places, and events, than we could ever have predicted -- many of which have a bearing on the question of life elsewhere. How does our new understanding of the universe constrain the origin and development of life elsewhere? This question makes for some interesting and fun speculation -- including theological speculation! But our past experience in scientific exploration suggests that if we do find life elsewhere, we are going to be astonished at what we find. Dr. Summers' presentation follows on the heels of his newest book, co-authored with physicist James Trefil: Imagined Life: A Speculative Scientific Journey among the Exoplanets in Search of Intelligent Aliens, Ice Creatures, and Supergravity Animals (https://smile.amazon.com/Imagined-Life-Speculative-Intelligent-Supergravity/dp/1588346641).
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When: Aug 1, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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