Astrobiology

The EvoGrid: Building an Origin of Life Simulator & Its Implications for Life, the Universe and Everything

Bruce Damer will present the current state of the EvoGrid, a worldwide, multi-disciplinary project to simulate the chemical origin of life on Earth or as it might have occurred elsewhere in ours or other universes. When operational in 2010 the prototype EvoGrid will employ a central grid of computers to generate "digital primordial soups" and then, inspired by SETI, an even larger set of observer computers operating as @Home screen savers will be employed to look for signs of emergent complexity within the soups.

The Inner Structure of a Floating Water Bridge

When high voltage is applied to distilled water filled into two beakers close to each other, a water connection forms spontaneously, giving the impression of a floating water bridge (Fuchs et al. 2007 J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. *40* 6112-4, 2008 J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. *41* 185502, Woisetschläger et al. 2009 Exp. Fluids 2009 (accepted)). This phenomenon is of special interest, since it comprises a number of phenomena currently tackled in modern water science.

Detecting Organics using Fluorescence Spectroscopy

Many important organic molecules fluoresce strongly enough to allow for their detection in terrestrial soils at the ppm level or better. Dr. Bramall will discuss a method has advantages over other methods of detecting organics in that it requires no reagents, is very quick, requires no sample handling, and can be rather specific. He has have developed several instruments and instrument concepts that will be presented.

Pavilion Lake - Diving Deep to get us to the Moon and Mars

The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) is an international, multi-disciplinary, science and exploration effort to explain the origin of freshwater microbialites [link] in Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, Canada. Fossil microbialites represent some of the earliest remnants of life on ancient Earth, and were common from ~2.5 billion to 540 million years ago. Today, microbialites are found in what have been deemed ‘extreme’ environments.

Developing a Roadmap of Astrobiology Societal Issues

SETI Principle Investigators Margaret Race and Rocco Mancinelli are convening an interdisciplinary workshop at the Institute from Feb 9-11 that includes experts from a range of disciplines, including law, ethics, policy, theology, philosophy, social sciences, education, communication, and astrobiology sciences. Supported by a grant from the NAI, the invited participants are charged with systematically analyzing the diversity of societal issues that arise in Astrobiology research and space exploration.

Nuclear Weapons and Space Weapons

Our panellists will present three 15 minute technical and scientific presentations on standard space and nuclear weapons capabilities and effectiveness, national requirements and intentions, existing conventions and potential future agreements, followed by 15 minutes for questions and discussion. All discussions will be on unclassified or declassified material.

The Galactic Planetary Census

During the past decade, over three hundred planets have been discovered orbiting stars beyond the Sun. The catalog of planets is rapidly pushing down to ever-lower masses, and the discovery of potentially habitable planets is likely no more than a year or two away. In this talk, Greg will focus on how the emerging and distinct population of "Super Earth" type planets is giving an advance indication of both the frequency of occurrence and the mechanisms of formation for terrestrial-mass planets in the local galactic neighborhood.

What's hot in Saturn's Rings?

Dr. Jeff Cuzzi (NASA Ames), Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute) and Dr. Stuart Pilorz (JPL/SETI Institute) are outer planets scientists working on the currently ongoing Cassini mission to Saturn. All three are experts on Ring systems, and have used the instruments of Cassini to learn more about the most dazzling Rings in our Solar System. They will address the new information that has come back to us from Cassini, the old questions that have been answered, and the new questions that have arisen in the course of this mission.

Direct detection of extrasolar planets and the Gemini Planet Imager

The next frontier in the study of extrasolar planets is direct (imaging) detection of the planets themselves. Such direct detection is sensitive to planets inaccessible to current radial-velocity surveys and allows spectral characterization of the planets, shedding light on planet formation and the structure of other solar systems. We are constructing the Gemini Planet Imager, combining advanced adaptive optics, coronagraphy, and an integral field spectrograph/polarimeter to detect and characterize giant planets and circumstellar dust disks around nearby stars.

The Advanced Studies Laboratory - A unique linkage between UCSC and NASA Ames

Dr. Rose Grymes is the inaugural director of the Advanced Studies Laboratory (ASL), a NASA Ames and UC Santa Cruz strategic partnership created last year and currently based in Building 239 of NASA Ames. The ASL is developing a shared-use, open-access environment and engages projects as Affiliates which join the ASL consortium. The current membership, eight Affiliates, has focal interests linking advanced materials science and technology to planetary exploration, particularly astrobiology.

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