First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth (BOOK LAUNCH and panel)


Wednesday, June 01 2011 - 5:30 pm, PDT
Marc Kaufman
Washington Post

For untold centuries, people have looked to the distant skies in search of life -- be it God-like or heavenly, demonic or the whole gamut of bizarre extraterrestrials imagined. Today, for the first time in human history, science is getting close to answering the eternal question of what lies beyond, and the science is generally pointing in one direction: That life is most likely a commonplace in the universe. Discoveries about the census and makeup of exoplanets, about the vast array of long-hidden extremophiles alive here in brutal environments that seem more extraterrestrial than Earthly, the presence of potentially biologically-produced methane on a Mars now known to have once been wet and warm, and the presence of complex carbon and other elements and compounds needed for life as we know it across the universe -- these discoveries and more have the field of astrobiology abuzz. No one factor makes the case that life exists, or once existed beyond Earth, but together they are making an ever-stronger case for extraterrestrial life. And if life exists elsewhere, what's to say it hasn't evolved into complex and intelligent beings?
Marc Kaufman has been a journalist for more than 35 years, working as a foreign correspondent, a magazine writer, a beat reporter and currently also as a national editor. His past decade-plus has been spent reporting and editing at the Washington Post, and before that he worked almost two decades at The Philadelphia Inquirer. His book, "First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth," published by Simon & Schuster, is his first but hopefully not his last. He was graduated from Columbia College and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

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