How the Hunt for Alien Worlds will Revolutionize Life on Earth


March 8, 2012

BOSTON — Are we alone? In his new book, The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet, Harvard planetologist Dimitar Sasselov tells the story of an unprecedented convergence in astronomy and chemistry that may bring us closer to answering this question, as well as unraveling the secrets of the origins of life.

Sasselov studies super-Earths (rocky planets that orbit stars), as candidates for conditions that may be hospitable to life. In this video, taken from a longer lecture at Harvard Bookstore, Sasselov explains how recent advances are allowing astronomers to learn more about distant planets than ever before. Astronomers can now measure not only the size and temperature of planets, but also discern their chemical makeup — but how is it possible to know such detail from so far away? Simultaneously, chemists are exploring the kinds of biochemistries that these planets could possibly support.


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