Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth
Wednesday, April 1 | 7:30-9pm
Speaker: Adam Frank, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Rochester
We humans, with our “project of civilization” are a kind of cosmic teenager. We have power over ourselves, and the planet, but no model to follow. In this talk Professor Frank shows how our fate can best be understood in light of the stars. Thanks to the revolutionary field of astrobiology, we have discovered that we are just one of 10 billion trillion habitable planets in the Universe. Unless the laws of the universe are deeply biased against life and intelligence, it’s highly improbable that we are the first project of civilization in cosmic history. So, what then, can we learn from the others that have almost certainly existed? Unpacking the exploration of our solar system and beyond, Professor Frank shows how we have already learned universal “laws of planets.” With this new view, we can tell how life (including the intelligent kind) and its host worlds can evolve together. From microbes generating Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere to the discovery of Venus’ runaway greenhouse effect, we can now lay out the contours of what happened here and what may happen elsewhere. With this “10,000 light-year” view we gain a new story of our future on a changing Earth. It's a narrative rich with both hope and caution.