Quest for a Living World panel video

By Phil Plait | July 8, 2010 12:04 pm

In April 2010, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion of astronomers who are searching for planets orbiting other stars, with the hope of eventually finding earth-like planets. The panel, called "Quest for a Living World", was held in Pasadena (sponsored by Discover Magazine, the Thirty Meter Telescope project, and Caltech). We talked about the technology being used to look for planets, how the science is progressing, and even how we look for signs of life.

The video from the panel is now available:

Watching it again I was struck by how young these scientists are. They have not only their whole careers ahead of them, but also an entirely new field of science they’re exploring: exoplanetary science. Think of it! For thousands of years we wondered if there were other worlds out there like ours, or even unlike ours. Now we not only have answers to that question, but we’re actually learning about the physics of these worlds, their chemistry… and who knows? In a few years, we may even be investigating their biospheres.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (16)


    Phil Plait:

    Watching it again I was struck by how young these scientists are.

    You know what people say: you know that you’re getting old when policemen seem to be getting younger every day. ūüėČ

  2. Shawn

    Awesome video Phil, thanks for sharing.

  3. That moderator is dreamy! <3 (Oh wait, did I type that out? ūüėģ )

    Great panel! Will have to share this around!

  4. Jamie

    Funny that in April when this was done you mention only ~400 exoplanets, but now thanks to Kepler we’re talking, what, 1100 or so? (400 existing in April + the 700 or so candidates).

  5. I enjoy watching these old videos, seeing the adorable naivety of those young scientists back when we hadn’t found so many — or even any! — other planets with life on them.

    Um…wait. *checks his watch*

    Oops. It’s 2010. Sorry! Uh, forget I said anything.

  6. JerWah

    If you’ve got a trillion dollars to throw around, where would I submit my proposal for a modest million dollar experiment on the effects of extreme Internet use on the human mind?

  7. jcm

    More videos that I think BAblogees will enjoy:

    BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

  8. Off topic, but some fabulous breaking news for those of us who value separation of state and church. A federal court has found that the Defense of Marriage Act is not constitutional. The federal government cannot ban same sex marriage. Just popped open a bottle of champagne for this one!

  9. I thought I’d share something that I wrote on my own site when I shared this video earlier today:

    “One of the things that really made me ponder was 1995. Phil started the discussion asking if anyone attending was born after 1995, the year the first exoplanet was discovered. And this made me think that my boys are growing up in such an amazing time. My oldest was born in 1995. When I grew up, I remember being ridiculed for having the idea that there were other Terran like planets in the Universe. The idea that our solar system and our planet class were the only ones in existence seemed preposterous to me however my opinion did not seem to be the norm among my peers. I was repeatedly told to stop watching Star Trek and to keep my head out of the clouds and firmly planted within my own atmosphere. Amazing how our understanding of the Universe has so vastly changed in such a short period of time. We live in a wonderful age of exploration and discovery and it excites me to think that my boys will grow up in a vastly different age than mine and hopefully these discoveries will increase exponentially with each new generation.”

  10. CB

    I really enjoyed this video, thank you. Hearing the scientists working on exoplanet discovery and astrobiology talk about their hopes and about what drives them is really cool.

    Hmmm, the Firefox spellchecker (or is that Discover magazine javascript? I’m pretty sure it’s Firefox) doesn’t like exoplanet or astrobiology as a words. Yet another hill to climb.

  11. Crudely Wrott

    Watching it again I was struck by how young these scientists are. They have not only their whole careers ahead of them, but also an entirely new field of science they’re exploring: exoplanetary science. Think of it!

    Ohh, I do think about it. These youngsters shall end up leading us and together we will produce more like them. We really are going to go places, our kind. Even if you and I do not personally go, our children will. If they fail, their children will stand to the task. For such a simple reason I cherish an optimistic view of the future however long it takes. It appears to be a long time . . .

  12. Crudely Wrott

    @ #9: CB, in Firefox spell checker, click “Add to Dictionary.” After, of course, you have verified the spelling. ;^)

  13. The thing that makes me get all geeked out is the chance that on some distant, alien planet, there’s another civilization somewhere having this EXACT SAME discussion. Think about that for a moment. There is the chance that someone else in the universe is going through the exact same science that we are.

  14. Mircea

    Your posts are interesting , you’re making me dream …. about other worlds ….Thank You !

  15. itskurtins

    Where did I get the idea that their was methane in the atmosphere of Titan which was causing some to believe that an organic process was going on there involving the metabolism of ethane and acetylene. So we have methanogins. Like a bacteria that metabolizes those two organic substances and produces methane. All a bit controversial yet but maybe we are looking right at a life form, but our prejudices get in the way of seeing them, and a voyage to Titan is a lot closer then one to Alpha Centauri.
    But what does this prove…? We can see that we should widen our definition of where life can be found. And we know that here on earth we have communities of bacteria, fungi, and other small life that gather together for purposes of protection and reproduction. The small people who will inherit this planet after we have gone.


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