by Jim Nintzel
One of my favorite spring traditions, the UA College of Science Lecture Series, gets launched again on Monday, Jan. 26, on campus at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.
This year's theme is life in the universe:
For its 10th anniversary, the University of Arizona College of Science's popular spring lecture series will present seven free lectures exploring various aspects of life in the universe.
The first lecture will be on Monday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. in Centennial Hall on the UA campus.
Life as we know it produces complex order. Earth's many life forms are diverse and continually changing through birth, growth and evolution. The series will investigate questions including: What is life? How do we recognize it?
To understand life in the universe, we ask: What environments produce life and which attributes make something alive? How does life change? Is there life in our solar system or on one of countless exoplanets? Is there a connection between life on Earth and life elsewhere — or are we alone?
This first lecture tackles the topics of "What Is Life?" with Guy J. Consolmagno, a planetary scientist with the Vatican Observatory Research Group. The details on his talk:
Throughout history, our definition of "life" reflects our assumptions about how the universe works — and why we ask the question. The ways different human cultures, ancient and current, have talked about life provide some sense of how we have defined life and illustrate the aspects of life that fascinate us. Many cultures used life as an analog to explain the movement of winds and currents or the motions of the planets. Today we use those mechanical systems as analogs for life. Ultimately, we may not really know what life is until we have discovered more than one independent example of it on places other than Earth: We need many diverse examples before we can generalize. But without a definition of what we're looking for and why we're looking, we may have a hard time recognizing life when we find it.