Astrobiology (general): January 2009

Organizers: Pier Luigi Luisi and Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo

The overall idea behind this workshop is to tackle a number of key questions about the origin of life that still remain unanswered, attempt to clarify why it is so, and to discuss how to progress in our efforts to answer these questions.

In the field of the origins of life, as in many other fields, there is a tendency and a danger for all of us to keep working in our own, fairly narrow areas of expertise and ignore "the big picture". Thus, from time to time, it is important to ask "where are we in the field and what are the main stumbling blocks on the road?" A similar meeting was already held, in a preliminary form, in Erice, Sicily, in 2006. It created a considerable interest so many researchers asked that we continue the experiment in a more developed form. In fact, one conclusion of the Erice meeting was that it should be repeated, possibly on regular basis (every 2-3 years) and involved more countries and a larger number of young researchers.

Message from the Center Director Revised: Ames Takes On...The Vatican?

Well, not exactly. But at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 19, Ames' own Lynn Rothschild will engage Father George Coyne, Director Emeritus of the Vatican Observatory (and my college adviser) on "The Limits to Life in a Fertile Universe." I will moderate as they consider the fact that while the potential for life was present at the Big Bang, the only place that the promise may have been realized is planet Earth. George Coyne, an astronomer and Jesuit priest, and Lynn Rothschild, an evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist, will approach this question from their different perspectives. They will consider what niches life may have found since the Big Bang, and muse on the significance of the fertile universe.

The talk will take place in the ballroom in Building 3 at 7 p.m. on February 19, 2009. It is being jointly hosted by ARC, the Commonwealth Club and the Yale Club. The event is open to the public; admission is $10, payable in advance or in cash at the door. If you wish to pay in advance via credit card, please contact Georgette Gehue of the Commonwealth Club at (408) 280-5842 or at email address She will add your name to the list of attendees. She can also reserve a spot for you even if you pay at the door.

Light refreshments will be served.

I think this will be an extremely interesting exchange of ideas, and hope you will be able to join us.

S. Pete Worden
Center Director

The American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB), founded in 1984, provides a forum to foster research, education and professional development in the multidisciplinary fields of gravitational and space biology. We are a diverse group of scientists, engineers and students who exchange ideas that bridge basic and applied biological research in space and gravitational sciences. Our society of ~350 professionals and students from universities, government, and industry represents the core community with a mission to work closely with NASA to create and disseminate knowledge about how living organisms respond to gravity and the spaceflight environment.

This knowledge provides key insights into normal and abnormal cell function and organism physiology that cannot be observed using traditional experimental approaches on Earth, and serves as a venue for breakthrough biomedical and biotechnological discoveries to advance human exploration of space and improve quality of life for the general public. Our mission includes education and outreach to the general public, students and teachers, Congress, NASA and other domestic and foreign governmental agencies. Our community stimulates students to pursue careers in life science, technology, engineering and mathematics and trains the next generation of scientists and bioengineers.

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