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LAB PI Prof. Sarah S. Johnson will be giving the upcoming Carl Sagan Lecture for the Biogeosciences and Planetary Sciences Sections at AGU 2021. This prestigious honor will highlight Prof. Johnson's research into finding signs of life outside of Earth, and allow her to share her perspective on the importance of taking an agnostic approach to such investigations. I love hearing Prof. Johnson talk about the search for life throughout the universe, and I find her passion to be infectious. I can't think of a better scientist to highlight the work from LAB at AGU!



Image description: Portrait photo of Dr. Sarah Johnson in her laboratory at Georgetown University.


Description from AGU's website:


Information on the lecture

The Carl Sagan Lecture is presented annually and recognizes a scientist who embodies Carl Sagan’s interest in astrobiology, as well as his effective science communication skills. This lecture honors the life of Carl Sagan, an astronomer and astrophysicist who was a leader in establishing the field of astrobiology. Sagan was also a tireless educator, author, and advocate for the space sciences.

The Sagan Lecture is presented at the AGU Fall Meeting. During even-numbered years, the Biogeosciences section manages the lecture and in odd-numbered years, the Planetary Sciences section sponsors the lecture.



https://eos.org/agu-news/2021-agu-section-awardees-and-named-lecturers

https://www.agu.org/Honor-and-Recognize/Honors/Section-Awards/Carl-Sagan-Lecture




We are fortunate to have a second member of LAB be interviewed by Alien Crash Site! Dr. Heather Graham, a Research Physical Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, was interviewed for the Alien Crash Site Podcast on September 2, 2021. This podcast, from the Santa Fe Institute, is an InterPlanetary interview series that dives into what a scientist would risk their life to investigate if they were able to explore an alien crash site! You can hear the entire conversation here! Included at the bottom of this post is the full synopses from their page highlighting the interview.


Dr. Heather Graham being interviewed for Alien Crash Site on September 3, 2021.


What do we look for, when we don’t know what we’re looking for? As we announce more missions seeking life in the universe, and as we build new technologies to assist in that pursuit, how do we ensure we don’t miss it when we come across it? How can we best prepare ourselves to recognize life unlike our own? This week, Heather Graham fills us in on exactly how she is seeking out these “agnostic” Biosignatures. Heather is a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She’s an organic geochemist and she’s also an astrobiologist. Earlier this summer she published two papers proposing two very cool and very different methods for life detection. We discuss both in this conversation, as well as how easily fooled we might be in our pursuit of past life by the clues we have today. We talk about the rigorous ways space missions are managing contamination, the intersection of art and science, the difference between information and meaning, and we end with a discussion of heather’s ideal alien object, which could definitely change our understanding of the universe, so long as we handle it properly.


https://www.aliencrashsite.org/episodes/019



Dr. Cole Mathis, a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow working at Arizona State University and the Santa Fe Institute, was interviewed for the Alien Crash Site Podcast on June 24, 2021. This podcast, from the Santa Fe Institute, is an InterPlanetary interview series that dives into what a scientist would risk their life to investigate if they were able to explore an alien crash site! You can hear the entire conversation here! Included at the bottom of this post is the full synopses from their page highlighting the interview.




Dr. Cole Mathis being interviewed for Alien Crash Site on June 24, 2021.


This week, Cole Mathis, a computational and statistical physicist who trying to figure out the origins of life, ventures into the Zone. His work includes an effort to find life elsewhere in the universe. We were curious to see what Cole would pick if he stopped seeking alien life, and instead sought out an artifact made by alien life. The timing could not have been better, given the recent publication of a paper on evaluating artifacts of potentially living systems in the universe, that he co-authored with Leroy Cronin, Sara Walker, Heather Graham and many others. We spend much of our conversation unpacking, or "breaking down", what's at stake in this new proposed method for detecting life: Assembly Theory. We shift into an evaluation of the "artifact" in science, in art, and in fiction. And then we hear what he would risk his life to unearth from the dangers of an Alien Crash Site, and what impact it would have on human civilization.



https://www.aliencrashsite.org/episodes/015