Exploratorium home Exploratorium home Explo.tv
Browse programs by:
What if we did contact another intelligent life form in the universe? What should we say? What traits best represent our humanity? Douglas Vakoch, the SETI Institute’s Director of Interstellar Message Composition, is working with scientists, artists, linguists, composers, and others to imagine how to speak for our planet.

SETI is a scientific effort seeking to determine if there is intelligent life outside Earth. We were at Aricebo Radio Observatory in March 2003 when scientists listened to the most promising transmissions from UC Berkeley’s SETI@home search. Join the Exploratorium’s Ron Hipschman and special guest Dan Werthimer, chief scientist and principal investigator for the SETI Institute’s efforts, including Arecibo Observatory’s search of artificial radio signals coming from other stars.

Chris McKay, Planetary Scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, has traveled the world seeking Mars-like environments. In the Dry Valleys of Antarctica—his favorite Mars analog on Earth—Dr. McKay discovered a kind of algae living inside rocks porous to light and water. He’ll show us some of these rocks and talk about the physical conditions required for life.

Meet Breea Govenar, a biologist at Penn State University, as she speaks to us from aboard a research vessel from Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute. She'll discuss life near deep-sea thermal vents in the Pacific Ocean. The Webcast also includes Dr. Alissa Arp, a biologist from San Francisco State University studying the tube worms that live around these very hot marine spots.

Jonathan Trent, Astrobiologist, NASA Ames Research Center studies "thermophiles," heat-loving microbes inhabiting places once thought too hostile for life, but analogous to environments that might be found on other planets. He discovered that some of these microbes make a protein that appears to stabilize their cell membranes (and may have applications for nanotechnology).

Julia Child and physicist Philip Morrison once cooked up (and sampled) "primordial soup," a mixture of ingredients said to be the materials from which life sprang on Earth. How accurate is this notion? David Deamer studies how some molecules self-assemble into order, and has developed new theories about how life evolved from components on Earth. We’ll talk with him, do hands-on experiments, and watch vintage footage of Julia Child tasting the soup. Guests: David Deamer, Director, UC Berkeley SETI Program, and Karen Kalumuk, Exploratorium staff scientist.

Nathalie Cabrol, Planetary Scientist, Principal Investigator at NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute, looks for Mars analogs in extreme environments on Earth. She found one at the world’s highest lake at Chile’s Licancabur volcano, site of a unique analog to ancient Martian lakes. We chat with Dr. Cabrol as she investigates the life forms at Licancabur.

How can a mathematical equation frame the question of life in the universe? We’ll talk with Frank Drake, one of the founders of the SETI Institute, about his famous equation and how it frames the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe.

Join the Exploratorium's Dr. Paul Doherty as he visits a "sculpture to observe the stars" in northern New Mexico, where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains meet the eastern plains. There artist Charles Ross is creating an art installation that is also a star observatory. This major earthwork has two main elements: the Star Tunnel, which allows you to walk through the entire history of the earth's changing alignment to our North Star, Polaris; and the Solar Pyramid, where one can visually experience an hour of the earth's rotation.

See an 8 minute video of the planet Mars from the James Lick Observatory telescope!