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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.

James Turrell studied optics and perceptual psychology in college, but gravitated towards art as his curiosity led him to investigate light itself. In this Webcast of a lecture, James Turrell discusses his experiences manipulating pure light and how it became his artistic medium. He reveals how this early work led him to discover Roden Crater in Arizona and to create his subsequent lifelong project of transforming the crater into an astronomical observatory.

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.

In this archived program from 2003, join us for a conversation with Pulitzer-prize winning biologist E. O. Wilson, who introduced the term biodiversity to describe the interlocking dependence and diversity of organisms in sustaining life in biological communities.

Dr. Eric Lander, a leading figure in the Human Genome Project and director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research, tells us about the recently completed mouse genome and how the study of other genomes gives key information about human genetics and evolution.

Dr. James Watson is the President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the co-discoverer of the double helix, for which he won a Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1962. Dr. Watson was also the first director of the Human Genome Project. He talks with us about early discoveries in molecular biology, the Human Genome Project, and what makes Cold Spring Harbor a unique scientific institution.

Dr. Francis Collins is the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is responsible for coordinating the government-sponsored effort to map and sequence the entire human genome, considered by many as one of the most important scientific undertakings of our time. Dr. Collins is a physician and geneticist whose own work led to the identification of the genes for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington's disease. In this Webcast, Dr. Collins explains the different strategies for finding disease genes, the competition between public and private efforts to decode the human genome, and the next steps for the Human Genome Project, now that the first accurate gene maps have been created.