The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Paul Higgs


What is the answer to “Life, the universe and everything”,  Douglas Adams’ great question about the meaning of it all? (Assuming it’s not 42.) We may never have an answer to possibly undefinable questions, but thanks to science, we’re actually getting a little closer to understanding a big part of one our universe’s mysteries: life. Today we're joined at the star spot by Professor Paul Higgs, origin of life researcher.


Paul Higgs and Justin Trottier enjoy a wide ranging discussion, including a focus on recent progress in astrobiological research, the RNA world model and its rival hypotheses to account for life's origins, and the interaction between the SETI search, planetary exploration in our solar system, and studies in our laboratories right here on Earth.


Current in Space


On episode 38 SETI researcher Jill Tarter joined us at The Star Spot. In answer to a question about the likelihood of finding life in the cosmos, she cited two critical discoveries: the growing zoo of extremophiles here on earth and the growing zoo of exoplanets across our galaxy. Anuj and Dave have excited news to share on both those fronts, to copmliment this episode’s feature interview on life’s origins. And Benjamin shares new technological developments toward space-based power generation!


About Paul Higgs
 

Paul Higgs is professor of biophysics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He holds a joint appointment in the departments of Physics and Biochemistry. Higgs participates in McMaster’s new Astrobiology graduate level research program as well as the Origins Institute, both of which are looking at the question of life’s origins. He is coauthor of the textbook Bioinformatics and molecular evolution, and co-editor of Planetary System and the origin of life.


Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep41-PaulHiggs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Matt Dobbs

Dark energy is described as one of the most mysterious phenomenon in our already generally baffling universe. To help us shed some light in the darkness, Matt Dobbs joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot. His observations of galaxy clusters at the south pole telescope are at the leading edge of our exploration into the unknown.

Current in Space

Benjamin reminds us that astronomers get as close as likely possible to working as time travellers - or at least time voyeurs - and recently discovered the furthest - and hence oldest - galaxy in the universe. Then, as if competing for best entries in the Book of Guinness World Records, Anuj and Victoria tell us about the Boomerang Nebula, a place in our galaxy so cold it makes Toronto winters - and even the afterglow of the Big Bang - seem balmy by comparison. And Dave rounds out our news with the announcement of a major milestone in our search for candidate extrasolar planets in our hunt for Earth's twin. 

About Matt Dobbs

Matt Dobbs is an Associate Professor of Physics and associate member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University in Montreal. He is a Canada Research Chair and is a Senior Fellow in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Cosmology and Gravity program. He was a recipient of an Owen Chamberlain Fellowship at the Lawrence Berkely Laboratory in 2002 and a Sloan Fellowship in 2009. His work explores the intersection between particle physics and cosmology. His research has brought him to some exotic locations, but none more remote than his observations with the South Pole telescope.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep39-MattDobbs.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EDT

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