Welcome to the ‘Stanford Astrobiology Course’
Astrobiology is at once one of the newest of scientific meta-disciplines, while at the same time encompassing some of our oldest and most profound questions. Beyond strictly utilitarian concerns, such as “what is for dinner?” and leaving offspring, asking the three great questions of astrobiology seems to be embedded in what it means to be human. While these questions are ancient questions, we now have the technological tools to grapple with them at a whole new scientific level. During recent centuries the Copernican and Darwinian Revolutions laid the way for Astrobiology. In the late 20th century such discoveries as life in extreme environments on earth, of extra-solar planets, and technological breakthroughs not the least of which was the extraordinary explosion of space exploration, resulted in the crystallization of Astrobiology as a scientific meta-discipline.
So what is Astrobiology? It mines all of the science and sometimes social science disciplines to understand three fundamental questions:
To fulfill the promise of Astrobiology requires a tool not normally in many scientists’ arsenal: space exploration. Because it is so central to advancements in the field, Space Exploration is integrated into many of the lectures, and is discussed as a separate topic as well.
This website has grown out of the oldest such class in the country, Stanford’s “Astrobiology and Space Exploration” course. The students are primarily upper level undergraduates in human biology, biology and geology, but students with majors from Economics to Music to French to Race Relations have taken the course in recent years. Graduate students have ranged from the sciences to Aeronautics and Astronautics, Graduate school of Business and a Knight Journalism Fellow. All students with some college level background in science, and a real enthuasiasm to join in the quest, are quite welcome and all contribute to the richness of the class presentations and discussions.
This website arises as a complement to the lectures available on iTunesU and the many other wonderful astrobiology and space exploration related web sites. It is unique in its focus on college and graduate level astrobiology and space exploration training. As in the Stanford class, all are welcome and we hope you too will contribute to the wealth of the site.