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Chris Tinney & Martin Van Kranendonk: Life Among the Stars

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Less than two decades ago, wondering whether other stars really did host planets was a matter for science fiction writers rather than scientists. Today, we’ve gone from complete ignorance, to a treasure trove of ‘exoplanets’– different sized planets that orbit around other stars – thanks to innovation, persistence, and meticulous measurement. But what does this mean for the search for life beyond Earth? Adding this diversity of exoplanets spread across our galaxy, to the planets and moons in our very own solar system, only makes the search for alien life more complicated. 

To find out where we should look for life, we need to ask whether a planet or moon is habitable and if it has the conditions necessary to get life started. Although we can (mostly) answer the first question, the second is harder to determine. Not only would we need to delve into a distant planet’s past, but also settle the hotly contested debate on the origin of life here on Earth? Did life on Earth start in deep sea vents as previously thought or in hot springs on land as more recent evidence seems to show? 

Join us to hear from exoplanet expert Chris Tinney and origin of life researcher Martin Van Kranendonk as they share the latest findings on these fascinating questions. 

As scientists, when we don’t have facts, we’re not required to have an opinion… we can just say ‘I don’t know’?

Chris Tinney

Water starts to become a problem when you start to think, how did we make life....Not only are oceans too wet, they're too salty and they can't concentrate the important elements required for life, like carbon, phosphorus, manganese, boron ...the oceans may not have been the setting for the origin of life.

Martin Van Kranendonk


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This event was chaired by Katrin Juliane Meissner, Professor of Climate Science at UNSW Sydney and the Director of the Climate Change Research Centre. 

Presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and the Australian Institute of Physics. Supported by UNSW Science. This event was part of the UNSW x National Science Week program.

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