September 14 – November 23, 2018

David Grinspoon

Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute; Adjunct Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science, University of Colorado

David Grinspoon is an astrobiologist, award-winning science communicator, and prize-winning author. His newest book is Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, co-authored with Alan Stern. He is a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and an Adjunct Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado. His research focuses on climate evolution on Earth-like planets and potential conditions for life elsewhere in the universe. He is involved with several interplanetary spacecraft missions for NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Japanese Space Agency. In 2013, he was appointed as the inaugural Chair of Astrobiology at the U.S. Library of Congress, where he studied the human impact on Earth systems and organized a public symposium on the Longevity of Human Civilization. His technical papers have been published in Nature, Science, and numerous other journals, and he has given invited keynote talks at conferences around the world. David’s popular writing has appeared in Slate, Scientific American, Natural History, Nautilus, Astronomy, Seed, The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and Sky & Telescope Magazine, where he is a contributing editor and writes the quasi-monthly “Cosmic Relief” column. His book Earth in Human Hands was named a Best Science Book of 2016 by NPR’s Science Friday. His previous book Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life won the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Nonfiction. David has been a recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Public Communication of Planetary Science by the American Astronomical Society, and has been honored with the title “Alpha Geek” by Wired magazine. He lectures widely, and appears frequently as a science commentator on television, radio, and podcasts, including as a frequent guest on StarTalk Radio and host of the new spinoff StarTalk All Stars. Also a musician, he currently leads the House Band of the Universe. He resides in Washington, D.C., with his wife and dog


Friday, November 2, 2018
3:00-4:00 p.m.
Wilder Hall, Room 104, Dartmouth College

Venus Missions: Past, Present, Planned and Pretend

Venus is in some important respects the most Earthlike planet we know of, and yet it’s atmosphere, climate, and surface conditions have evolved in extremely different ways from those of Earth. Understanding this divergence has important implications for the evolution of climate, tectonics, and life on planets throughout the universe. David Grinspoon will review the history of spacecraft exploration of Venus and describe several future missions which have been proposed.
Watch video of the lecture →

Thursday, October 25, 2018
4:30-5:30 p.m.
Wilder 104, Dartmouth College

The Emergence of Planetary Intelligence: An Astrobiological Perspective on the Human Chapter of Earth History

A powerful new dynamic is remaking Earth. Human activities have become a geological force, creating a moment in planetary history fraught with peril, but also perhaps rich with potential. Never before has a geological force become aware of its own influence. David proposes that the “Anthropocene” could mark more than an Epoch boundary, as has been proposed, but the start of Earth’s fifth Eon, the “Sapiezoic.” The advent of self-aware cognitive/geological processes as a component of planetary systems is potentially as significant as the other three Eon boundaries in Earth’s past, each of which represented a major shift in relationship between life and the planet. This puts our immediate challenges over the next century (stabilizing population and devising an energy system that can provide for the needs of this population without wrecking the natural systems upon which we depend) against the backdrop of an even larger challenge: becoming a long-term stabilizing factor on the planet, with our technological activities well-integrated into the physical and biogeochemical cycles of Earth. This would require deep understanding of nature, including self-understanding. It would require both technical and spiritual progress. In this talk, David will put the current human-dominated phase of our planet’s life into a broader context, juxtaposed against previous geological eras in Earth’s history, as well as what’s known from studying changes on other planets. The goal is to better understand the essence of our current moment in geological time and what it means for intelligent life in the universe and for the future of our civilization.
Watch video of the lecture →