A House of Many Mansions: What Astrobiology Tells Us About The Anthropocene

A lecture by ICE Fellow Adam Frank

In this talk, Adam Frank explores how questions related to developing a sustainable human civilization can be cast in terms of astrobiology. In particular, Adam shows how ongoing astrobiological studies of the coupled relationship between life, planets, and their co-evolution can inform new perspectives and direct new studies in sustainability science. Using the Drake Equation as a vehicle to explore the gamut of astrobiology, Adam focuses on its most important factor for sustainability: the mean lifetime L of an ensemble of species with energy-intensive technology. Adam casts the problem into the language of dynamical system theory and discusses how astrobiological results usefully inform the creation of dynamical equations, their constraints and initial conditions. In addition, Adam presents a classification scheme for planets based on the degree of biospheric activity in the coupled planetary systems. Finally, Adam discusses the role of Gaian-type feedbacks in the presence of a global-scale energy-harvesting species.