What is life? How might life have emerged on Earth or on other worlds? And how might we engineer the future of life—what might we make life to be? Astrobiologists and synthetic biologists grapple with these questions every day. To further explore the intersections between these sciences and the humanities, the Library of Congress is bringing together scientists, scholars, artists and journalists for a special symposium on Thursday, September 28.
“Life As It Could Be: Astrobiology, Synthetic Biology, and the Future of Life” will be hosted by Luis Campos, the current Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress chair in astrobiology at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center. The symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in room 119 on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed. The event will also be livestreamed on the Library’s Facebook page and its YouTube site (with captions).
Developed as part of the joint NASA/Library of Congress astrobiology program, the one-day symposium will be structured around four groups of commentators: from the laboratory (scientists), from the library (humanists), from the studio (artists and designers) and from the public square (writers and commentators). Presentations from scientists and humanists will be accompanied by commentary from journalists and cultural critics. In addition, artists and designers will contribute insights from work in media ranging from studio art and experimental practice to film and design.
Scheduled speakers include:
- Giada Arney, planetary scientist and astrobiologist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
- Joe Davis, bioartist/scientist, MIT
- Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, designer, lead author of “Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology’s Designs on Nature”
- Andy Gracie, conceptual and experimental artist working at the intersection of art and science
- Stefan Helmreich, anthropologist of science, MIT
- Jennifer Joy, science-themed performance artist, writer, comic and director
- Betul Kacar, assistant professor of astronomy and molecular and cellular biology, University of Arizona
- Jason Kelly, Founder, Ginkgo Bioworks
- Benumerata Muhammad, lyricist, writer, poet, beatbox, actor, and teacher
- Antonio Regalado, senior editor, MIT Technology Review
- Markus Schmidt, CEO and founder, Biofaction
- Valerie Thompson, book review editor, Science Magazine
- Nicola Twilley, contributing writer for the New Yorker, author of the blog Edible Geography and a co-host of the “Gastropod” podcast
For a complete schedule and further information, visit the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress website.
The symposium is part of the Kluge Center’s ongoing Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress astrobiology program. Funded by NASA, and executed by the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Kluge Center astrobiology program was created to promote research in the nation’s capital of issues surrounding life’s future in the universe, for humans and other species, on Earth and beyond. The program encourages discussion and reflection on the potential impacts of discovering whether there is life beyond our planet. One senior researcher is appointed annually to be in residence at the Kluge Center, to make use of the Library of Congress collections in exploration of these questions, as well as convene related programs that ensure the subject of astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C.
Campos is concluding his appointment as the fourth Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress chair. A historian of science, Campos is currently associate professor of history at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of “Radium and the Secret of Life” and is co-editor of “Making Mutations: Objects, Practices, Contexts.”
The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress brings together the world’s best thinkers to energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information, visit loc.gov/kluge.
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