Interdisciplinarity and the Future of Life

Thursday 7 May, 10pm Eastern / Friday 8 May, 10am China

Interdisciplinarity lies at the heart of Duke Kunshan University’s innovative curriculum for the 21st century. Recently DKU appointed James Miller, Co-Director of the Humanities Research Center to be its first Associate Dean of Interdisciplinary Strategy. Join Professor Miller and students from the HumanSpace+ research group as they embark on a series of conversations with leading theorists and practitioners of interdisciplinarity in the world today to explore how interdisciplinarity is tied to innovation and future of knowledge.

Ed Turner

The fourth conversation in this series is with Professor Ed Turner from Princeton University and focuses on the future of the life. Working extensively in both theoretical and observational astrophysics, Professor Turner has published more than 240 research papers with particular concentrations on topics including binary galaxies, dark matter, quasars, exoplanets, astrobiology and the origin of life.  Professor Turner is also a leader of the Breakthrough Starshot initative, which aims to develop a light-powered starship to journey to Proxima Centauri b, an exoplanet discovered in August 2016.

The conversation will focus on the emergence of astrobiology as an important new cross-disciplinary field within the natural sciences, and its relevance for understanding life on earth.

  • What does the fact that biological life emerged on earth from abiotic matter tell us about the likelihood that life is abundant across our galaxy?
  • Can life emerge without the context of a planetary home?
  • How have astronomers worked with earth systems scientists and others  to devise the techniques for detecting earth-like exoplanets?
  • What is the relevance of astrobiology for understanding climate change here on earth? 
  • If initiatives like Breakthrough Starshot are successful, and we discover life on a nearby planet such as Proxima Centauri b, what impact will this have for understanding the future of life on earth?

Grappling with these questions directly addresses DKU’s aspiration to be a leading global university in China that takes innovation in curriculum, pedagogy and research to heart.