In lieu of a proper post I thought I'd link to a recent video courtesy of SpaceLab at YouTube. In it you can watch a rather unshaven and scraggly version of me answering a simple but terrific question about the debt we owe to stellar nucleosynthesis. This issue also leads us to think about the other stars that formed from the same clumps of heavy-element enriched material that our solar system condensed out of, since any worlds around those long-lost sisters could contain the very same elemental spice as us. Somewhere out there in the galaxy there might just be other organisms connected to us through the massive stars that forged our common mix of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and everything else - the ultimate stellar gene-pool.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
Caleb A. Scharf
Dr. Caleb A. Scharf is Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, and has an international reputation as a research astrophysicist, and as a lecturer to college and public audiences. The UK's Guardian newspaper has listed his blog Life, Unbounded, as one of their "hottest science blogs," while an editor at Seed Magazine called it "phenomenal. Informed, fresh, and thoughtful." Scharf is author and co-author of more than 100 scientific research articles in astronomy and astrophysics. His work has been featured in publications such as New Scientist, Scientific American, Science News, Cosmos Magazine, Physics Today, and National Geographic, as well as online at sites like Space.com and Physorg.com. His textbook for undergraduate and graduate students, Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology, won the 2012 Chambliss Prize of the AAS. His articles and reviews have appeared in such prestigious publications as Science, Nature, The Astrophysical Journal, and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Dr. Scharf is a regular keynote speaker at academic meetings, such as for the American Physical Society, museums, and both public and private venues, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. He has been a guest on Krulwich on Science at NPR, William Shatner's "Weird or What?" and has served as a consultant to editors and producers at National Geographic Magazine, The Science Channel, The Discovery Channel, and The New York Times.