Steve Croft and David Lindberg present a public talk at UC Berkeley on August 15, 2009, in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, as part of the series described at astro.berkeley.edu/iya . Almost 14 billion years ago, the Big Bang created the seeds of the vast structures that we see in the present-day Universe. But how did a sea of scorching hot gas evolve to form the cosmic web of galaxies, clinging together in huge filaments and sheets, and separated by enormous voids? Modern astronomers use telescopes and computers as time-machines, compressing millions of years of history into the blink of an eye, and studying the inexorable forces that smash galaxies together, fueling the gargantuan black holes at their hearts, and triggering the birth of new stars.
The history of life on earth is unequivocally tied to the stars. Material from space - ashes from the burned-out corpses of previous generations of stars; the complex organic molecules necessary for life; and the comets which brought us the water which makes up our oceans - has rained down upon our planet for billions of years. As well as bringing life, destruction has also come from the skies - massive extinction events were brought about by the impact of extraterrestrial objects. Life on Earth has been largely determined by events beyond our atmosphere.
David R. Lindberg is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. He is the author of over 100 scientific papers and 3 books on the evolutionary history of the marine organisms and their habitats. He has conducted research and field work for over 30 years around much of the Pacific Rim, and has served as Director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and Chair of the Department of Integrative Biology. In addition to his research work, Prof. Lindberg is actively involved in K-12 outreach projects at University of California Museum of Paleontology, focusing on the use of technology to increase access to scientific resources, and the training of teachers in principles of evolutionary biology.
Steve Croft is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Astronomy at UC Berkeley. He grew up in England, and after a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, he moved to the Bay Area to pursue research on supermassive black holes and their parent galaxies. He is a member of a team of scientists who are currently commissioning the Allen Telescope Array, a new type of radio telescope being built near Lassen National Park in Northern California. He is the coordinator for this speaker series and other International Year of Astronomy activities at Berkeley.
Videography by Bethany Cobb; editing by Chris Klein. This video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License - creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us