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Super Science Lab: Sea to Space

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Super Science Lab Apr 15

Life on Earth is—as far as we know—unique in the universe. Yet astronomers have shown that there is a vast diversity to the kinds of worlds that exist within our solar system and beyond. From planets with scorching temperatures and high pressures to moons with oceans of toxic gases or liquids, there are limitless natural worlds to explore. Earth’s ocean, which harbors an array of exotic organisms, may be a model for many extreme planetary environments. Can exploring Earth’s oceanic depths offer clues to environments that could host life in our dark universe?
In this daylong workshop, we will apply what we know about the extreme ecosystems of the deep ocean to what astronomers are uncovering in deep space to identify the chemical elements necessary for life. Together with two Museum scientists, astronomer Jackie Faherty and marine biochemist Mandë Holford, participants will spend the day exploring strange new worlds in the Hayden Planetarium, visiting related Museum halls, and conducting experiments to learn about the elemental soup that could help define the boundaries at which life can occur on other planets. A tasting of “life in the extremes," featuring various marine organisms with elements that might be readily available on other planets, will be provided.

A three-course taste using the elements (Carbon, Nitrogen, etc.)

Icelandic Ice Fish,
Gas filled grapes,
Freeze-dried sushi wasabi rice cakes

Spicy Indian Deep Fried Conch, Snail & Volcanic Shrimp Fritters
With a fiery globe of Diablo sauce

Carbon Comb Sugar
Dipped in Dark Chocolate
With a Nitrogen frozen ice cream

By the end of the workshop, participants will understand the chemical make-up of several astronomical bodies (solar system moons and extrasolar planets). In particular how they may have formed, how they are sustained, and how they can be understood in the context of our own planet.
Participants will also understand how the deepest parts of our Ocean is a scientific mimic for outer space and holds clues to what life on other planets may be like. Specifically they will learn about the creatures and the chemical elements found in the ocean's extreme environments.

Jacqueline K. Faherty, Ph.D.
Dr. Jacqueline K. Faherty received her Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University in 2010 while conducting her dissertation research in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. She is currently a prestigious Hubble postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The research group that she co-leads, the Brown Dwarf New York City (BDNYC), is at the forefront of comparative brown dwarf/exoplanet studies.
Mandë Holford, Ph.D.
Dr. Mandë Holford is an assistant professor in chemistry at Hunter College and CUNY-Graduate Center, with a scientific appointment at the American Museum of Natural History. Her dual appointment reflects her interdisciplinary research, which combines chemistry and biology to discover, characterize, and deliver novel neuropeptides from venomous marine snails (cone snails, terebrids, and turrids) as tools for manipulating cell signaling in the nervous system. Dr. Holford received her Ph.D. in synthetic peptide chemistry from The Rockefeller University.

Daniel Latham, executive chef and owner at The Cornelia Street Café, was raised in upstate New York and attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He began his professional career in New York City and was named chef of The Liberty Café at age 21. He has been with The Cornelia Street Café for over 15 years, pleasing his guests with his variations on customary bistro fare.