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Multidisciplinary nature of astrobiology

This is a transcript of QuickTime movie (3.1 MB) recorded in the Pilbara in 2005. Dr Bruce Runnegar, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, describes the multidisciplinary nature of astrobiology.


"Astrobiology is a multidisciplinary field and that means that people who are normally trained in only one discipline have only one part of the picture. And so it’s important that the various trades get together to find the right answer and that’s why it’s so difficult in the first place to get people to work together in ways they’re unaccustomed to doing.

"Secondly we have to apply novel tools and techniques to structures and observations that are not normally used. For example, in this spot where we are sitting, these curved structures we see in the rock, they’re cone shaped, they’re packed together like an egg carton, and how do they form?

"One way we can understand these structures is to apply what’s known from various branches of physics, particularly the physics of surfaces because there are many controls on the production of these complex surfaces which we can understand from physical means.

"So that’s just an example of bringing another discipline into the argument. We have geochemistry looking at the products of life, we have palaeobiologists looking at the remains of life and we have physicists looking at the structures of life. And put all those things together and it takes a while and it’s difficult."




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