Detection and characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres, with emphasis on developing new observational techniques to study the atmospheres of the Earth-like planets to be discovered by the NASA TESS mission.
"We do not yet know how life first formed on earth, but no scientist argues that it can never be explained in material terms. How prevalent is life throughout the universe? We now know that there are likely even more planets than there are stars. So, is life in the cosmos prevalent or rare? Either answer yields profound implications."
"The rate of growth of new technologies is often proportional to past knowledge, leading to an exponential advance over time. This explosive process implies that very quickly after a civilization reaches technological maturity, it will develop the means for its own destruction through climate change, for example, or nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Developments of this type, over mere hundreds of years, would appear abrupt in the cosmic perspective of billions of years. If such self-destruction is common, this could explain Fermi’s paradox, which asks “where is everybody?”—and...
Avi Loeb's latest Scientific American blog, "Scientific discoveries substantiate our awe when faced with the richness and universality of the laws of nature. But science falls short of explaining this natural order and why it exists in the first place."
“Not all discoveries come from new observations,” says Pete Worden, in a comment referring to original thinking as applied to an existing dataset. Worden is executive director of the Breakthrough Initiatives program, which includes Breakthrough Listen, an ambitious attempt to use SETI techniques to search for signs of technological activity in the universe. Note that last word: The targets Breakthrough Listen examines do extend to about one million stars in the...
Read the new Scientitic American blog entry by Avi Loeb,
"Progress in science is sometimes triggered by surprises. Data collection resembles gathering of new pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and placing them together. Sometimes one of the pieces does not quite fit. It is natural for scientists to instinctively argue that such a piece does not belong; perhaps it is an artifact driven by uncertainties in the data or a misinterpretation of the experiment."