Is the Earth Special?

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A Specialist Discussion Meeting organised by: Dave Waltham (RHUL) d.waltham<@> and Lewis Dartnell (UCL) l.dartnell<@>


Summary: This meeting concerns a simple but important question: Is our world a typical product of planetary formation processes, or does it exhibit an unusual combination of properties that were necessary preconditions for the emergence of intelligent life? Clearly, if there are any such prerequisites, they must be present on Earth even if they are extremely rare in the general population of planets.
Light can be shed on this question from many directions and so this discussion meeting will be highly interdisciplinary.  It could benefit from the presence of cosmologists (How big is the Universe?), geophysicists (Is the Earth's magnetic field unusually strong?), bio-geochemists (does the silicate weathering cycle guarantee climate stability?), biologists (what are the environmental limits on a complex biosphere?), early-life investigators (what are the conditions necessary for life to emerge?) and celestial mechanics experts (is the solar system unusually stable?).  The topic is highly controversial and should attract speakers and attendees from both sides of the argument.  In particular, there is a potential "Gaia or Goldilocks?" discussion to be had between those who believe a complex biosphere produces environmental stability and those who believe that this has confused cause and effect.


The abstract book for this meeting can be viewed here.

Please click here for the full programme.