In order to understand “where we come from”, we must understand the evolutionary history of life, and in order to understand that, we must understand the physical history of the earth, and in order to understand that, we must understand its history in the solar system, and in order to understand that….you get the idea. So, to start the course we will go all the way back to the origin of the universe. At the time of the Big Bang, words such as “biology”, “chemistry” and even “physics” had no meaning. Some of these unfolded in the first fraction of a second, some through generations of stars and time measured in billions of years. These numbers range from incredibly small to equally incomprehensibly large. The concepts in cosmology are often so far outside of our experience that it is hard to imagine where these numbers come from. An expanding universe 13.7 billion years old? Wow. For this reason, we will include epistemology – in other words, how we know what we do today.
Astrobiology is a new meta-discipline which combines astronomy, biology, chemistry, philosophy, and physics in an effort to study the current state of life in the universe. In the Stanford Astrobiology Course, lectures follow a, more or less, linear path from the Big Bang all the way to the development of complex life and, finally, space exploration. The course explains how evolutionary principles have operated at the macro, and micro, level ever since the birth of the universe we reside in today.
One of the world's leading universities, Stanford was founded in 1885 in what is now Stanford, California. It is comprised of seven schools, four of which are devoted exclusively to graduate education. Stanford's most renowned programs include the Graduate School of Business, Law School, School of Engineering, and School of Medicine. Notable alumni include author John Steinbeck, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.