A perennial favorite is the idea of time travel. What would happen if we could go back in time and alter the future a la “Back to the Future”? The great narrative of the history of life has a complexity rife with subplots and twists, many of which we will never uncover. Yet somehow the story of life on Earth began with a prebiotic ooze and ended with the awe-inspiring diversity of life we see today – including us. But like any story, the present was not inevitable, and neither is tomorrow. Seemingly small events have reverberated through the eons. If we take the story evolution and reset the clock to some arbitrary time, how much of the future could be predicted? Surely the details would be quite different, but could we predict anything? Is there such a thing as a law in evolution? What about some of life’s greatest hits, from the eukaryotic cell, to photosynthesis, multicellularity, intelligence and even us?
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.