Free with RSVP
Astrobiology and Astroconsciousness: An illustrated discussion with UArizona professors Dante Lauretta and Stuart Hameroff
Followed by a reception in MOCA’s Great Hall
2021 MOCA Local Genius Awardee and UArizona regents professor of Planetary Sciences and Cosmochemistry Dante Lauretta searches for clues to the origin of life and consciousness. He leads NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission which studied the asteroid Bennu from 2018 – 2021 and scooped up carbonaceous material which it is returning to Earth in 2023. What do Dr. Lauretta and his team hope to find?
Quite possibly, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (‘PAHs’). The basis for organic chemistry and life as we know it are aromatic hydrocarbon rings, found at the core of proteins, DNA, neurotransmitters, and mind-altering psychedelic molecules. PAHs are also found in meteorites, interstellar dust, and on the surface of the Space Station.
According to UArizona professor Stuart Hameroff, these rings host quantum coherence essential to life and consciousness.
Come join the conversation between these two thought leaders as they explore the emerging fields of Astrobiology and Astroconsciousness, searching the universe for these phenomena.
Dante Lauretta is a Regents Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He is an expert in near-Earth asteroid formation and evolution. He is the leader of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. OSIRIS-REx is the United States’ premier mission to visit one of the most Potentially Hazardous near-Earth Asteroids, survey it to assess its impact hazard and resource potential, understand its physical and chemical properties, and return a sample of this body to Earth for detailed scientific analysis. The spacecraft launched in September 2016 and began its journey to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft rendezvoused with Bennu in 2018 and successfully obtained a sample in October 2020. The spacecraft embarked on its return voyage to Earth on May 10, 2021. Sample return to Earth occurs in 2023. He also maintains an active research program in Cosmochemistry and Meteoritics.
Stuart Hameroff is Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at UArizona. He studies how anesthesia selectively blocks consciousness, and is interested in intelligent behavior of microtubules within living cells. Hameroff teams with Nobel laureate Sir Roger Penrose on the controversial Penrose-Hameroff ‘Orch OR’ model of consciousness connecting quantum vibrations in brain microtubules to the most basic level of the universe – fundamental spacetime geometry.
He has proposed that the origin of life was prompted by aromatic ring structures becoming ‘proto-conscious’, and self-organizing to optimize pleasure, and hopes to test PAHs for quantum properties and sensitivity to anesthetics.
Hameroff also organizes UArizona’s biennial interdisciplinary conference The Science of Consciousness.
About the MOCA Local Genius Award
MOCA’s Local Genius Awards honor visionary and innovative Tusconans whose activities have a global impact and whose talents have been internationally recognized. The Awards are a testament to the rich intellectual diversity of Tucson and a reflection of MOCA’s commitment to honoring cutting-edge creativity in all disciplines and practices.