On Being: Jill Tarter

Over the weekend, I was up early and returning a ton of cement to Menard’s. In the car, I was listening to NPR and caught a show I don’t normally listen to: On Being with Krista Tippett.

The episode featured a long conversation with Jill Tarter, co-founder of the SETI institute and the inspiration for Jodie Foster’s character in the movie Contact.

There were several moments that captured my attention, but this is what really got me:

And it’s amazing to me, there’s bacteria living in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, in that huge radiation environment. There’s life that’s living in boiling battery acid around volcanos. There’s life living in ice. There’s life living at the bottom of the ocean around hydrothermal vents, and not just microbial life — great, huge tube worms, and a whole ecosystem.

So I think that part of the lesson there is, we need to stop projecting what we think onto what we don’t yet know.

Tarter talked about how our tools were only designed to look for life as we knew it, and once we expanded that… we began to find life in unexpected places.

I sat in the car/parking lot for a while, on arriving. And it was difficult to pull away, once I arrived. This is an episode worth listening to, and just terribly, terribly fascinating.

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