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Scientific Controversies: One-Way Ticket to Mars

To explore is an irrepressible human urge. If there is a peak on Earth, someone will try to climb it. If there is an ocean to cross, someone will sail it. If there is a hunk of solid on the other side of that ocean, someone will try to stand there. Explorers do not always come back. With current technology, we are encouraged to fantasize about the exploration of peaks, and brittle ground, and ice sheets on other planets. No doubt NASA or private agencies like Space-X could rise to the technological challenge and send an astronaut to Mars, hang the cost. But could we bring her back? Janna Levin prods people to consider the brazen implications of a one-way ticket to Mars.

Janna Levin is an astrophysicist and writer. She has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime. She is the author of the popular-science book How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines. Additionally, Levin was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow. For this Scientific Controversies discussion, Levin is joined by Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University.


Scientific Controversies


What Is Quantum Reality? Does Time Exist? Will Dying Black Holes Explode in Firewalls? Major scientific discoveries can disrupt the traditional order, leaving scientists adrift in concepts that resist familiar intuitions and beliefs. Of the new ideas that emerge, some will be wrong and some will be right. Honest and open scientific controversy helps disentangle one from the other. Eventually, one side of a debate grows in strength and finds confirmation in experiments, while the other atrophies. But both sides of a controversy contribute to the breakthrough of actual discovery – when the utterly abstract barges into the realm of the concrete. This series celebrates that passionate spirit of scientific debate. For the Pioneer Works series Scientific Controversies, we take a look at profound topics at the frontier of physics that have inspired unresolved debates.