Traces of Catastrophe: How Violent Collisions Shaped Our Habitable Planet

  • Speaker
  • Sarah T. Stewart, Ph.D.Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Davis
Date & Time

About Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures

Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite anyone interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.

The energy released during planetary-scale collisions exceeds our common experience. Our planet was transformed into unfamiliar physical states multiple times during and after the main stage of accretion. Extreme temperatures drove chemical pathways that are not attainable today. These chemical tracers of catastrophic events provide key clues to the origin of our habitable planet.

In this lecture, Sarah Stewart will discuss how Earth has been sculpted by planetary-scale collisions, from the giant impact that created the moon to mass extinctions from global environmental destruction. She will present how it is now possible to reach the pressures and temperatures of planetary collisions in laboratory experiments to study the thermodynamic properties of planetary materials at the extremes of nature. These data, incorporated into numerical simulations, provide the necessary information to predict the chemical outcomes of collisions. Recent studies point towards new explanations for puzzling chemical signatures that date back to the Earth’s birth and early evolution.

Registration is required for this free event.
Further instructions and access to join the webinar will be sent to all registrants upon sign up.

About the Speaker

Stewart studies the origin and evolution of planets. She is a recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius prize’ for her work on planetary collisions and the discovery of synestias. At the University of California, Davis, Stewart directs the Shock Compression Laboratory, which uses enormous cannons to explore the physics of planetary impacts. Stewart was also a featured speaker on for her work on the origin of the moon.

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