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Life In Our Universe is more of a documentary style experience which delves into the thought provoking questions regarding humans and the vast universe we share. It has a narrative format with renowned experts, Brian Thomas Swimme, who is an evolutionary philosopher and Mary Evelyn Tucker, who is a Yale historian of religions.

They use the scientific approach with all the jargon to analyze the theories of the cosmic experience as it pertains to the evolution of humans, the big band theory and more. If you are a science buff with a penchant for scientific wonkiness, then this is the show for you.

Life in Our Universe is a Documentary & Biography series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on January 1, 2013. It has mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.6.

Life in Our Universe is available for streaming on the The Great Courses website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Life in Our Universe on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon online.

The Great Courses
1 Season, 24 Episodes
January 1, 2013
Documentary & Biography
Cast: Laird Close
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Life in Our Universe Full Episode Guide

  • Now that you've seen why humanity will eventually have to leave Earth, consider astronomers' next steps, challenges, and planned missions. Examine why specialized optical systems called coronagraphs are necessary to detect habitable Earths, and how the use of direct imaging spectra is crucial to identifying whether the biomarkers of life are present on other worlds.

  • Professor Close highlights why we shouldn't be complacent about the long-term viability of Earth and presents the timescale in which humans will need to leave Earth or become vulnerable to extinction. Inspect historical evidence indicating that Earth is warming, and learn what will happen to the atmosphere in the future.

  • Terraforming is a new scientific concept whereby an uninhabitable planetary environment is engineered to become more Earth-like to support human life. Explore how this complex process would play out on the two planets considered potential candidates, Mars and Venus, to fully understand the individual steps involved and the technologies necessary to achieve those steps.

  • Space is so vast that inventing a method of faster-than-light travel is the only way humans could conceivably travel the cosmos conveniently. How hard is space travel, really? In this mind-bending lecture, review the obstacles to space travel and consider their theoretical solutions - from combining matter and antimatter into energy, to taking "short cuts" via warp drive and wormholes.

  • After 50 years of SETI, we have zero hard evidence of alien civilizations, "cosmic wanderlust" resulting in Earth visitations, or UFOs being extraterrestrial in nature, despite - or perhaps because of - the expansiveness of the galaxy. Speculate on reasons for, and solutions to, this so-called Fermi Paradox.

  • Delve into the search for extraterrestrial life, or SETI, as the method used to gauge the likelihood of intelligent communicating civilizations is known. Look closely at the Drake Equation - the mathematical rubric commonly used in the field of SETI - and consider the challenge of communicating across our enormous galaxy.

  • How common is simple life is in our universe? What about intelligent life? Start to answer these questions by estimating the prevalence of prokaryotic single-celled microbes and reviewing the process of evolution. Evaluate arguments in the book Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee claiming that while microbial life is common, only Earth has intelligent life. Finally, touch on how aliens might appear.

  • Based on data from Kepler, there are thought to be four main classes of transiting planets: hot Jupiters, hot Neptunes, super-Earths, and Earth-like planets. In this lecture, you will look at detailed highlights of the most fascinating examples of each of these new classes of alien worlds, from most to least massive.

  • The Kepler mission is changing everything we know about extrasolar planets. Learn how this supersensitive-imaging instrument works to monitor 157,000 stars continuously for years and what it has uncovered since launching in 2009. But first, review the transit effect created when a parent star crosses its orbiting planet.

  • Is our solar system common or rare? As you investigate planets orbiting around other stars, learn how the use of adaptive optics allows extrasolar planetary scientists to discover new alien solar systems with ground telescopes, and explore the three main ways astronomers detect planets: small "radio velocity wobbles," "transits," and direct imaging.

  • Continue traveling to the cold gas giant Saturn and its large moon, Titan. Watch a video featuring actual data taken by the Huygens Probe as it pierces the thick atmosphere and lands on the surface of this frozen world, and witness the surprising Earth-like structures this probe and its mother ship found on their journey to Saturn's moons.

  • Gas giant Jupiter is unlikely to inhabit life - but what about its moons? Look quickly at the importance that Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's moons had for the powerful Medici family before moving on to examine the connection between the moons' mean motion resonance and the possibility of subsurface life existing in the ice-covered oceans of Europa, Ganymede, and possibly, Callisto.

  • Venus is the closest planet to the Earth and the next planet moving toward the sun, so it is a logical place to look for life. However, Venus is extremely hot and dry. Could life ever have existed? Explore the nightmarish conditions on Venus and learn why all the water vanished.

  • In 1996, NASA claimed to have found evidence of past life on Mars inside an unassuming meteor. Evaluate the three points scientists gave in support of the microbes being Martian in origin to determine their validity. Then, learn about the theory of panspermia and meet the water bear, a tiny animal capable of surviving the extreme conditions of outer space.

  • Mars ranks as NASA's number one priority in the search for exolife. Here, you delve into why Mars is so intriguing to astrobiologists and what the search has found to date. Start with a comparison of Mars and the Earth, then watch the first-ever observation of water ice on Mars sublimating into vapor.

  • Why is liquid water so important? Why do icebergs float? After quickly reviewing what you have learned about the requirements for terrestrial life, take a closer look at the "liquid water carbon chemistry juggernaut," which allows organic life to thrive on Earth. Consider whether other liquids could operate as solvents for life.

  • For something to be "living," it generally must use energy to drive chemical reactions, be capable of reproduction, and undergo some degree of evolution. Sort through science's best educated guesses for how and why life sprang from nonliving matter. Watch an animation of protocells growing and splitting to replicate genetic information.

  • Now that you have covered the key elements necessary for life to exist, take a closer look at the things all life on Earth shares. Learn why the Biosphere 2 experiment in the 1990s failed, examine the behavior of microbes - the most important constituents of our biosphere - and trace life back to your universal ancestor.

  • Examine the methods and findings of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, humankind's best scientific effort to discover alien life.

  • Examine the diversity of life on Earth through a new lens. What do studies of microbial and intelligent life imply for life elsewhere in our universe?

  • Take a fascinating tour of other star systems in our galaxy and uncover the four main classes of extrasolar planets.

  • Meet the Kepler Space Observatory, a half-billion-dollar NASA spacecraft designed to hunt for Earth-like planets that monitors over 140,000 stars.

  • Are there other planets in the universe like Earth? See how scientists detect new extrasolar planets and target those most likely to sustain life.