About the Event
In this lecture, Dr. Kirschvink will illustrate with several examples how the science of magnetism is leading to fundamentally new and fun discoveries about the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Some of these include: (1) Magnetic data first demonstrated that meteorites ejected from Mars can travel to Earth on low-temperature, low-shock trajectories that would not harm microbes traveling with them, thereby implying that our biosphere might have evolved first on Mars nearly 4 billion years ago, and traveled through space to Earth in them. (2) Recent genetic studies on the magnetotactic bacteria demonstrate that they evolved very early in Earth History (during Archean time), and show that the geomagnetic field also is very ancient, thereby protecting our atmosphere and oceans from the solar wind. (3) A record of Earth’s magnetic field is trapped in many rocks as they form, allowing us to record the position of continents throughout most of Earth history, and can be used to test ideas like ‘Snowball Earth’ and "True Polar Wander" events, such as that which occurred during the Cambrian Explosion. Finally, (4) he will mention exciting new developments in the study of how animals detect and use the geomagnetic field with tiny magnets similar to those which evolved in the magnetotactic bacteria so many years ago.
About the Speaker
Joe was born and raised in the Southwest United States, which does not necessarily explain his infatuation with geology and biology, but it helps. , Joe chose to pursue his undergraduate education in Pasadena, California, where the atmosphere itself in the early 1970s was capable of cleaning the rock surfaces to show the beautiful geology underneath. However, upon the advice of two mentors (one with his magnetic mind in the stars, and the other more mindful of the magnetic minerals made by microbes), he reluctantly agreed to serve time in the East among the Ivy leaves at Princeton for his Ph.D. Joe did this, however, by traveling through Australia for a year and by spending about 50% of this time as a graduate student somewhere "in the field". He abandoned his experiment with the East Coast in 1981, and has been on the faculty back at Caltech ever since.
Joe has a lot of fun creating "nutty" ideas like the snowball Earth, and confusing paleontologists by trying to convince them that the Cambrian explosion was caused by a series of interchangeable events in the orthonormal Eigenvectors of Earth's Moment of Inertia Tensor. His major claim to being a paleontologist is his prediction and discovery of magnetofossils, which are not very useful for biostratigraphy but are wonderful as a Martian biomarker and for increasing the NASA Astrobiology budget.
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