MIT Tech Day 2014: The Future of Planet Earth

Videos of this year’s speakers here.

The talks:

  • “Earth Under Stress: Thinking differently about climate research” — Kerry Emanuel ’76, PhD ’78, Cecil & Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science:

For the past half century, scientists have been at work on amassing an impressive array of data and models to understand the stresses placed on the planet by an accelerated rate of climate change. This talk will assess the current understanding of the major climate processes and propose new directions for climate research.

  • “Lessons from the Landscapes of Earth and Other Planets” — Taylor Perron, Cecil and Ida Green Assistant Professor of Geology:

Landscapes are open archives of planetary history. Looking elsewhere in the solar system and into Earth’s past shows that some landscape features are surprisingly robust. But the specific forms they take on appear to depend on life and, more recently, on human impacts. This talk will explore clues left in planetary landscapes and the light they shed on the state of the planet.

  • “The Impact of Life on Planet Earth” — Tanja Bosak, Hayes Career Development Assistant Professor:

The phenomenon of life paralleled the evolution of the physical planet. Unlocking the traces left by early forms of microbial life offers insights into the story of life on Earth, the ways the planet has met overwhelming challenges, and clues about sustaining the world.

  • “Solving the Energy Conundrum” — Christopher Knittel, William Barton Rogers Professor of Energy Economics:

Human life has been so remarkably successful that its sustainability has become the major contemporary challenge. Meeting energy needs in a sustainable fashion will require not only bringing together investors, corporations, scientists, and policy makers but new ways of thinking. Can economics be the catalyst in this?

  • “Solutions for Water Supply” — John Lienhard, Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical Engineering:

With increasing populations, development, and climatic instability have come increased stress on the supply of potable water and significant environmental consequences. While renewable fresh water from precipitation can’t be increased, it is possible to tap the vast reserves of the oceans. The costs and energy requirements of desalination have fallen steadily in recent years and progress continues.

  • “Is There Life Out There?”—Sara Seager, Class of 1941 Professor of Planetary Science and Professor of Physics:

Life is part of the natural state of planet Earth, but is it part of the natural state of the universe? New tools are being developed to peer even deeper into space in the search for diverse forms of life. What lessons about the ability of life to thrive in hostile environments can be put to use here on Earth? Can they help solve some of the major issues today?