Cosmic Conundrums

Cosmic vista

Professor Dayal Wickramasinghe will be presenting a lecture for MSI's Alumni, friends and colleagues. The presentation will be followed by drinks, light refreshment and a chance to meet and chat with the speaker and other members of the MSI.

Attendance at this lecture is by invitation only, so if you would like to attend, please register as a friend of MSI to receive your invitation.


Hubble’s discovery of the expansion of the universe brought to the fore the problem of the origin of life.  Our current understanding is that our universe burst into existence from the vacuum (the big bang) some 13.8 billion years ago and has been expanding and evolving ever since. The elements essential for carbon based life  were forged inside stars roughly half  a billion years after the big bang and carbon based life itself emerged on planet Earth sometime after. All indications are that  the universe is evolving  in a direction that will  make it uninhabitable in the not too distant future.

Given that life has arisen once in the universe and the recent discoveries of planets with Earth type conditions in the habitable zones of many stars in our galaxy, do we expect Earth type life to be commonplace in our observable universe and in the universe beyond?  We address this and related questions in the context of the modern incarnations of the theories of planetary panspermia and interstellar panspermia. 

About the speaker

Professor Wickramasinghe obtained his undergraduate degree in mathematics and post graduate degree in theoretical astrophysics from the University of Cambridge during the period 1964 -1970. He is the author of over 300 scientific publications on a range of topics in theoretical and observational astronomy investigating the properties of white dwarfs,neutron stars and black holes and of dust in the diffuse interstellar medium. He was instrumental in developing the theory of polarised radiative transfer in magnetic atmospheres and in constructing the first models for the atmospheres of magnetic white dwarfs and the atmospheres of accretion discs around white dwarfs and black holes. His observational studies  led to the discovery of cyclotron harmonic radiation from white dwarfs and a new method for studying magnetic fields in compact stars.  In the 1980’s he published a series of papers reporting the discovery of organic dust particles in the diffuse interstellar medium and in comets which acted as a stimulus in  the development of the modern theory of interstellar panspermia.