iN VIDEO: The origins of life, the survival of our species, and the former Kamloops scientist tying it all together - InfoNews

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iN VIDEO: The origins of life, the survival of our species, and the former Kamloops scientist tying it all together

Dr. Bruce Damer standing with a 3.5-billion-year-old sedimentary rock he studied while researching the origin of life in Western Australia.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Dr. Bruce Damer
March 25, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - Dr. Bruce Damer was about 19 years old — and living in Kamloops without a degree or prefix — when NASA rejected his first ideas for a spacecraft that would capture asteroids. Fast forward 20 years and he was working with NASA simulating their missions.

Then in 2015 he applied for a NASA grant to fund a new idea for a spacecraft that would capture asteroids to use for anything from building spacecraft in space, to further exploration — including return trips to Mars. That project, called SHEPHERD, is now being developed as a startup venture.

And what does this have to do with the origins of life?

Dr. Damer will be returning to Kamloops from his home in California to explain just that, as well as receive the outstanding alumni award from Thompson Rivers University.

"I have never presented any of this work in Kamloops in the last 37 years, yet this is where the origins of the ideas began," he says in a phone interview.

He credits Dr. Jim Hebden, his high school chemistry teacher and the founder of the BIG Little Science Centre, with having inspired him to pursue his ideas.

Dr. Damer's career has been in pursuit of answering the questions: How does life get started, then how does it extend to the universe?

Turns out they are the same problem.

"The origin of life and hot springs on land actually tell us about how humans may have a future in space," he says. "It’s all through these encapsulations."

And by "encapsulations" he is referring to both living cells and spacecraft.

His idea that life began in freshwater hot springs on land is counter to the theory that life began in the ocean. He asserts life in salt water is an adapted trait.

"So it’s an alternative hypothesis to the ocean, but it’s got much more evidence behind it now," Damer says. "It turns out fresh water on the land is way easier on chemistry than salt water in the ocean."

Dr. Damer will be presenting his ideas at a free talk on March 28 from 1 to 2 p.m. in room 190 at the Brown House of Learning at TRU.

Here's an old TEDx talk that will give you an idea of what you're in for.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shelby Thevenot or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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