Penelope Boston studies caves and karst formations, and the special biology that lives in them — both here on Earth and possibly on other planets.

Why you should listen

Penelope Boston is fascinated by caves -- secret, mineral environments that shelter mysteries in beguiling darkness and stillness. She's spent most of her career studying caves and karst formations (karst is a formation where a bedrock, such as limestone, is eaten away by water to form underground voids), and is the cofounder of the new National Cave and Karst Research Institute, based in New Mexico.

Deep inside caves, there's a biology that is like no other on Earth, protected from surface stress and dependent on cave conditions for its survival. As part of her work with caves, Boston studies this life -- and has made the very sensible suggestion that, if odd forms of life lie quietly undiscovered in Earth's caves, there's a good chance it might also have arisen in caves and karst on other planets. Now, she's working on some new ways to look for it

Penelope Boston’s TED talk

Penelope Boston on the TED Blog

4 great talks for International Women's Day

March 8, 2009

To celebrate March 8, International Women’s Day, we suggest these four TEDTalks gems from some amazing speakers — artists, scientists and economists who think deeply about the role of women. Author and activist Isabel Allende discusses women, creativity, feminism — and the power of passionate thinkers and doers: The former Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi […]

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Life on Mars? Let's look in caves: Penelope Boston on TED.com

December 18, 2008

So the Mars Rovers didn’t scoop up any alien lifeforms … ? Scientist Penelope Boston thinks there’s a good chance — a 25 to 50 percent chance, in fact — that life might exist on Mars, deep inside the planet’s caves. She details how we should look and why. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, California. […]

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Quotes from Penelope Boston

I think that the chance of life having arisen on Mars, sometime in its past, is maybe one in four to maybe even half and half.
Penelope Boston
TED2006 • 569K views Dec 2008
Informative, Fascinating
I’m very passionately interested in the human future, on the Moon and Mars particularly, and elsewhere in the solar system. I think it’s time that we transitioned to a solar system-going civilization and species.
Penelope Boston
TED2006 • 569K views Dec 2008
Informative, Fascinating