Scientists & Scholars

The Privileged Planet includes interviews with scientists and scholars who have studied the origin and physical characteristics of the universe and the Earth. Here you will find more information about the experts featured in the film.

Guillermo Gonzalez

Guillermo Gonzalez is an Associate Professor of Physics at Grove City College. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1993 from the University of Washington. He has done post-doctoral work at the University of Texas/ Austin and at the University of Washington and has received fellowships, grants and awards from such institutions as NASA, the University of Washington, the Templeton Foundation, Sigma Xi (scientific research society) and the National Science Foundation.

Gonzalez has extensive experience in observing and analyzing data from ground-based observatories, including work at McDonald Observatory, Apache Point Observatory, and Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory. He is a world-class expert on the astrophysical requirements for habitability and habitable zones and a co-founder of the "Galactic Habitable Zone" concept, which captured the October 2001 cover story of Scientific American. Astronomers and astrobiologists around the world are pursuing research based on his work on exoplanet host stars, the Galactic Habitable Zone and red giants. In 2004 he co-authored The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery with Jay W. Richards.

Jay Richards

Jay Richards is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute and a contributing editor of The American at the American Enterprise Institute. He has a B.A. with majors in Political Science and Religion, an M.Div. and a Th.M., and a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. Richards has written many academic articles, books, and popular essays on a wide variety of subjects. His most recent book is Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem. Richards is also executive producer of several documentaries, including The Privileged Planet, based on his book, The Privileged Planet, with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez.

Robin Collins

Robin Collins is a Professor of Philosophy at Messiah College. He received his Ph. D. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame under Alvin Plantinga. His undergraduate work was done at Washington State University where he studied philosophy, physics and applied mathematics. He has been interviewed for several documentaries and is currently writing a book on the anthropic principal--the idea that the universe is finely-tuned to sustain life.

Seth Shostak

Seth Shostak is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology after having received his undergraduate degree in physics at Princeton. He is a leading figure in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Shostak hosts the radio program Are We Alone? He also hosts Skeptic Check, a radio program aimed at exposing pseudo-sciences such as astrology. In 2004, Shostak was awarded the Klumpke-Roberts Award for his "contribution to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy."

Robert Jastrow

Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) was an American astronomer and physicist. He completed both his undergraduate and graduate work at Columbia University, receiving his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1948. Jastrow joined NASA when it was founded and was the first chairman of NASA's Lunar Exploration Committee, a group established to determine the exploratory objectives for the Apollo moon landing crew. He was also Chief of the Theoretical Division at NASA. Dr. Jastrow went on to become a Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, the founder of the George C. Marshall Institute, and Director Emeritus of Mt. Wilson Observatory. He authored the best-selling book, God and the Astronomers.

Bijan Nemati

Bijan Nemati is a Senior Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab (California Institute of Technology). He received his B.S. in Physics from the University of Colorado in Boulder and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Washington. Nemati is currently part of the Gemini Planet Imager team that is developing technology to image extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars.

Donald Brownlee

Donald Brownlee is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Washington, where he received his doctorate in Astronomy. Brownlee's research interests include investigations of interplanetary dust, comets, meteorites, and the origin of the solar system. He also conducted research as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute (University of Chicago). Asteroid 3259 Brownlee was named for him in 1991. Brownlee has received numerous awards and honors, including the J. Lawrence Smith Medal from the National Academy of Sciences, the Leonard Medal from the Meteoritical Society, and the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. He was elected a Fellow of both the Meteoritical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Brownlee is the Associate Editor of Meteoritics and is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Microbeam Analysis Journal. He is currently a principal investigator for the STARDUST Discovery mission, that collected comet samples and returned them to Earth.

Charles Beichman

Charles Beichman is Executive Director of Michelson Science Center, NASA's premier institution for the search for planets and life beyond the solar system. He leads a team of researchers who will use the Space Interferometer Mission (SIM) to find planets orbiting newly formed stars and is the project scientist for the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission. As Director of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC, 1991-1998) he worked on the IRAS and ISO missions and led the software development for the 2 Micron All Sky Survey. As Chief Scientist for Astronomy and Physics at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he helped to develop NASA's Origins program, the goal of which is the search for planets beyond our solar system. Beichman received his undergraduate degree in Astronomy from Harvard in 1973 and his graduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy in 1979.

Kevin Grazier

Kevin Grazier is a planetary scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, specializing in large scale computational simulations of the solar system. He earned a B.S. in Geology and Computer Science from Purdue University and later added a B.S. in Physics from Oakland University. He also earned an M.S. in Physics from Purdue before earning his doctorate from UCLA. Upon arriving at the JPL, Grazier wrote a piece of multi-mission planning and analysis software which earned him numerous awards from both JPL and NASA. Grazier continues to work with JPL and is part of the Cassini Mission team. He also gives planetarium presentations at LA's Griffith Observatory and has served as the scientific advisor for several SyFy channel shows including Eureka and Battlestar Gallactica.

Paul Davies

Paul Davies is a British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and best-selling author. He is Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative--both at Arizona State University. He received his BSc from University College London in Physics and went on to obtain his PhD in theoretical physics (also from UCL). Davies's primary contributions have been in the area of quantum physics, specifically the Fulling-Davies-Unruh effect and the Bunch-Davies vacuum state. He has been awarded numerous times for his proficiency in teaching science, having received the Faraday Prize in 2002, a Kelvin Medal, two Eureka Prizes and an Advance Australia Award. He is also a prolific writer, having written over twenty-five books as well as countless articles for The Guardian, The New Scientist, The New York Times, The Age and many others.