Are we alone? The search for life in the universe

SETI Talks

Tags: SETI Talks, SETI, Astrobiology, Astronomy, Planetary Exploration

Time: Thursday, Feb 06, 2020 -

Location: San Francisco, CA

Register Now

The SETI Institute is bringing SETI Talks to San Francisco for the first time, thanks to a partnership with U.C. Berkeley Extension. Three scientists will discuss their individual approaches to answering the question, “are we alone?” and how they are searching for life elsewhere in the universe. Will we find a so-called technosignature, evidence of advanced technological civilizations? Should we explore places in our solar system with liquid water, such as Europa or Enceladus, for microbial life? And what can the study of exoplanets tell us about the possibility of extraterrestrial life? What are the near-term chances of discovering some form of life elsewhere?

Nathalie Cabrol is the Director of the Carl Sagan Center and an astrobiologist. She will present her new multidisciplinary roadmap that bridges astrobiology and SETI.  Doug Caldwell, astronomer and co-investigator on the Kepler Mission, and chair of the exoplanet group at the SETI Institute, will give an overview of the exoplanet search with the TESS mission. The techno-signature path, including our activities with the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) and Laser SETI, will be described by SETI astronomer, Seth Shostak.

Molly Bentley, producer and co-host of the radio program and podcast Big Picture Science, will moderate this discussion.

Please note that this special SETI Talk will be presented at the UC Berkeley Extension in San Francisco,
160 Spear St., 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 and will begin at 6:15 pm.

Nathalie Cabrol

Nathalie Cabrol is an astrobiologist and the Director of SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for Research, where she spearheads a new multidisciplinary roadmap to bridge astrobiology and SETI. She has a background in planetary and environmental sciences and astrobiology.

Her research focuses on the investigation of habitability and its implications for life beyond Earth. She has over 470 peer-reviewed publications and proceedings of professional conferences. She is the author of three books and ten chapters of books on the subject of planetary science and exploration, astrobiology, and extreme terrestrial environments. Nathalie is the recipient of NASA and other research awards. She is a Carey Fellow (Wings Worldquest Women of Discovery - Air and Space, 2007), and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 2016. She was honored to present the Sagan Lecture at AGU in December 2016.

Nathalie has given over 400 public lectures on the subjects of planetary science, exploration, and the search for life beyond Earth, including a TED Talk in 2015. In March 2018, the New York Times Sunday Magazine featured a portrait of her work and life. Nathalie holds the women's world record for diving at altitude (scuba and free diving).


Doug Caldwell

Doug Caldwell is a co-investigator on the Kepler Mission, as well as its instrument scientist. He works at the Kepler Science Office on the instrument/detector system.

Just 20 years ago, astronomers could only speculate about whether planets were a commonplace in the universe, or distressingly rare. The discovery of thousands of worlds around other stars has shown that planets orbit most of the stars in our Galaxy. But how many of these planets are Earth-size, and possibly Earth-like?

Caldwell is an expert on one of the most successful schemes for finding small worlds far beyond our solar system: looking for the slight dimming of a star caused when a planet passes between it and us. Doug is involved in a trio of transit experiments, including one running at the south pole. While admittedly a harsh environment for an observatory, this antipodal location offers long nights and high altitude, perfect conditions for finding the small dip in stellar brightness that would betray a planet. 


Seth Shostak

Seth Shostak claims to have developed an interest in extraterrestrial life at the tender age of ten when he first picked up a book about the Solar System. This innocent beginning eventually led to a degree in radio astronomy, and now, as Senior Astronomer, Seth is an enthusiastic participant in the Institute's SETI observing programs.

Seth is also keen on outreach activities: interesting the public – and especially young people – in science in general, and astrobiology in particular. He's co-authored a college textbook on astrobiology and has written three trade books on SETI. In addition, he's published more than 600 popular articles on science, gives about 65 talks annually, and is the host of the SETI Institute's weekly science radio show, Big Picture Science.