Finding and Messaging ET: So What?

SETI Institute Event

Tags: SETI Talks, Outreach, SETI

Time: Tuesday, Dec 18, 2018 -

Location: SRI International, 333 Ravenswood Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

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For more than four decades, astronomers have been searching for technosignatures: signals coming from  distant technological civilizations. The first SETI searches began in the 1960s by searching for extraterrestrial radio waves and have more recently expanded to include optical (visible) signals, such as powerful laser pulses. We know that, like technological progress, the search is also accelerating, evolving with the development of new antenna arrays and new networks of telescopes which will soon be capable  listening to the entire sky, everywhere, and all the time. It is impossible to know when we will get our first contact and what this message will say, but we know that this discovery will have an ethical and political impact on our world. And then what will happen next? Will the detection of ET  be dangerous or beneficial for humankind? Will it change everything, including our place in the universe or will we simply continue our life knowing that ‘We are not alone’?

To discuss these points, we invited four SETI researchers: Julia DeMarines, Astrobiologist and Science Communicator at the UC Berkeley SETI Research Center, Doug Vakoch, President of METI, Eliot Gillum, director of LASER SETI and Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute. 

Julia DeMarines is an astrobiologist and science communicator based out of Oakland, California. Julia is a researcher and education liaison at the Berkeley SETI Research Center, a science educator at the Chabot Space & Science Center, the public outreach coordinator for the Blue Marble Space organization, a writer for Astrobiology Magazine, and is a 2018 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. 

Currently, she is working on a SETI project called ‘Moonbounce’ - measuring Earth’s radio leakage reflected off the moon through a partnership with the Berkeley SETI Research Center and the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science. Julia’s research also includes the ethics of messaging extraterrestrial intelligence (METI), remote biosignature detection on exoplanets, and the evaluation of educational activities. She previously worked as a researcher at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, NASA Ames, NASA Langley, and the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In her free time, Julia creates and curates “Space in Your Face!” – a space variety show involving comedy, cover songs, and science demos. She also develops and delivers space-science, inquiry-based workshops for underserved communities around the world through the Ad Astra Academy. 

Douglas Vakoch, Ph.D., is President of METI, a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to transmitting intentional signals to nearby stars, as well as fostering sustainability of human civilization on multigenerational timescales—a prerequisite for a project that could take centuries or millennia to succeed. He is an elected member of the International Institute for Space Law, and he serves as chair of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Study Group on Active SETI: Scientific, Technical, Societal, and Legal Dimensions. Prior to founding METI, for sixteen years Dr. Vakoch worked at the SETI Institute, where he was Director of Interstellar Message Composition.

He is the editor of over a dozen books, and serves as general editor of Springer’s Space and Society series, as well as Lexington Books’ Ecocritical Theory and Practice series. His work has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, Nature, Science, and Der Spiegel, and he has been interviewed on radio and television shows on the BBC, NPR, ABC, The Science Channel, The Discovery Channel, and many others.

Eliot Gillum is the Director of the SETI Institute’s Optical SETI program, called Laser SETI.  With a degree in Computer Science from Cornell University, he is both scientist and engineer.

The first ever all-sky, all-the-time SETI project, Laser SETI is an ambitious project to simultaneously monitor all 41,253 square degrees of the sky across the entire visible spectrum for laser pulses lasting picoseconds to minutes.  The proposed worldwide network of instruments use a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) camera and lens with a custom transmission grating (widefield slitless spectroscopy) to minimize cost.  Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign last summer, the first instruments will soon be deployed to the site of the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, followed shortly after by a site in Hawaii.

Seth Shostak claims to have developed an interest in extraterrestrial life at the tender age of eight, 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. 

In addition, Seth is 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 400 popular articles on science including regular contributions to NBC News MACH, gives many dozens of talks annually, and is the host of the SETI Institute’s weekly science radio show, “Big Picture Science.” 

NOTE: Due to the popularity of the SETI Talks events, tickets are often sold out. If you register to attend, then realize you will be unable to come, please let us know as we will then be able to open up the seats for others. You can email us at Thank You! 

SETI Talks are held at the SRI Conference Center at 333 Ravenswood Avenue. Please enter from Middlefield Road and follow the signs.


Planning is underway for upcoming SETI Talks, but we have some dates you might want hold:

January 16, 2019
February 13, 2019