Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Friday, 9th february: Session Two
Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

If we detected something manifestly artificial it would be less likely to be an alien 'civilisation' than a byproduct (or even a malfunction) of some super-complex interstellar technology that could trace its lineage back to alien organic beings, which might long ago have died out. In our state of ignorance about what might be out there, we should clearly encourage searches in all wavebands: we should also be alert for artefacts and other evidence of non-natural phenomena. SETI searches interest a far wider segment of society than 'straight' astronomy. There are two familiar maxims that pertain to this quest: 'extraordinary claims will require extraordinary evidence' and 'absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence'.


About Martin Rees

Martin Rees is a professor at Cambridge University and has the title Astronomer Royal. His research interests are in high energy astrophysics and cosmology. He has been Director of the Institute of Astronomy, a Research Professor, and Master of Trinity College. He was President of the Royal Society during 2005-2010. In 2005, he was appointed to the House of Lords. He has received many international awards for his research, and belongs to numerous foreign academies including the US National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy, the Japan Academy and the Pontifical Academy. His books include Before the Beginning and Our Final Century.