Anywhere close to Cambridge from 30 April to 2 May? Consider attending the "Crossroads: The Future of Human Life in the Universe" conference

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just a heads up for anyone that reads here often and will be in the area on the first or second of May - there's going to be a two-day conference on what I believe will be the most prominent feature of the second decade of this century: the discovery of Earth-like planets one after another and the change it will bring about on us on the way we view space and our role in the universe. As the press release states:

Astronomers are on the threshold of discovering the Holy Grail of planetary sciences: new Earth-like planets. The next challenge will be to determine whether or not these worlds have life on them - especially intelligent life that we can communicate with.
For those of us not able to attend, the event (all of them? Not sure) will be webcast live here.

IMO the talks taking place on the last day look the most interesting:
9:00 - 10:00 “How to Find a Habitable Planet” - David Charbonneau 10:00 - 11:00 “The Medea Hypothesis” - Peter Ward 11:00 - 12:00 “New Shapes of Things to Come” - Juan Enriquez 12:00 - 1:00 “Reflections on Life in the Universe” - Freeman Dyson
The talks taking place the day before are more about the possibility of life in general and why complex life should be rare, but though interesting those subjects are dealt with quite often already, and what I consider to be the most interesting is simply the process of discovering these planets. Whether there's life on these Earth-like planets is something for us to find out later, but since the most important thing is a change in the way we view space it really doesn't matter at the moment - what's important is that we find lots and lots of these planets and begin to talk about them amongst ourselves, imagine what they're like and finally hopefully come to a common realization about just how vast and fascinating the universe is; that is, it's not just a void with balls of flaming gas and uninhabitable giant planets, but one also filled with planets that may be much like our own.


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