HAPP Discussion Panel on "Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Across a Century"

On 26 November, the St Cross Centre for the History and Philosophy of Physics (HAPP) held a discussion panel on "Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Across a Century". We welcomed pioneers in the field of SETI from the UK, US and China with over 350 attendees from around the world taking part in this online event.

The discussion panel comprised Professor Lord Martin Rees (UK Astronomer Royal),  Dr Jill Tarter (Co-founder and Emeritus Director, SETI Institute), Dr Andrew Siemion (Director of Breakthrough Listen, University of Berkeley) and Professor Tong-Jie Zhang (Beijing Normal University) with the panel moderator being Professor Sara Seager from MIT. The panellists' talks spanned the history of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence over the past century, the scientific instruments used to look for signals, current global SETI  programmes, the future prospects of detecting evidence of extraterrestrial life, and what extraterrestrial intelligent life forms might be like.

Following the panellists' talks, there was a lively discussion and debate with the panel by the moderator and the three discussants, comprising Professor Paul Davies (Director of the Beyond Centre for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Arizona State University), Professor Donald Brownlee (University of Washington - co-author of "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe"), and ​Professor G.C. Anupama (Indian Institute of Astrophysics and first woman President of the Astronomical Society of India).

Live Q&A posted online throughout the event saw dozens of questions from members of the audience with Professor Seager selecting questions to be put directly to the panel members to round off the event. In particular, each panellist was asked to give their favourite answer to the Fermi Paradox and the question of where all the extraterrestrials are, which produced some fascinating insights.

As with previous online HAPP events, this one connected the HAPP community once again and opened up new and exciting possibilities for bringing together not only an international panel but also a global audience.

A video of the Discussion Panel event is now available here.