The questions of whether extraterrestrial life in general—and intelligent life in particular—exist are among the most intriguing in science today. In a universe with hundreds of billions of galaxies like ours, the fact that so far life has been found to exist only on Earth has remained the last reason for seeing ourselves as unique.
Now for the first time science is developing the capabilities required to discover extraterrestrial life. The discovery (if and when it happens) of extrasolar complex life will undoubtedly usher in a shift that will rival the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions combined.
Over the course of a fascinating day, noted astrophysicist Mario Livio explores the latest findings and the directions for the future in the search for extraterrestrial life.
9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Statistics of Extrasolar Planets
How many extrasolar planets have we discovered so far? What is the "Habitable Zone" and what is the fraction of planets are situated in it? What does this mean for the probability of the existence of life in the universe and in our galaxy?
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The Origin of Life
What are the necessary ingredients for life? When was the most likely time for abundant life to have begun in the universe? What can we learn from the appearance of life on Earth?
12:15 to 1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30 to 2:45 p.m. Remote Detection of Life
What are biosignatures? How can we avoid false-positive detections of life? Can we detect advanced civilizations?
3 to 4:15 p.m. The Near Future
What search-for-life missions are planned over the next two decades? When can we expect to find extrasolar life? What are the implications if we discover—or fail to find— such life in the next 30 years?
Livio is an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which runs the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope and will conduct that of the planned James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018.