Life in the Universe? The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence


Course Code: HMLU-sp23 Categories: , , Tags: ,


Is there life elsewhere in our Universe? How do we search for it and how do we identify it? The difference between simple, microbial life and intelligent technological life outside our planet will be considered. We will discuss advanced methods applied to the search for alien biosignatures within our solar system and on exoplanets, and techno signatures from exoplanets and beyond. Past and present of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, both active and passive will be reviewed. We will look at the history of beliefs about aliens, from Ancient Greece to the present. There is a recent revival of the question of UFOs – Unidentified Flying Objects or UAP – Unidentified Aerial Phenomena – are they real and what are they? We will discuss various hypotheses about extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations developed during the 20th century such as those by Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, Nicolai Kardashev, Freeman Dyson, etc. What evidence can we derive from the 4 billion year history of life on Earth and the unanswered query by Enrico Fermi: Where Are They? We will consider the so-called Copernican principle that contradicts the idea of the uniqueness of the Earth and will relate it to the often opposing views between astronomers and biologists. What is the concept of the Great Filter? We conclude the course with a brief philosophical musing about humanity’s likely place in our Universe. The course is complemented with beautiful graphics, and participants will be entitled to receive a 44-page illustrated essay on this subject, recently authored by the presenter.

Pedro Lilienfeld is an electronics engineer and applied physicist with a life-long interest in Astronomy and Cosmology who became an amateur astronomer at age 15. He is a graduate of a special course in Astronomy under UNESCO auspices. He is presently a consultant and was Principal Science Advisor at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Franklin, MA.

Start Date: 6/7/2023, 2 meetings
Class Time: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Day of Week: Wednesday
Location: 220, Lexington High School
Instructor: Pedro Lilienfeld
Status: Running/Openings