How to search for ETI

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Trophy Suite, Tally Ho! Sports & Conference Centre, Pershore Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B5 7RN


For our May event, William Edmondson will discuss how to go about searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI).


William will review the development of some ideas (but not list projects / attempts) in SETI from early days through to new debates about targetting, messaging and observing. His own thinking has changed to focus on arguments in favour of simply looking at selected targets, with ever-more powerful optical telescopes. He will explain why. As ever, in cutting edge science, the role of instrumentation (and recently that includes computation) is an important part of the story. He will also provide his take on the “Where are they?” question, but without going into details such as the Drake equation (historically provocative but not now so relevant in his view).

For those wanting further information in this area a well-written history of the field is available - although it doesn’t cover the most recent work. If you want to buy a single book on the topic, William Edmondson recommends buying this one: Life on Other Worlds: The 20th Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate. Steven J. Dick. Cambridge University Press. 2001. Materials can be found readily via the web - e.g. SETI: The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, also History of SETI and Wikipedia: Search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

About the speaker:

William Edmondson has been actively involved in the international SETI enterprise since 2003, when he first gave a talk at a small workshop in Paris. Indeed France has a good track record in both SETI work - he presented at another SETI conference in Paris in March this year - and related topics. For example, the website inventory/encyclopaedia of exoplanets is managed by Jean Schneider working in Paris. He has also conducted a radio search for signals using the Arecibo radio-telescope and a specific targeting scheme he developed. A paper was published on this in 2003. Sadly nothing was detected.