From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul> Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 07:21:14 -0800 Fwd Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 06:59:23 -0500 Subject: Are We Alone? Source: Iowa City Press Citizen http://www.press-citizen.com/news/032404seti.htm March 24, 2004 Are we alone? Speaker tells of technology hunt for extraterrestrials By Kristen Schorsch Iowa City Press-Citizen Spaceships shaped like Frisbee discs. Skinny beings with large heads, long fingers and oval-shaped eyes. Nope. Not for Kevin Hansen. While he doesn't know what extraterrestrial life looks like or in what form it exists, he doesn't think it's a big-headed monster or cruises the universe in a spaceship. Maybe extraterrestrials are a machine. Maybe a form of energy, he says. Either way, Hansen, like many, thinks the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe is exactly that - a possibility. "It's pretty pointless if this planet has the only living life forms on it," the Kirkwood Community College student said. Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research at the SETI Institute in California, spoke to a crowd of about 200 people Tuesday in the University of Iowa's Van Allen Hall. The topics: Finding technology from intelligent life, and "Hollywood" ideas like Hansen's. Tarter's visit to UI was part of the school's Distinguished Public Lecture Series, which brings nationally known scholars to campus to discuss ideas in forefront sciences. Talk of extraterrestrial life has become more mainstream lately with two rovers, or robots, sent a few months ago to Mars in search of life - maybe in the form of water - that might have existed on the Red Planet. Research for the project involved UI faculty members and students, who worked to develop software to help people who control the robots. SETI is building a new radio telescope that will assist in finding technology from life elsewhere, Tarter said, similar to how the twin rovers are searching for microbes, or living organisms, on Mars. Before SETI's newest project, their researchers shared telescopes such as the Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico, sometimes giving them only weeks to work. And while no one has offered concrete evidence so far of intelligent life, Tarter said the radio telescope could help. "What's been happening is that we're finding microbial life on Earth is far more tenacious and able to live in a much wider range of environments than we've ever conceived before," she said. Radio and optical telescopes look for signals, like a flash in the sky, that could come from other civilizations. An almost natural sound, such as pulsating tones, also could be signals, she said. Linda French, an associate professor of physics at Illinois Wesleyan University, also has used radio telescopes in search for intelligent life. She was one of several graduate students at New York's Cornell University in the late 1970s that worked with professors to decode messages that might have been sent from intelligent life. French now teaches a course for first-year students about portrayals of alien encounters in science fiction and popular culture. "Most of my students think probably that it's more likely than not that there's life out there," French said. "I think that is probably true, but it is kind of perplexing that we haven't found anybody."
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