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WHO IS OUT THERE: Why Alien ‘Life’ May Be Weirder Than We Imagine

Saturday, June 2, 2018
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm EST

NASA astronaut Nicole Stott has yet to meet an alien, but that doesn’t mean she’s never pondered their existence. Alien life has been a mainstay and fascination of science fiction, but who–or what–might actually be out there: biological life, artificial intelligence, or some combination of both? It took only 200,000 years—a blip on the cosmic timeline—for the first sparks of intelligent life to invent artificial intelligence here on Earth. And since space is big, and life is short—at least biological life as we know it—it may be that chatter on the cosmic airwaves is dominated by a spectacular spectrum of A. I. Join Lisa Kaltenegger, Caleb Scharf, Susan Schneider, and Sara Walker to wrestle with the subject of how life down here might be a thoroughly misleading guide to life up there.

The Big Ideas Series is supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation.


Nicole StottAstronaut, Artist

Nicole Stott has explored from the heights of outer space to the depths of our oceans. In awe of what she has experienced from these very special vantage points, she has dedicated her life to sharing the beauty of space — and Earth — with others. A veteran NASA Astronaut, her experience includes two spaceflights and 104 days spent living and working in space on both the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS).

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Lisa Kalteneggerastronomer

Lisa Kaltenegger is the director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell and professor in Astronomy. She is fascinated by the new worlds orbiting other Suns. Her research focuses on modeling these new worlds especially on how to spot signs of life.

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Caleb ScharfAstrophysicist

Caleb Scharf’s research career spans cosmology, exoplanetary science, and astrobiology. He currently leads efforts at Columbia University in New York to understand the nature of exoplanets and living environments in the universe.

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Susan SchneiderPhilosopher, Cognitive Scientist

Susan Schneider is the 2019 Distinguished Scholar at the Library of Congress and the Director of the AI, Mind and Society (AIMS) Group at the University of Connecticut. She writes about the fundamental nature of the self and mind.

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Sara Walkerastrobiologist

Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist, researching the origin of life and how to discover life on other worlds. She is developing new theory to understand life, based on the fundamental role information plays in living matter. Her goal is to develop quantitative criteria for the origin of life and for identifying life on other worlds.

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