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The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Organised by Dr Martin Dominik and Professor John Zarnecki

Astronomers are now able to detect planets orbiting stars other than the Sun where life may exist, and living generations could see the signatures of extra-terrestrial life being detected. Should it turn out that we are not alone in the Universe, it will fundamentally affect how humanity understands itself - and we need to be prepared for the consequences.

Audio recordings of the meeting are available below.

The proceedings of this meeting are published in a dedicated issue of Philosophical Transactions A.

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Schedule of talks


14 talks Show detail Hide detail

Astrobiology, space, and a future age of discovery

Professor Baruch S Blumberg, Fox Chase Cancer Center, USA

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Life in the lithosphere and the prospects for life elsewhere

Professor Charles Cockell

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The evolution of organic matter in space

Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund, The George Washington University, USA, and Leiden University, The Netherlands

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Predicting what extra-terrestrial life will be like… and preparing for the worst

Professor Simon Conway Morris FRS, University of Cambridge, UK

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Extra-solar planets: the quest for Earth twins

Professor Michel Mayor, Geneva University, Switzerland

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Extraterrestrial life in ESA's cosmic vision and beyond

Dr Malcolm Fridlund, European Space Agency (ESA), Astrophysics Mission Division, The Netherlands

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Life as a cosmic imperative?

Professor Viscount Christian de Duve ForMemRS, Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology, Belgium

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Searching for a shadow biosphere on Earth as a test of the 'cosmic imperative'

Dr Paul Davies, Arizona State University, USA

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The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI)

Dr Frank Drake, SETI Institute, USA

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The implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life for religion and theology

Reverend Doctor Ted Peters, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union

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Fear, pandemonium, equanimity, and delight: human responses to extraterrestrial life

Professor Albert A Harrison, University of California, Davis, USA

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Is life what we make of it?

Professor Kathryn Denning, York University, Canada

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Discovery of extraterrestrial life: assessment by scales of its importance and associated risks

Professor Ivan Almar, Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary

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Professor Mazlan Othman, United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) and Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), Austria

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The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society

Scientific discussion meeting organised by Dr Martin Dominik and Professor John Zarnecki.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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