Christopher Impey
Christopher Impey

That question rises above all others when it comes to our place in a vast and ancient Universe. With a billion habitable locations in the Milky Way galaxy alone, and more than 10 billion years for biological experiments to play out, a search for intelligent life beyond Earth is well-motivated.

Unfortunately, the single example of life on Earth gives no clear indication of whether intelligence is an inevitable or an extremely rare consequence of biological evolution. Christopher Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, will tackle that question in the next Arizona Senior Academy encore presentation of the UA College of Science’s “Life in the Universe” series.

His talk, “Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” is free and open to the public. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 1) in the Academy’s Great Room.

Impey will discuss the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, which he notes is more appropriately called the search for extraterrestrial technology. So far, he observes, the search for intelligent aliens by their electromagnetic communication has met with half a century of stony silence.

“It’s challenging to define life, and even more difficult to make general definitions of intelligence and technology,” Impey said in describing his talk. “We’ll look at the premises and assumptions involved in the search, the strategies used, and the profound consequences of making contact.”

Impey is deputy head of the Department of Astronomy at the UA. He has over 170 refereed publications on observational cosmology, galaxies, and quasars, and his research has been supported by $20 million in grants from NASA and the NSF. He has won 11 teaching awards, and he is currently teaching an online class with over 13,000 enrolled.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

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Are We Alone in the Universe?: April 2015
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