I just watched the video of Jill Tarter’s talk about winning the 2009 TED Prize for her work on SETI. It is a must watch.
“We are the products of a billion year lineage of wandering stardust. We are what happens when a primordial mixture of hydrogen and helium evolves for so long that it begins to ask where it came from.”
I found this video over on the Visual Astronomy blog. Back in 2006 Columbia University sponsored a series of science talks at a cafe in NYC. The first was by David Helfand all about what we do and don’t know about the now famous Drake Equation which was an attempt to enumerate the likelihood of other intelligent life in the universe.
The original proposition from 1961 really results in a lot of uncertainty and in fact was based on claims without much empirical data to support them.
Things are different in 2009. We still can’t really predict the likelihood of life evolving on a particular planet, and we can’t really predict with ANY certainty whether or not that life would become intelligent enough to communicate over inter-stellar distances, and we also have no real way to predict how long such a civilization might actually survive.
However, we know that planets DO exist around other stars are even plentiful, and we know that the habitable zone is larger than previously thought due to new information about life on our own planet, and we also know a lot more about stars and their lives.
In essence, the evidence suggests that places in the universe where life CAN exist are myriad. That alone is a staggering change from 1961 when all we could do was speculate. Check out the video for a lively talk on the subject. It is about 33 minutes long but worth that watch.