Fwd = Astronomers Gather to Discuss Extraterrestrials
- Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
Original Date: Thu, 3 Oct 2002 03:51:36 -0700
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Astronomers Gather to Discuss Extraterrestrials
By JENNY DUONG
and EMILY SHEFFIELD
Monday, September 30, 2002
Some of the country's most distinguished astronomers met this weekend
at UC Berkeley to discuss the possibility of life on other planets.
The 114th Annual Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
featured 11 speakers as well as a panel discussion.
"Life is the most amazing thing, and a technological mind is very
rare," said UC Berkeley astronomy professor Alex Filippenko, president
of the society. "(Humans) are the only ones with the curiosity (to
explore the universe) and who have the technology to find out."
Chris McKay, a planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of
the NASA Ames Research Center, said scientists must explore Mars in
order to study the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
McKay said astronomers' belief that water once existed on Marswhich
stems from evidence of dry riverbeds on the planetleads him to believe
that life once existed there.
"The key to finding other life is liquid water," McKay said. "We need
liquid water to understand the distribution of life (on Mars)."
But McKay said any life that did exist on Mars would probably be
micro-organisms rather than complex organisms such as human beings.
Other speakers, however, were skeptical of the necessity to explore
life on other planets, citing more urgent problems people must face on
"It's ironic that we're looking for life (on other planets) when we're
wiping out 80 to 90 percent of the species on Earth," said Ben
Zuckerman, an astronomy professor at UCLA. "Life only began once in
the entire origin of life; it will be difficult to start again."
Zuckerman added he doubted intelligent life exists on other planets,
since it would probably already would have contacted Earth.
Students who attended the symposium said the speeches left them more
confident in the existence of intelligent alien life.
"I didn't think that extraterrestrial life was so possible," said UC
Berkeley sophomore Cory Edelson. "(The speakers) convinced me that
there is a chance for life out there."
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