Onset of Civilization and Prospects for the Future I

WED, OCT 12, 2005 (44:34)

Fred Speir and Jill Tarter examine the continuously unfolding story of cosmic evolution, the modern scientific story of who we are and whence we came.

+ BIO: Fred Spier

Fred Spier is Senior Lecturer in Big History. As of 1994, he has organized the annual big history course at the University of Amsterdam, while since 2003 he has also taught the annual big history university lecture series at the Eindhoven University of Technology. First trained as a biochemist with research experience in plant genetic engineering and the synthesis of oligonucleotides, Spier subsequently became a cultural anthropologist and social historian. In this quality he performed a ten year study on religion, politics and ecology in Peru, which led to the publication of two books.

Developing an overarching explanatory paradigm for Big History. In his article "How Big History Works: Energy flows and the rise and demise of complexity" (published in 2005 by the journal Social Evolution & History), the outline of an historical theory of everything is proposed, which should help to explain history at all levels as well as guide further research. An elaborated version of this argument will be presented in his upcoming book tentatively titled Big History and the Future.

+ BIO: Jill Tarter

Astronomer Jill Tarter is Director of the Institute's Center for SETI Research, and also holder of the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI. She is one of the few researchers to have devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and there are few aspects of this field that have not been affected by her work.

Jill was the lead for Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI scrutiny of about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. While no clearly extraterrestrial signal was found, this was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals ever undertaken. Now Jill heads up the Institute's efforts to build and operate the Allen Telescope Array, a massive new instrument that will eventually comprise 350 antennas, each 6 meters in diameter. This telescope will be able to enormously increase the speed, and the spectral search range, of the Institute's hunt for signals.

Indeed, being as much of an icon of SETI as Jill is, perhaps it is not surprising that the Jodie Foster character in the movie Contact is largely based on this real-life researcher.

Museum of Science, Boston
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