Rosseland lecture 2019: Avi Loeb on Extraterrestrial Life
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Are we alone? Probably not, out of modesty - keeping in mind that about a quarter of all stars host a habitable Earth-size planet.
Upcoming searches for primitive life will aim to detect oxygen or methane in the atmospheres of transiting planets. Searches for intelligent life will aim to detect artificial signals in the radio or optical bands, as well as artifacts such as megastructures, solar cells that are used to re-distribute light and heat on tidally-locked planets, industrial pollution or artificial light beams.
Our own civilization is starting to study the feasibility of interstellar travel using a powerful laser beam pushing on a lightweight sail, the so-called Starshot Initiative. If successful, we might receive a signal from outer space stating: "welcome to the interstellar club!".
Last year, the first interstellar object, `Oumuamua, was discovered in the Solar System. Avi Loeb will describe its unusual properties and the possibility that it carries a technological message in a bottle.
Abraham (Avi) Loeb
The Rosseland Lecturer 2019 is Abraham (Avi) Loeb, the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University.
Loeb has published 4 books and over 650 papers (with an h-index of 97) on a wide range of topics, including black holes, the first stars, the search for extraterrestrial life and the future of the Universe. He serves as Chair of Harvard's Department of Astronomy, Founding Director of Harvard's Black Hole Initiative and Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He also chairs the Advisory Committee for the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative, and serves as the Science Theory Director for all Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. In addition, Loeb serves as Chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies, which is the Academies’ principal forum overseeing the decadal surveys in physics and astronomy. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics.
In 2012, TIME magazine selected Loeb as one of the 25 most influential people in space.
The Rosseland Lecture
The Rosseland Lecture is held annually by the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo, in memory of Norway’s foremost astrophysicist, and founder of our institute, Professor Svein Rosseland (1894 – 1985). The Rosseland Lecturers are internationally renowned, outstanding astrophysicists. The Rosseland Lectures hold a semi-popular level and are open for all.