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Search for ET life goes into hibernation

May 13, 2011

The California Report had a good story this afternoon about SETI losing funding. It comes complete with references and sound from the movie Contact. SETI is based in Mountain View, CA, and its Allen Telescope Array, which it co-manages with Cal is up near Lassen. But the Allen Array has been shut off as of last month because of state and federal budget cuts.

I’d never thought much about the search for alien life–I kind of categorized it with UFOs and Area 51–until reading Remarkable Creatures by Sean B. Carroll. It’s about the scientists who discovered evolution and human origins and the adventures they took to make those discoveries, from Darwin to Svante Pääbo. I love that book!

I hope I won’t give anything away by quoting from the part that changed my mind about extraterrestrial life.

…it is worth asking, now that we have a solid grasp of evolution and our origins, are there other open questions of a similar magnitude to those that have occupied the last 150 years?

I submit that the outstanding issue, and perhaps the greatest mystery of mysteries and question of questions, is the ultimate matter of origins–the origin of life in the universe and on Earth.

Are there other worlds that could carry life?

I don’t know if this is a very mainstream opinion. I assume it’s not, based on there not being, for instance, many university departments dedicated to it. But for now, the search for the answer to the question, “Are there other worlds that could carry life?” has been made more difficult with the “hibernation” of SETI’s Allen Telescope Array.

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