Jill Tarter

Bernard M. Oliver Chair

SETI Research at SETI Institute

Life Beyond Earth?  


I will discuss: What is the science and engineering behind SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence), and what about non-intelligent life? What are the biosignatures and technosignatures that researchers are exploring? I think that we should extend the bold claim made in 2004 by Craig Venter and Daniel Cohen to say "The 21st Century will be the century of biology: on Earth and beyond". I think that can't miss because there are three ways it could/will happen. We could discover it relatively nearby, we could communicate with it around a distant star, or we could take it off Earth ourselves. This talk looks at all the ways we are thinking and planning to do all that, and wonders what we haven't yet thought about.

Meet the Speaker:

Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for that institution. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She has spent the majority of her professional career attempting to answer the old human question “Are we alone?” by searching for evidence of technological civilizations beyond Earth. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. She is a Fellow of the AAAS, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Explorers Club, she was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004, and one of the Time 25 in Space in 2012, received a TED prize in 2009, two public service awards from NASA, multiple awards for communicating science to the public, and has been honored as a woman in technology. She was the 2014 Jansky Lecturer. In 2015 she became President of the California Academy of Sciences. Asteroid 74824 Tarter (1999 TJ16) has been named in her honor. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to design and build the Allen Telescope Array and to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science of SETI. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.