Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Bioastronomy
IAU Colloquium No. 161
Capri, July 1-5, 1996
The 5th International Conference on Bioastronomy was held in July 1996 in Capri, Italy.
The Conference Proceedings are now available and provide a detailed view of the entire
field of BioAstronomy.
The image below was created by Jon Lomberg for the Fifth International Conference on
Bioastronomy and is on the cover of the Conference Proceedings in full color. The artwork
combines various bioastronomy topics in a surrealistic fashion. The foreground rocks in
the ocean, known as the Faraglioni, are a famous landmark of Capri. In the sky important
organic molecules such as the amino acid glycine are shown where they have been found in
nebulae and searched for in comets. These represent the naturally synthesized substances
involved in the origin of life. Emerging from the ocean is the DNA molecule, with one of
the helices replaced by an arrangement of extrasolar planets. Some are life-bearing
(represented by a connection with the DNA); others are not. Knowledge of the scientific
principles that gave rise to life may also form the basis of interstellar communication,
linking planets in an order as significant as the ordering of the molecules in the DNA.
The artwork was created digitally by Jon Lomberg in Hawaii, working closely with
Cristiano Cosmovici in Rome, almost entirely over the Internet. This itself is a nice
symbol of how widely separated intelligences can communicate productively.
The publication is organized into five sections:
Organic Material in Interstellar Clouds, Comets, and Meteorites
G. Winnewisser, L., J. Allamandola, T. Snow, N. C. Wickramasinghe, V. Pirronello, J.
Cronin, M. Mumma, J. Oro, M. A'Hearn
Planetary Atmospheres and Catastrophic Impacts in the Solar System
C. Chyba, T. Owen, D. Gautier, M. Marov
The Search for Extrasolar Planets
P. Morrison, T. Montmerle, J. Lissauer, J. M. Marriotti, M. Mayor, G. Marcy
The Origin and Evolution of Life and Intelligence
C. de Duve, M. Eigen, F. Raulin, A. Lazcano, L. Narens
The Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations
C. Townes, S. Bowyer, J. C. Tarter, G. Lemarchand, R. Dixon, J. Heidmann, C. Maccone, F.
Three Nobel Laureates, Christian de Duve (Belgium), Manfred Eigen (Germany) and Charles
Townes (USA), and SETI pioneers Frank Drake and Philip Morrison provide fundamental review
papers. Philip Morrison's paper on the evolution of technology brilliantly weaves together
science, archaeology, history and philosophy.
Other highlights of the book are summaries of the discoveries of the first extrasolar
planets, presented by planet hunters Michel Mayor, Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler.
The price is $100.00, plus $20 for airmail delivery to the USA. Payment may be by check,
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To order a copy of the proceedings:
Via Stalingrado 97/2
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FAX : (39) 51 327877
See the invited paper by Nobel laureate Professor Charles H. Townes on
"Optical and Infrared SETI" (pp. 585-594). Unfortunately, Professor Townes, who
first proposed the optical approach to SETI back in 1961, is still adhering to the old
physicist tradition of using the word "optical" as a synonym for
"visible". From the beginning of my OSETI activities in 1990, after a
misunderstanding between Dr. Jill Tarter and myself, I have tried very hard to encourage
the SETI community to use the modern definition of the work "optical" - this
being a superset of the far-infrared, infrared, visible and ultra-violet regions of the
electromagnetic spectrum. From the top of the millimeter-wave band to the ultra-violet -
it's all "optical"! This will avoid confusing photonic (optoelectronic)
communication scientists and engineers and improve the clarity of terrestrial
communications between the fields of astrophysics and photonics. After all, Optical SETI
is about one-way Optical Interstellar Communications. Even in the
millimeter-wave band we often speak of employing "quasi-optical techniques", as
I explained to Professor Townes, Dr. Dan Werthimer and their colleagues at a talk I gave
at the Berkeley Space Science Laboratories immediately after the OSETI II conference. See 9301-001 for the definition of Optical SETI.
Unfortunately, having just returned to the USA from an extended a trip to England
in late May of 1996, I couldn't attend and participate in the Capri conference. I would
appreciate being sent photographs from the conference to include in the Capri Photo Gallery.
August 17, 1997