Space Week Concludes with Lecture on Search for Life in the Universe
By Sally Hritz
University Technology Services
The latest addition to the events of Ohio State Space Week is a lecture on the search
for intelligent life in the universe to be given by Dr. Robert S. Dixon, senior research
engineer for emerging technologies at University Technology Services. The talk is
scheduled for Saturday, November 14 from 7 to 9 pm in Independence Hall and is open to the
Dixon's topic, "The Scientific Search for Intelligent Life Outside of the
Earth," is one in a national series of lectures sponsored by The Planetary Society,
an organization founded by the late astronomer, Carl Sagan. Dixon will be discussing
current research conducted by SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence), a worldwide
scientific organization dedicated to determining if life exists beyond earth. Dixon will
be joined by Prof. Philip Barnhart of Otterbein College, who will describe the history and
philosophy of SETI.
For many years, Dixon has been in charge of Ohio State's Radio Observatory. The
Observatory operated the well-known and now-dismantled Big Ear radio telescope. Big Ear
systematically searched the sky to detect and analyze radio signals from space to
determine if they were from intelligent sources. It was Big Ear that registered the famous
"WOW!" signal picked up from deep space in 1977.
The Radio Observatory is now collaborating with OSU's ElectroScience Laboratory to
design Big Ear's successor, the Argus radio telescope. He will describe the Argus
telescope project and its advantages. With the assistance of more powerful computers,
Argus is enabling researchers to refine the search for intelligent signals and will also
make data collected from radio telescopes available for downloading from the Internet.
His talk will include information on the SETI@Home scientific experiment, which opens
the search to aficionados everywhere using their own computers. According to the
experiment's web site, "there's a small but captivating possibility that your
computer will detect the faint murmur of a civilization beyond Earth." Dixon will
also touch on Lingua Cosmica, a space language, and the Flag of Earth.
Dixon is a well known expert in the fields of radio astronomy and the search for
extraterrestrial intelligence. He is the author of two books on those subjects and has
been featured on PBS programs such as "Nova," and in national magazines such as
Life and Science News. Dixon and his research have also been referred to in the recent
feature film "Contact," and on "The X-Files" television program.
The lecture is the final official event of Ohio State Space Week. It will also be
broadcast over the Internet. Dixon has been instrumental in coordinating all the broadcast
events for Space Week on campus, including live, round-the-clock coverage of Senator John
Glenn's nine-day space mission in late October.
Related web sites:
OSU Radio Observatory: www.bigear.org
SETI@home experiment: http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu
OSU ElectroScience Laboratory: http://esl.eng.ohio-state.edu/
Ohio State Space Week: http://www.osu.edu/spaceweek/
OSU Internet Video Broadcasts: http://www.osu.edu/realvideo/
The Planetary Society: http://planetary.org
The Planetary Society, a long-time sponsor of the search for extraterrestrial life, is
joining forces with Star Trek: Insurrection to seek out new civilizations -- and enlist
the public in our newest project,
SETI@home. We are launching this exciting new partnership with a nationwide series
of special events, and invite you to join us in Columbus
The Scientific Search for Intelligent Life Outside the Earth
by Robert Dixon and Philip Barnhart
The Planetary Society
in cooperation with
Ohio State University
Humanity has long wondered whether or not Earth hosts the only intelligent
civilizations, or indeed, the only life, in the universe. It is just in the last few
decades that scientists have been able to search for other beings, other voices, through
the use of radio astronomy.
Dr. Robert Dixon, Senior Research Engineer in the computer center of Ohio State
University, and Professor Philip Barnhart, of Otterbein College, will examine the search
for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) at a special event, "The Search for
Intelligent Life Outside the Earth."
Prof.. Barnhart will present the history and philosophy of SETI, while Dr. Dixon will
discuss how scientists are listening with telescopes for radio signals that might be
transmitted by alien civilizations. Those SETI projects include the Ohio State SETI
program, the new ARGUS telescope design, and the new SETI@home program, which will enable
people anywhere to participate in the search with their home computers.
SETI@home is an innovative screen saver program that will harness the spare computing
power of hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected home computers around the world to
crunch data from SETI.
SETI@home is scheduled to begin "beta testing" with real data in December,
1998. The software will be available free in April, 1999 to anyone wishing to
participate in the search. For more information, visit the Planetary Society at
http://planetary.org or Star Trek: Insurrection at www.startrek.com.
SETI@home is sponsored by the Planetary Society and Star Trek: Insurrection from
Paramount Pictures. Star Trek: Insurrection will open in theaters on December 11,
Information about SETI@home and posters from Star Trek: Insurrection will be
distributed at the event.
If you can't attend the lecture, this event will be transmitted live on the Internet,
and then available for later viewing as well.
Saturday, November 14, 1998
Independence Hall Auditorium
Ohio State University
1923 Neil Avenue
(corner of Neil and West 17th Avenue)
Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. (Seats cannot be reserved).
Approach the Ohio State University campus on route 315 from the North only (the south
approach is under construction). Take the Lane Eve exit and go East. Turn
right on Tuttle Park Place, and then left immediately on Ives Drive. Turn right onto
the parking ramp at the end of Ives Drive. Walk one block South to Independence
Watch the RealVideo recording of this lecture at www.osu.edu/realvideo