Searching for Life in Deep Space

On December 2, 02019, Professor Avi Loeb takes Long Now Boston to the frontiers of cosmic discovery and exobiology.  

Professor Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science and Chair of Astronomy at Harvard, Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation, Founding Director of the Black Hole Initiative, Chair of both the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee and the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. In 2012, TIME magazine selected Loeb as one of the 25 most influential people in space science. 

See post-event summary here: Life Among the Stars

December, 02019, at CIC, 1 Broadway, Cambridge MA
Doors open @ 6pm — Come early and meet other Long Now thinkers.
Presentations start @ 7pm

In the past few years, scientists have made huge progress probing ever more deeply into space.  They have confirmed the existence of a vast multitude of earth-like planets.  They have found evidence of complex chemistry in deep space and validated the claim that all life on Earth is made of stardust.  Yet there is no evidence of life originating anywhere other than on Earth. 

This may change soon.  Upcoming searches will aim to detect markers of life in the atmospheres of planets outside the solar system. We also have unprecedented technologies to detect signs of intelligent civilizations through industrial pollution of planetary atmospheres, space archaeology of debris from dead civilizations or artifacts such as photovoltaic cells that are used to re-distribute light and heat on the surface of a planet or giant megastructures. 

At the same time, we continue to launch interplanetary and even interstellar explorations of our own.  Others may notice and seek to contact us — or we may find messages that confirm we are not alone.

Among the questions:

  • What are some of the advanced scientific tools and techniques we are developing in the search for extraterrestrial life?  How might these benefit other scientific disciplines?
  • What are some of the explanations scientists have proposed to account for the discrepancy between the apparent readiness for life and the lack of evidence for life?
  • What are the implications of finding extraterrestrial life?  Of not finding it?

Abraham (Avi) Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. He has published 4 books and over 700 papers 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 within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  He is a Faculty Member of Harvard’s Origins of Life Initiative. He also chairs the advisory committee for the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee, serves as the science theory director for all initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, as well as chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics. 

We’re proud and excited to welcome Avi to the Long Now Boston community.


Long Now Boston is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is independent from but philosophically aligned with the Long Now Foundation.  Long Now Boston provides a forum for discussing, investigating and engaging in issues that have long-term implications for our global cultures.  Long Now Boston hosts a monthly Community Conversation series in Cambridge, MA.   Please sign up on our website for notices.

Cambridge Innovation Center is an in-kind sponsor of the Long Now Boston Conversation Series. We are very grateful for their support.

On January 6 02020, Long Now Boston will hold its 2nd annual FLASH TALKS at the CIC, titled Envisioning the Future.  Members are encouraged to submit FLASH TALK Proposals on issues of interest.  The proposals will be reviewed, and up to six presenters will be selected to give a FLASH TALK.  A prize valued at $100 will be given to the best presentation, selected by the audience.

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