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Home » What If ET Is Out There? By Seth Shostak at TEDxSanJoseCA (Full Transcript)

What If ET Is Out There? By Seth Shostak at TEDxSanJoseCA (Full Transcript)

Dr. Seth Shostak, an astronomer, questions what if ET is out there at TEDxSanJoseCA. Here is the full transcript.

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Is E.T. out there? Well, I work at the SETI Institute. That’s almost my name. SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. In other words, I look for aliens, and when I tell people that at a cocktail party, they usually look at me with a mildly incredulous look on their face. I try to keep my own face somewhat dispassionate.

Now, a lot of people think that this is kind of idealistic, ridiculous, maybe even hopeless, but I just want to talk to you a little bit about why I think that the job I have is actually a privilege, okay, and give you a little bit of the motivation for my getting into this line of work, if that’s what you call it. This thing — whoops, can we go back? Hello, come in, Earth. There we go. All right.

This is the Owens Valley Radio Observatory behind the Sierra Nevadas, and in 1968, I was working there collecting data for my thesis. Now, it’s kind of lonely, it’s kind of tedious, just collecting data, so I would amuse myself by taking photos at night of the telescopes or even of myself, because, at night, I would be the only hominid within about 30 miles. So here are pictures of myself.

The observatory had just acquired a new book, written by a Russian cosmologist by the name of Joseph Shklovsky, and then expanded and translated and edited by a little-known Cornell astronomer by the name of Carl Sagan.

And I remember reading that book, and at 3 in the morning I was reading this book and it was explaining how the antennas I was using to measure the spins of galaxies could also be used to communicate, to send bits of information from one star system to another. Now, at 3 o’clock in the morning when you’re all alone, haven’t had much sleep, that was a very romantic idea, but it was that idea — the fact that you could in fact prove that there’s somebody out there just using this same technology — that appealed to me so much that 20 years later I took a job at the SETI Institute.

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