Dr. Seth Shostak, an astronomer, questions what if ET is out there at TEDxSanJoseCA. Here is the full transcript.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: What if ET is out there by Seth Shostak at TEDxSanJoseCA
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.