Going On An Alien Safari

At a recent NASA Astrobiology Science Conference, a panel of scientists discussed the different types of alien life which might be found on other planet. SETI’s Seth Shostak was the chair, with panelists including Peter Ward (Rare Earth, Life As We Do Not Know It), Jill Tarter (SETI ‘legend’) and and a number of (highly-qualified) others.Astrobiology Magazine has now published the panel speeches and discussion as a multipart article, titled “Alien Safari”, with each instalment covering a different focus in the search for life:

Some interesting points to be found in the article, such as Princeton University geochemist T.C. Onstott’s work tracking down types of life well under the surface of the Earth, which prove “that life can exist without photospheric influence, and it can exist for billions of years, and that means the chances are good that life could exist beneath the surface of Mars.”

I was a little disappointed in Jill Tarter’s talk on ‘Technology Worlds’ – the opening seemed to promise some fun speculation on the “unimaginable” technologies out there, but it all got a bit anthropomorphic rather quickly:

My talk is about Technology Worlds. Maybe complex life somewhere else develops technology. I’d like to start with the unimaginable. Arthur C. Clarke, a fantastic science fiction writer and a very good scientist, is quoted as saying that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So do we just have to give up about the unimaginable? I would say not. Don’t try and predict the magic. Let’s just do astronomy. Let’s look at the universe every way we can, with every tool that we can use.

The talk then goes on to the usual fare about looking for Dyson Spheres and such. Tarter does provide something of interest though in Part 4, when she casually mentions that…

There are new things that are getting my colleagues really excited, new kinds of signals that are detected from the sky that we didn’t anticipate, and the theorists are being very fleet of foot to provide more prosaic explanations for them. But in fact it might turn out that they are evidence of another technology that we don’t yet recognize as such.

Does anyone know what Tarter’s describing here – references to papers or news items to bring the rest of us up to speed?

Previously on TDG: