Press Release

Crossroads: The Future of Human Life in the Universe

By SpaceRef Editor
April 15, 2009
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Crossroads: The Future of Human Life in the Universe
Crossroads: The Future of Human Life in the Universe

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Harvard Origins of
Life Initiative are sponsoring a landmark two-day symposium May 1-2,
“Crossroads: The Future of Human Life in the Universe.” It is part of
the Cambridge Science Festival and commemorates the 2009 International
Year of Astronomy. The conference, which is open to the general
public, will feature a series of lectures by scientific luminaries.

About the Symposium:

Astronomers are on the threshold of discovering the Holy Grail of
planetary sciences: new Earth-like planets. The next challenge will be
to determine whether or not these worlds have life on them –
especially intelligent life that we can communicate with.

If such life does exist beyond our solar system, will it be
technologically based life like ours? Or, if we do not find
intelligent life out there, what does that imply about our place in
the Universe?

Are there “filters” like global warming, overpopulation, exhaustion of
natural resources, and the emergence of AI that sentient species must
pass through? And, if they don’t, does their dominance end? Is this
the reason SETI has heard nothing for the past 35 years – because no
intelligent species near us has survived these types of filters?

Are humans on the brink of one of these dangerous passages right now?
These are the topics to be explored in this provocative meeting of
world experts as we examine the possible future of human life in the


Thursday, April 30 – Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, Mass.

7:00 pm “The Future According to Hollywood” presented by David Aguilar
Followed by screening of “Colossus: The Forbin Project”

Friday, May 1 – Zero Arrow Theatre, Cambridge, Mass.

8:30 – 9:00 Welcome/Introduction
9:00 -10:00 “What Is Life?” – Andy Knoll
10:00-11:00 “The Drake Equation 2009” – Frank Drake
11:00-12:00 “Earth, Super Earths and the Fermi Paradox” – Dimitar Sasselov

1:30 – 2:30 “The Rise of Artificial Life” – J. Craig Venter
2:30 – 3:30 “Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe” – Peter Ward
3:30 – 4:30 “Humans on Mars” – Maria Zuber

Saturday, May 2 – Zero Arrow Theatre, Cambridge, Mass.

9:00 – 10:00 “How to Find a Habitable Planet” – David Charbonneau
10:00 – 11:00 “The Medea Hypothesis” – Peter Ward
11:00 – 12:00 “New Shapes of Things to Come” – Juan Enriquez
12:00 – 1:00 “Reflections on Life in the Universe” – Freeman Dyson

To Participate:

Journalists may pre-register for this symposium for reserved seating.
(Seating for the general public is first come, first served.) To
register, journalists should send an e-mail to by Monday, April 27th with your name, phone
number and affiliation.

The event will be webcast live at

Full details about this event are online at

SpaceRef staff editor.