SOLITUDE IN THE COSMOS: Looking for Friends in the Great Cosmic Dark
A Presentation by Dr. Shane Larson at the Adler Planetarium, December 9, 2016

Preceding the main presentation, Audrey Fischer held a workshop about the proposed LED lighting plan for Chicago.

Audrey also served up some tasty treats for the meeting.


Dr. Shane Larson is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium. He is also a research associate professor of physics at Northwestern University, where he is a member of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). He works in the field of gravitational wave astrophysics, specializing in studies of compact stars, binaries, and the galaxy.  He works in gravitational wave astronomy with both the ground-based LIGO project, and future space-based detectors for NASA. He received his Ph.D. Physics in 1999 from Montana State University.

We are living in an age of profound discovery -- the people alive today are the first to know, with certainty, that there are planets orbiting other stars. This realization immediately engenders another earnest question: is there life elsewhere in the Cosmos? There are three possibilities. One is that the Earth is unique, the only shore in all the vastness of the Cosmos where life has found purchase. Another is that the Universe is teeming with life, of all sorts adapted to the conditions and peculiarities of whatever alien shoal it has grown up on. The last is that life is not unheard of, but uncommon enough that finding it could be a daunting endeavor.

In either instance -- life does exist elsewhere, or Earth harbors the only life in the Cosmos -- the implications are staggering and terrifying.

What do we think about life elsewhere? And how might we find out the answer to the question of if we are alone in the Cosmos or not? How do you recognize life? Can you communicate with intelligences not of Earth? In this talk, we explored some of the dramatic implications of the greatest question known to our species: are we alone in the Cosmos?

A thought-provoking talk was later continued at Connie's Pizza.