‘Life. Extraterrestrial, Artificial and Synthetic’ book available online in Swedish

LIFE Extraterrestrial, Artificial and SyntheticThis book is the result of an interdisciplinary project at the Pufendorf Institute, Lund University. Twelve researchers from the same number of disciplines have been included in the project. The purpose has been to highlight the challenges that come with extraterrestrial, artificial and synthetic life. The interdisciplinary approach has given us the opportunity to highlight the questions from every conceivable angle, but also to find completely new combinations of methods and approaches.

Our hope is that the book will inspire new thoughts and discussions about life. The book addresses both those who are already interested and those who have not yet begun to ponder the challenges of extraterrestrial, artificial and synthetic life.

Life is a central concept in many areas of research, for example in biology, astrobiology, chemistry and medicine, as well as in law, theology and philosophy. Life is also a central theme of art. It is treated and pondered in numerous works of art, in poetry, novel and film. How we understand, value and protect life is extremely fundamental. In the future, these issues will become even more difficult and, if possible, even more important. Research groups from all over the world today work to create life in the laboratory, look for life in space and provide machines with properties that have previously only been living creatures, and development is fast. It is important that we at the same time consider the challenges that this entails. It will take time to find ways to live in a world where life exists in forms we can hardly imagine today and where the boundary between living beings and machines becomes increasingly blurred. The decisions we make today will also affect the development of society, research and development for a long time to come.

Grand Challenges Seminar, Oxford University

Oxford Talks, part of: Grand Challenges Seminar Series
University of Oxford, T. S. Eliot Lecture Theater
Are We Alone? Discourse on extraterrestrial research
26 January 2016, 17:00

‘Are We Alone?’ is a public seminar on the existence of extraterrestrial life, and the implications for our society. Questions posed during ‘Are We Alone?’ will include: is it worthwhile (economically, philosophically) to pursue extraterrestrial research? Are we are looking for life in the right forms? And how might the discovery of extraterrestrial life affect society?

The seminar will be ran as a panel discussion with three renowned guest speakers: Dr Klara Anna Capova, who is investigating attempts to detect life beyond Earth as well as scientific entrepreneurship at Durham University; Professor Ian Crawford, who is researching the future of space exploration at Birbeck University, University of London; and Dr Stuart Armstrong from the Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford; he is a SETI (UK) member and is interested in the long term potential for intelligent life.

BBC Radio Wales Science Cafe – Searching for Alien Life

BBC Radio Wales Science Cafe programme: Searching for alien life – Adam Walton explores what message the world should be sending out to alien worlds. And Klara Anna Capova gives her thoughts on the problems of trying to communicate with alien life.

Full BBC Description: Adam Walton explores the search for extra-terrestrial life following the recent launch of Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million project to boost science’s quest to find signs of alien intelligence in space. Adam is joined by astrophysicist Dr Chris North of Cardiff University, who’s an occasional reporter on “The Sky At Night”. Astrophysicist Professor Don Pollacco of Warwick University, responsible for the “SuperWASP” planet detection experiment, and currently involved in the forthcoming ESA exo-planet missions “CHEOPS” and “PLATO”. Welsh freelance science writer Mark Brake, author of “The Alien Hunter’s Handbook” and currently on tour with a show called “How To Be a Space Explorer” And astrobiologist and astrophysicist Dr Duncan Forgan, of the University of St Andrews, studying star and planet formation, and a member of the UK SETI Research Network.

We also hear from visitors to the Science & Technology Pavilion at the recent National Eisteddfod at Meifod, and their suggestions for messages to send to any aliens “out there” who may be listening. Also, Klara Anna Capova, an anthropologist at Durham University gives her thoughts on the problems of trying to communicate with alien life.

Broadcasts:
Today, 18:30 on BBC RADIO WALES
Sun 30 Aug 2015, 06:31 on BBC RADIO WALES

BBC Three Counties Radio – About Life on Other Planets

Yesterday, on Monday July 20 the News Agency (amongst many others) reported that Stephen Hawking has teamed up with a Russian billionaire to launch a new quest to discover life on other planets. The British scientist has given his backing to Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives project, which will provide $US100 million over the next decade to those searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. The world got excited about this breaking news story but especially the SETI community welcome this breakthrough event and major new funding for SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).

On Tuesday, I had a chat with Roberto Perrone on BBC Three Counties Radio about this news, search for life on other planets and of course about anthropology. The episode is available from BBC Three Counties Radio: Roberto Perrone with the day’s top stories and travel news every 15 minutes.

Date: Tue 21 Jul 2015 15:00
Info: 22 days left to listen

Frontiers of Life: Terrestrial and Extra-Terrestrial Prospections

I am very much looking forward to giving a talk at Frontiers of Life Terrestrial and Extra-Terrestrial Prospections workshop in London tomorrow!

Confirmed speakers: Gisli Pálsson (University of Iceland), Sophie Houdart (Université Paris X Nanterre), Jane Calvert (University of Edinburgh), David Dunér (Lund University), Klara Anna Capova (Durham University), Perig Pitrou (Laboratoire d’Anthroplogie Sociale/ Collège de France), Jane Grant (Plymouth University), Emmanuel Grimaud (Université Paris X Nanterre) and Valentina Marcheselli (University of Edinburgh). Organizer: Istvan Praet.

18th of June 2015 – University of Roehampton (London)

Meeting Abstract: The question of life is a perennial problem that has puzzled philosophers since Antiquity. If one considers its modern scientific conception, one notices that life’s limits continue to shift and expand in remarkable ways. Current research in robotics, synthetic biology and artificial life redraws and questions traditional boundaries between what is alive and what is not. Life’s terrestrial origin is now thought to go back at least 3.5 billion years, as indicated by fossilized microbial mats. Its spatial distribution is more extensive and its resilience is much greater than generally assumed until a few years ago: biological organisms have been discovered in undersea volcanoes, in the world’s driest deserts as well as in subglacial lakes, and airborne microbes have been captured in the stratosphere.

What is more, experiments conducted at the International Space Station in the European Space Agency’s BIOPAN programme have established that microscopic animals capable of suspended animation, such as tardigrades, are unexpectedly tolerant to the conditions of outer space. All this has inspired researchers in the field known as astrobiology to reassess the notion of ‘habitable environment’, to rethink what it means to be ‘alive’ and sometimes even to challenge the standard neo-Darwinian picture of the biological world head-on. Astrobiology, a veritable melting pot of a great variety of natural sciences, is arguably one of the most fertile grounds if one looks for creative reformulations of traditional neo-Darwinism. What remains underappreciated is that this development is very much in line with recent advances in the social sciences. In anthropology, several initiatives have been taken to rebuild our understanding of life and its evolution on entirely different ontological foundations. The perspective of ‘biosocial becomings’ (Ingold and Palsson 2013), which explores alternative theoretical languages in relation to life, is one notable example of this trend.

The assumption here is that something can be gained from bringing both strands of thought together; the goal of this conference is to test the waters and to establish what that may be. The ethnographic exploration of astrobiology and planetary science – and of its practitioners’ observations, experiments and conceptual acrobatics in relation to life more specifically – is a first step. It is as important, however, to consider issues of scale and perspective. A key aim is to improve our understanding of how scientists make the universe palpable and how they apprehend both the very large (e.g. planets) and the very small (e.g. the inner structure of meteorites) by means of diverse kinds of telescopes, spectroscopes, microscopes and a variety of other instruments. Philosophers of science tell us that observatory techniques, and even objectivity itself, have a history. Space researchers may claim that their observations and measurements are objective, yet their ideals of objectivity change over time and depend on the specific context (or sub-discipline) in which they are applied. An astrophysicist may have a slightly different standard of objectivity and a subtly distinctive definition of life than –say – a geochemist or a microbiologist. The way in which planetary scientists frame their questions – whether it is about subsurface oceans, alternative biochemistries, ice volcanoes, extra-terrestrial lightning storms, putative microfossils or the analogy between the Earth’s hydrosphere and the ‘methanosphere’ of Saturn’s biggest moon Titan – and in how far these respective entities are considered to be ‘alien’ or ‘familiar’ are always based on specific but usually unacknowledged conventions. By explicating these conventions, this conference intends to document how specific ideals of objectivity are currently evolving within astrobiology and fundamental research on life.

BBC 2 Portillo’s State Secrets

Dr. Klara Anna Capova, social anthropologist working in science & technology studies, anthropology of outerspace, and the founder of Space Cultures, will be talking about social dimension of space exploration and search for life beyond earth tonight at 6:30 pm, BBC Two, in Portillo’s State Secrets.

According to the official BBC Two Portillo’s State Secrets website, in this episode Mysteries, Michael Portillo unearths documents from the National Archives revealing the original letter that gave birth to Jack the Ripper, the mysterious disappearance of a wartime hero and the secret UFO files kept by the Ministry of Defence.

Watch Portillo’s State Secrets episode Mysteries live tonight on BBC Two.

Klara on BBC World News

On Friday the 13th at 9:30am I received an email from BBC World News TV, the international rolling news channel in London, asking me to come into the studio at about 12 to talk about SETI’s initiative to send messages to any extraterrestrials who may exist in the universe. The photo below illustrates what has happened:
klara-anna-capova-anthropology-bbc-world-news

Universe Today Reports on the Communicating Across the Cosmos Workshop

seti-klara-anna-capova-talk-messagesSince it was founded in 1984, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, has been a principal American venue for scientific efforts to discover evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.

In mid November, the institute sponsored a conference, “Communicating across the Cosmos”, on the problems of devising and understanding messages from other worlds. The conference drew 17 speakers from numerous disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology, archeology, mathematics, cognitive science, philosophy, radio astronomy, and art.

This article is the first of a series of installments about the conference. Today, we’ll explore the ways in which our society is already sending messages to extraterrestrial civilizations, both accidentally and on purpose … full article available from Part I. Communicating Across the Cosmos, Part 1: Shouting into the Darkness.

Report to the IAA on the 5th “Search for Life Signatures” symposium held at UNESCO

Report to the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) on the 5th “Search for Life Signatures” symposium held at UNESCO in Paris was written by Dr. Claudio Maccone IAA (Director for Scientific Space Exploration and Chair, IAA SETI Permanent Committee); the report is now available to download (PDF).