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Are We Alone in the Universe?

Are We Alone in the Universe?

Monday, June 13, 2016

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

The New York Academy of Sciences


An archived recording of this event is available via Livestream under "Archived Events" at:

The Fermi Paradox—the apparent contradiction between the high probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of contact with such civilizations—continues to captivate our minds. Are we alone in the universe or were other civilizations destroyed as a result of ecological catastrophes or conflict? Join our panel of leading physicists and philosophers as they explore Enrico Fermi's question: "Where is everybody?" as well as other questions: How does scientific knowledge direct our future scientific and technological pursuits on Earth and in space? How does science inform human ethics? Does science make us better citizens of the universe?

* Reception to follow.


Adam Frank, PhD

Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester; author of About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang

Stephen M. Gardiner, PhD

Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington; author of A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change

Louisa Preston, PhD

Astrobiologist, London; author of forthcoming Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe

Jason Thomas Wright, PhD

Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pennsylvania State University; Principal Investigator at NASA's Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science (NExSS)


Ira Flatow

Host of PRI's Science Friday®

Registration — Individual Lecture Prices

Member (Student / Postdoc / Resident / Fellow)$5
Nonmember (Student / Postdoc / Resident / Fellow)


The event is part of the Physics of Everything series.

This six-part series will unite some of the most vibrant public intellectuals and communicators of today—from scientists to philosophers, and ethicists to educators—for explorations that reflect on the current state of modern physical sciences.

To learn more about each lecture and to purchase tickets, click on the links below.

Contact Us

Jennifer Costley, PhD

Director, Physical Sciences, Sustainability & Engineering


Adam Frank, PhD

Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester

Astrophysicist Adam Frank is an expert on astrophysical fluid dynamics, his computational research group at the University of Rochester develops advanced supercomputer tools for studying how stars form and how they die. A self-described "evangelist of science" he is also committed to showing others the beauty and power of science by exploring the proper context of science in culture. He is the co-founder of NPR's 13.7 Cosmos & Culture blog and is a regular commentator on All Things Considered. His work appears regularly in The New York Times and he is the author of three books. His new book, titled Our Fate in the Stars: What Science Tells Us About Life in the Cosmos and What It Means for the Human Future, is due out in 2017.

Louisa Preston, PhD

Astrobiologist and author, London

Dr. Louisa Preston is an astrobiologist and planetary geologist. She works in environments across the Earth, where life is able to survive our planet's most extreme conditions, using them as blueprints for possible extra-terrestrial life forms and habitats. Having worked on projects for NASA and the Canadian, European and UK Space Agencies, the only thing Louisa enjoys more than devising ways to find life on Mars is writing about it. She has published numerous articles and academic papers and her first book Goldilocks and the Water Bears is out through Bloomsbury in September. She is also an avid believer in the power of science communication, having regularly appeared on radio and television programmes, such as the BBC's The Sky at Night, and spoken about the search for life on Mars at the TED Conference in 2013, as a TED Fellow.

Stephen M. Gardiner, PhD

Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington

Stephen M. Gardiner is Professor of Philosophy and Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor of Human Dimensions of the Environment at the University of Washington, Seattle. His main areas of interest are ethical theory, political philosophy and environmental ethics. His research focuses on global environmental problems (especially climate change), future generations, and virtue ethics.

Steve is the author of A Perfect Moral Storm: the Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change (Oxford, 2011), the coordinating co-editor of Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (Oxford, 2010), and the editor of Virtue Ethics: Old and New (Cornell, 2005). His articles have appeared in journals such as Ethics, the Journal of Political Philosophy, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, and Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Steve has published on a diverse range of topics including intergenerational justice, the ethics of geoengineering, the precautionary principle, climate justice, Aristotle's account of the reciprocity of the virtues, Seneca's approach to virtuous moral rules, and Socrates' political philosophy. His most recent books are Debating Climate Ethics (Oxford, 2016), a "for and against" book on climate justice, with David Weisbach, and the Oxford Handbook on Environmental Ethics (Oxford, 2016), co-edited with Allen Thompson.

Jason Thomas Wright, PhD

Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pennsylvania State University; Principal Investigator at NASA's Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science (NExSS)

Jason Wright is an associate professor of astronomy & astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at the Pennsylvania State University. He is an observational astronomer, studying stars and the planets that orbit them, with special emphasis on stars like the Sun and giant planets. More recently, he has also been involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), with an emphasis on the observable consequences of highly advanced civilizations on their stellar and galactic environments. Professor Wright spent his early childhood living outside of Seattle, and teenage years near Boston. He earned his undergraduate degree at Boston University and his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. He lives near State College, PA with his wife (who is also an astronomer at Penn State) and two young children.


Ira Flatow

Host of PRI's Science Friday®


Presented by

  • The New York Academy of Sciences

Grant Support

Templeton Foundation

This project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this event are those of the speaker(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Promotional Partner

Life Sciences in Space Research

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