Karen J. Meech The story of 'Oumuamua, the first visitor from another star system
In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet — a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for "scout" or "messenger" — raised intriguing questions: Was it a chunk of rocky debris from a new star system, shredded material from a supernova explosion, evidence of alien technology or something else altogether? In this riveting talk, Meech tells the story of how her team raced against the clock to find answers about this unexpected gift from afar.
Jill Tarter Join the SETI search
The SETI Institute's Jill Tarter makes her TED Prize wish: to accelerate our search for cosmic company. Using a growing array of radio telescopes, she and her team listen for patterns that may be a sign of intelligence elsewhere in the universe.
John Hodgman Aliens, love — where are they?
Humorist John Hodgman rambles through a new story about aliens, physics, time, space and the way all of these somehow contribute to a sweet, perfect memory of falling in love.
Seth Shostak ET is (probably) out there — get ready
SETI researcher Seth Shostak bets that we will find extraterrestrial life in the next twenty-four years, or he'll buy you a cup of coffee. He explains why new technologies and the laws of probability make the breakthrough so likely — and predicts how the discovery of civilizations far more advanced than ours might affect us here on Earth.
Tabetha Boyajian The most mysterious star in the universe
Something massive, with roughly 1,000 times the area of Earth, is blocking the light coming from a distant star known as KIC 8462852, and nobody is quite sure what it is. As astronomer Tabetha Boyajian investigated this perplexing celestial object, a colleague suggested something unusual: Could it be an alien-built megastructure? Such an extraordinary idea would require extraordinary evidence. In this talk, Boyajian gives us a look at how scientists search for and test hypotheses when faced with the unknown.
Stephen Webb Where are all the aliens?
The universe is incredibly old, astoundingly vast and populated by trillions of planets — so where are all the aliens? Astronomer Stephen Webb has an explanation: we're alone in the universe. In a mind-expanding talk, he spells out the remarkable barriers a planet would need to clear in order to host an extraterrestrial civilization — and makes a case for the beauty of our potential cosmic loneliness. "The silence of the universe is shouting, 'We're the creatures who got lucky,'" Webb says.