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REF NO.: 148

SUBJECT: Shapely lecturer searches for unicorns and extraterrestrial civilizations

DATE: May 5

The American Astronomical Society and the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography will host the 2009 Shapley Lecture with special guest speaker, Dr. Robert T. Rood, University of Virginia. This public lecture will take place Thursday, May 14 at 7 p.m. in the Inco Innovation Centre, room 2001.
Dr. Rood’s lecture, entitled Searching for Unicorns and Extraterrestrial Civilizations, will discuss that while there are many ways in which the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) could be proven to exist, there is no way to prove the opposite.
“This lack of falsifiability sets the search for ETI (SETI) apart from most other scientific questions,” said Dr. Rood. “There is a historical analog, the search for unicorns, which can illustrate how progress can be made.
“Unicorns “existed” for almost 2000 years even in the minds of scientists,” he added. “No one ever proved that unicorns do not exist, yet there is now general agreement that that is the case. At least unicorn searches are not funded. How this change of opinion arose can be instructive both for the proponents of SETI and those who present arguments claiming to prove that we are alone in the Galaxy.”

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For more information contact Kelly Foss, Communications Coordinator, Faculty of Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, at 737-2019 or


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