Life in the Universe
Is there anybody out there?
The Universe is indescribably huge. Can it be possible that humanity is the only form of intelligent life which exists in all this immensity? Are we really alone?
Throughout history there have been sightings of creatures from elsewhere. Science fiction novels and films with flying saucers and bizarre looking aliens are part of our general culture. Perhaps the Earth is really only an experiment designed by mice and soon we will all be destroyed to make way for a new interstellar highway!
The possibility that there is life in the Universe has always excited the general public and scientists are equally enthusiastic. Physicists, biologists, chemists, cosmologists, astronomers from all over Europe are researching the age-old question: Is there life in the Universe ?
In 2001, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) , the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in cooperation with the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) organised a competition to find out what the young people in Europe think. The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) were also associated with the programme.
The details about this exciting programme were announced in press release eso0126.
The "Life in the Universe" programme
ESO video eso0126a is a trailer for the Europe-wide "Life in the Universe" programme. It touches upon some of the main issues and includes statements by members of the Experts' Panel.
The "Life in the Universe" programme was mounted in collaboration with the research directorate of the European Commission for the "European Week of Science and Technology" in November 2001.
Competitions were held in 23 European countries to find the best projects from school studentsaged 14–18. The projects could be traditionally scientific or artistic, for example they could be a theatrical performance, poetry or even a musical performance. The only restriction was that the final work must be based on scientific evidence.
Two winning teams from each country were invited to a final event at CERN's headquarters, in Geneva on 8–11 November, 2001. Here they presented their projects to a panel of international experts at a special three day meeting devoted to understanding the possibility of other life forms existing in our Universe. This concluding session was held in one of the large experimental halls at CERN and was broadcast all over the world via the Internet.
The Life in the Universe Video
The video describes the final event and the enthusiastic atmosphere when more than 200 young students and teachers from all over Europe met with some of the world's leading scientific experts in the field.
The ESO prize — a visit to Paranal
ESA and ESO offered the main prizes to the two winning teams — visits to Kourou and Paranal, respectively. The ESO prize was won by the Hungarian team with the entry "Entropoly", a highly inspiring and most innovative board game about the origin of life. The winners were Kristóf Mihály, Katalin Lövei and Ádám Orbán. They visited the Paranal Observatory in early February 2002.
The home base of the 'Life in the Universe" project is a very informative web space
where details of the programme can be found. It has a wealth of information and links to the national websites, where all entries are posted.
Is there other life in the Universe? We do not know - but the search is on!