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Guest Speaker

Nadia Drake

Science Journalist

For millennia, humans have wondered whether there’s life beyond Earth. Over the last half-century or so, these musings have evolved from fantasy and speculation into a legitimate scientific endeavor, guided largely by the Drake Equation — a formula that estimates the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy. As a science reporter, Nadia Drake has witnessed that transformation in real-time; she’s written stories about the thousands of planets scientists have shaken loose from the cosmos; reported on the ways in which astrobiologists are using Earth’s extreme environments as test beds for exploring icy moons in our solar system; chronicled the struggle that the search for technosignatures — the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — has had in achieving scientific legitimacy.

This talk will offer a behind-the scenes look at the Drake Equation and will walk through the framework that has helped shepherd astrobiology into the modern mainstream, from considerations about star formation to planetary habitability to the longevity of communicating civilizations. Next, as a science reporter, Drake will offer a glimpse at how the media decides to report these types of stories — what makes a solid science story, and how do we go about putting it together? How do we (or should we) deal with the topic of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, and does it even fit into this sphere? And lastly, Drake will discuss the very real challenges that exist when communicating discoveries in the search for life beyond Earth, both in the present and in an imagined future when that quest finds evidence that we might not be alone.

That future may not be far away. We are living in an age where the tools we need to answer these fundamental questions are within our grasp, or on our doorstep.

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