Seti astrophysicist to give free lecture at OSU May 13


CORVALLIS - Kent Cullers, a blind astrophysicist portrayed in the recent film, "Contact," will give a free public lecture on new developments in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence during a colloquium on Monday, May 13, at Oregon State University.

Cullers' talk, "SETI 2020: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and New Radio Astronomy," begins at 4 p.m. in Weniger Hall Room 153. It is free and open to the public.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, initiative is a massive project that uses radio astronomy to search space for signs of technology. For the past three years, Cullers has directed the project's research and development program for the SETI Institute and he has been involved with SETI since 1980.

In his talk, Cullers will describe how our civilization modifies the electromagnetic spectrum of the solar system, creating bright microwave lines that "outshine our sun by a factor of a million."

"This makes our technology detectable to any alien civilization that is sufficiently advanced," he said. "And new receiving antennas, that can also be used as beamed transmitters, may soon make our civilization even more visible."

SETI is designing these antennas as well as new generations of computers - an advance that is expected to rapidly expand the program's search capabilities.

"Within the next century, we may completely search our galaxy for signals like those we are now transmitting from Earth," Cullers said.

Cullers is collaborating on another initiative that involves Oregon State University. John Gardner, a professor of physics at OSU, has submitted a $2 million proposal to the National Science Foundation to create a "New Technologies Alliance" - a multi-institutional effort to remove information and attitude barriers that preclude or limit students with disabilities from fully participating in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Gardner, a recognized physicist who lost his sight in mid-career, has become nationally known for his pioneering work in developing new technologies to help not only persons with visually impairments, but persons with other learning disabilities.

Cullers' talk is sponsored by the OSU Department of Physics.