Queensland Museum

Alien Life: Will we know it when we find it?

13/03/2016 Plaza Auditorium, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
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Plaza Auditorium, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre


133A Grey St, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia




12:00 - 13:30


Adult: $30 Concession: $25
Matthew Bailes Participant Matthew Bailes
Pamela Conrad Participant Pamela Conrad
Paul Davies Participant Paul Davies
John Hockenberry Moderator John Hockenberry
Lisa Harvey-Smith Participant Lisa Harvey-Smith
Charles Lineweaver Participant Charles Lineweaver

Are we alone in the universe? Scientists haven’t found aliens yet, but by scanning the sky they’ve shown that our galaxy harbors billions of planets, many of which may have conditions similar to those on Earth. Mars is just one example.

According to NASA, this desert world was once more hospitable, and could perhaps harbor life today.  All these discoveries cause us to ask: When searching for life beyond our home planet, do we know what to look for? What human prejudices might cause us to overlook life that is very different from what we expect? Whether searching for signs of alien microbes or listening for signals from an advanced civilization, these are the questions that nag and inspire.

Learn how scientists across disciplines — astronomy, physics, chemistry and astrobiology — are combining their knowledge about life on Earth to reach a more comprehensive strategy for identifying life beyond.

Alien Life: Will we know it when we find it? is a Signature World Science Festival event.

Meet the Speakers

Matthew Bailes is one of the world’s leading pulsar astronomers and the founding Director of the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. He has held positions at NASA; the Universities of Manchester and Melbourne; and the CSIRO. Bailes’ team is currently working on designing the pulsar processor for the Square Kilometre Array telescope; re-engineering the 18,000 square metre Molonglo telescope; and searches for Fast Radio Bursts.

In 2015, he was listed as a collaborator on the Breakthrough Listen Project that will search for evidence of alien life in the universe.

Pamela Conrad is an astrobiologist and planetary scientist working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She is deputy principal investigator for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover. She is also co-investigator to two different payload investigations on NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.

Her current research focus is on understanding planetary habitability and on the development of approaches for its measurement in environments on Earth and on other planets, especially Mars.

Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and best-selling author. He is regents’ professor at Arizona State University, where he is director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science; co-director of the Cosmology Initiative; and principal investigator of the Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology.

His research focuses on the ‘big questions’, from the origin of the universe to the origin of life.

Lisa Harvey-Smith is an accomplished science writer, speaker, and astronomer at the CSIRO, where she studies the birth and death of stars in our Galaxy. She is the Project Scientist for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), a telescope comprising 36 large radio dishes that is currently under construction in the Western Australian (WA) outback.

Her team is currently preparing the observatory to carry out the ASKAP early science project, which will study the evolution of galaxies through approximately seven billion years of cosmic history. She regularly speaks in schools, and is involved in a mentoring program for young indigenous people in WA.

Charles Lineweaver is an astrophysicist and associate professor at the Australian National University’s Planetary Science Institute (PSI). His research areas include cosmology, exoplanetology, astrobiology, and cancer. His research has been published in an array of well-regarded scientific publications.
Lineweaver was a member of the COBE satellite team that discovered the temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background.

Plaza Auditorium, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

133A Grey St, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia