Last year, OE REPORTS had an interview with Dr. Monte Ross of Laser Data Technology Inc., in which he described his thoughts about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the optical spectrum. At that time, I was unaware of Dr. Ross's work. Last January, I had just published electronically on Internet a very long paper on the subject in this Electronic Journal. This was the six-part article in THE ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF THE ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY OF THE ATLANTIC (EJASA, Vol. 3, No. 6A-6F).
As a result of my electronic paper, during the summer I was asked by Dr. David L. Begley of Ball Aerospace Systems Group to organize a special session on Optical SETI (OSETI) for SPIE as part of the OE/LASE '93 symposium. David Begley is the previous chairman of the Free-Space Laser Communications conferences. The Optical SETI event was originally planned to be a single session in SPIE's Free-Space Laser Communication Technologies V conference, chaired by Dr. Stephen Mecherle of TRW, Inc.
Even though summer was a difficult time to start organizing a conference, I was able to get so many papers at short notice that the single session was extended into a dedicated conference with three sessions and a separate published proceedings. The latter will be available as SPIE Volume 1867 after the conference and will constitute the first publication on this subject. The conference will be held on January 21-22, 1993 at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel and immediately follows the Free-Space Laser Communication Technologies V conference. The Optical SETI conference cochair will be Monte Ross. This event is effectively, though unofficially, the First International Conference on Optical SETI.
This SETI event will be of particular interest to laser communications scientists and engineers. It presents the opportunity to help resolve the dichotomy within NASA that while lasers are fine for GEO to GEO, GEO to LEO, deep space, and interstellar communications, ETIs would not use such technology to signal emerging technical civilizations (us). The first session will bring the laser communications community up to speed on microwave (conventional) SETI and general SETI related matters. The second and third sessions are specifically devoted to optical SETI topics. Many shades of opinion are included.
We are fortunate in being able to have Arthur C. Clarke kick off this conference from his home in Sri Lanka. This will be a videotaped address. These days, Clarke's health precludes extensive traveling. We are also investigating the possibility that NASA Select TV could cover the entire conference on a live or tape-delayed basis. If you cannot attend this conference but would like to see it transmitted by NASA Select, write to SPIE and NASA Headquarters requesting this coverage. The more people lobby for this, the more likely is the cooperation of the concerned parties. For those with a TVRO (TeleVision Receive Only) satellite dish, NASA Select TV is available on Satcom F2R (72 W), Transponder 13.
Among the 16 papers scheduled: Dr. David Brocker, who heads NASA's High Resolution Microwave Survey, will give the keynote paper on NASA's search for evidence of extraterrestrial technologies (Dr. Peter Backus will now be presenting this paper). Drs. David Latham and David Soderblom will discuss the strategies for the SETI star targeting survey and Drs. Michael Klein and Samuel Gulkis from JPL will describe the high-resolution all-sky survey. The "Grand Old Man" of SETI, Dr. Bernard M. Oliver, who is extremely critical of the optical approach, will demonstrate for the first time to the laser communications community why ETIs would not use lasers for SETI interstellar communications. Professor Frank Tipler, a strong critic of SETI, will explain why both microwave and optical SETI is a waste of time, since he thinks that we are the first civilization in the Milky Way galaxy.
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