Search for life on alien planets has long history – Financial Times – March 21, 2019

From Rosario Iaconis, Suffolk County Community College, NY, US

It is only fitting that Rome, Italy’s Eternal City, was chosen as the site of the international treaty establishing the Square Kilometre Array observatory, the global organisation tasked with delivering and operating history’s greatest advance in radio astronomy (Opinion, March 19).

In addition to charting the dawn of the Big Bang and mapping the distribution of dark matter throughout the universe, the Square Kilometre Array (telescope) may well reveal the tell-tale technosignatures of advanced civilisations. That is, evidence of extraterrestrial technology that would solve the physicist Enrico Fermi’s paradox: “Where is everybody?”

The search for life on alien shores has a long and distinguished history. In the first century BC, the Roman poet Lucretius maintained that other Earths — populated by sentient beings — existed elsewhere in the universe.

Centuries later, the Italian rationalist philosopher Giordano Bruno (a contemporary of Galileo Galilei) reasoned that if other stars were indeed suns: “Innumerable Earths must revolve around those suns in a manner similar to the way . . . the planets revolve around our Sun. Living beings inhabit those worlds.”

And the SKA may pave the way for Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s stellar trek: per aspera ad astra (through hardship to the stars).

Rosario Iaconis

Adjunct Professor, Social Sciences Department,

Suffolk County Community College, NY, US


1 thought on “Search for life on alien planets has long history – Financial Times – March 21, 2019”

  1. Italians have had a profound impact on our understanding of the Universe. Giordano Bruno’s expanded concept of the Universe was given scientific credibility by Galileo’s observations employing his newly developed improved telescope. Galileo also anticipated two of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion by means of experiments which led to his law of falling bodies and his law of inertia. Somewhat later, Joseph Louis Lagrange (Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia) established a generalized mathematical framework for describing the motion of bodies, which achieved its ultimate perfection in Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There is another Italian connection here because Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is couched in a mathematical framework (tensor calculus) developed by two 19th century Italian mathematicians Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro and Tullio Levi-Civita. Who would have known all of this, given that the only Italians who get any media attention are idiots like the Captain of the Costa Concordia and the prosecutor in the Amanda Knox trials.

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