Life in outer space? Chile invites the public to free conference

Conference in the former National Congress building will reunite Nobel Prize-winning scientists, astronomers and philosophers to tackle life’s big questions.

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In honor of the 200th anniversary of the Chilean congress, a special meeting between politicians, scientists, humanities scholars and the general public will explore ideas like, What is life?, How did life begin? and, When will we find life on other planets?

The free conference, titled “Horizons in the Bicentennial of the National Congress of the Republic of Chile”, will be held from November 30 to December 3 at Chile’s former National Congress building in Santiago.

The conference is “an invitation to ask ourselves how our society will be affected by biotechnology, nanotechnology and astrophysics; what is the ethical code that influences our decisions, what relevant facts will be left for the interpretation of future historians, and what will our philosophers be asking in the future,” according to the congressional website.

Nobel Prize-winners in the fields of science, astrophysics, philosophy, mathematics and engineering will be making special appearances at the conference.

In attendance will be Professor María Teresa Ruiz, an astronomer at the Universidad de Chile who won Chile’s National Prize in Exact Sciences in 1997 for the discovery of a supernova at the moment it exploded.

“We, as scientists, have always wanted to answer the question if humans are alone or not in the galaxy,” Ruiz said.

The connection between life on earth and extraterrestrial life will star as the central topic of the congress. Ruiz says that the probability of alien life is increasingly likely, especially considering that “in our galaxy alone, there are a hundred thousand other stars.”

Ruiz and Chilean Senate President Guido Girardi inaugurated the conference at the Cerro Calán observatory, during a ceremony on November 25.

“With the end of the age of petroleum, lineal ideology and Cartesian ideals, we are living in a dynamic future, full of changes and uncertainties, and politics should embrace these theme,” Girardi said.

The senate president added that the cosmovision of Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, “is a more human way of seeing the universe, because it is holistic,” and added that “the study of their culture and cosmovision is fundamental, especially in today’s world.”

For a full list of lecturers and the conference schedule, visit the conference website.