Speaker: Steve Croft (UC Berkeley)
Title: “Are We Alone? Searching for Cosmic Company”
Abstract: For millennia humans have gazed at the stars and asked, “Are we alone in the Universe?”. In the past few decades, we have discovered that many of the pinpoints of light scattered across our night sky are suns that host worlds similar to our own. Still, though, the question remains unanswered as to whether minds have arisen elsewhere, or if life as we know it is rare, or indeed unique. Dr. Croft will describe some of the work taking place at UC Berkeley that attempts to answer this question. These efforts include the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project that dramatically expands the search, and applies modern Silicon Valley techniques to the data analysis. Dr. Croft will also describe how Breakthrough Listen data are being used not only to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, but to further our understanding of phenomena such as fast radio bursts from distant galaxies.
Bio: Dr. Steve Croft is a researcher in the UC Berkeley Astronomy Department. He grew up in England, where he received a PhD in astrophysics from Oxford University in 2002, before moving to California to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Since 2007, Croft has been a researcher in the Astronomy Department at UC Berkeley. Croft's research includes studying supermassive black holes and exotic transient events using the Murchison Widefield Array in the remote Western Australian outback, looking for the signatures of black hole collisions as a member of the NANOGrav collaboration, and searching for intelligent civilizations elsewhere in the Universe as a scientist with the Breakthrough Listen project at UC Berkeley's SETI Research Center. Dr. Croft has a deep commitment to public communication of science, including as director of outreach programs at Berkeley SETI Research Center, as well as through a project he initiated to connect underrepresented students to NASA science through art and visualization, and as the founder and coordinator of the Science@Cal Lecture Series.