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Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Bioastronomy

IAU Colloquium No. 161


Capri, July 1-5, 1996


The 5th International Conference on Bioastronomy was held in July 1996 in Capri, Italy. The Conference Proceedings are now available and provide a detailed view of the entire field of BioAstronomy.

The image below was created by Jon Lomberg for the Fifth International Conference on Bioastronomy and is on the cover of the Conference Proceedings in full color. The artwork combines various bioastronomy topics in a surrealistic fashion. The foreground rocks in the ocean, known as the Faraglioni, are a famous landmark of Capri. In the sky important organic molecules such as the amino acid glycine are shown where they have been found in nebulae and searched for in comets. These represent the naturally synthesized substances involved in the origin of life. Emerging from the ocean is the DNA molecule, with one of the helices replaced by an arrangement of extrasolar planets. Some are life-bearing (represented by a connection with the DNA); others are not. Knowledge of the scientific principles that gave rise to life may also form the basis of interstellar communication, linking planets in an order as significant as the ordering of the molecules in the DNA.

The artwork was created digitally by Jon Lomberg in Hawaii, working closely with Cristiano Cosmovici in Rome, almost entirely over the Internet. This itself is a nice symbol of how widely separated intelligences can communicate productively.



The publication is organized into five sections:

Organic Material in Interstellar Clouds, Comets, and Meteorites
G. Winnewisser, L., J. Allamandola, T. Snow, N. C. Wickramasinghe, V. Pirronello, J. Cronin, M. Mumma, J. Oro, M. A'Hearn

Planetary Atmospheres and Catastrophic Impacts in the Solar System
C. Chyba, T. Owen, D. Gautier, M. Marov

The Search for Extrasolar Planets
P. Morrison, T. Montmerle, J. Lissauer, J. M. Marriotti, M. Mayor, G. Marcy

The Origin and Evolution of Life and Intelligence
C. de Duve, M. Eigen, F. Raulin, A. Lazcano, L. Narens

The Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations
C. Townes, S. Bowyer, J. C. Tarter, G. Lemarchand, R. Dixon, J. Heidmann, C. Maccone, F. Drake

Three Nobel Laureates, Christian de Duve (Belgium), Manfred Eigen (Germany) and Charles Townes (USA), and SETI pioneers Frank Drake and Philip Morrison provide fundamental review papers. Philip Morrison's paper on the evolution of technology brilliantly weaves together science, archaeology, history and philosophy.

Other highlights of the book are summaries of the discoveries of the first extrasolar planets, presented by planet hunters Michel Mayor, Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler.

814 Pages

The price is $100.00, plus $20 for airmail delivery to the USA. Payment may be by check, VISA, or MasterCard.


To order a copy of the proceedings:

Editrice Compositori
Via Stalingrado 97/2
40128 Bologna, Italy
FAX : (39) 51 327877


See the invited paper by Nobel laureate Professor Charles H. Townes on "Optical and Infrared SETI" (pp. 585-594). Unfortunately, Professor Townes, who first proposed the optical approach to SETI back in 1961, is still adhering to the old physicist tradition of using the word "optical" as a synonym for "visible". From the beginning of my OSETI activities in 1990, after a misunderstanding between Dr. Jill Tarter and myself, I have tried very hard to encourage the SETI community to use the modern definition of the work "optical" - this being a superset of the far-infrared, infrared, visible and ultra-violet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. From the top of the millimeter-wave band to the ultra-violet - it's all "optical"! This will avoid confusing photonic (optoelectronic) communication scientists and engineers and improve the clarity of terrestrial communications between the fields of astrophysics and photonics. After all, Optical SETI is about one-way Optical Interstellar Communications. Even in the millimeter-wave band we often speak of employing "quasi-optical techniques", as I explained to Professor Townes, Dr. Dan Werthimer and their colleagues at a talk I gave at the Berkeley Space Science Laboratories immediately after the OSETI II conference. See 9301-001 for the definition of Optical SETI.

Unfortunately, having just returned to the USA from an extended a trip to England in late May of 1996, I couldn't attend and participate in the Capri conference. I would appreciate being sent photographs from the conference to include in the Capri Photo Gallery.

Stuart Kingsley

August 17, 1997


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