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Wessex Jewish News 1

Issue No. 86

June/July 2009, Sivan-Tammuz/Av 5769

This is an expanded version of a preview article which appeared in the above issue on page 22


Adult Education

Summer Term - April to July 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009 at 8:00 PM

In the Murray Muscat Centre, Glen Fern Road, Bournemouth

Admission free - all welcome

Adult Education Organiser: Spencer Nathan


The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

in the Optical Spectrum


Dr. Stuart A. Kingsley


The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence, otherwise know by the acronym SETI, is the serious scientific pursuit of evidence of intelligence extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the galaxy by means of the detection of electromagnetic signals.  It should not be confused with UFOlogy, except that both endeavours posit the view that we are not alone in the universe.  In the case of SETI, many scientists take the view that interstellar space travel, ala Star Trek, will never be possible, and the best that advanced technical civilizations can do is to target electromagnetic radiation, i.e., radio waves or lasers, at stellar systems in their vicinity in order to get the attention of other sentient beings.  On the other hand, UFOlogists, believe that traveling around the galaxy at speeds near to or effectively greater than the velocity of light will someday be possible, so that there isn't a problem for these advanced technical civilizations in visiting our planet and making First Contact.

SETI is about the passive activity of 'listening' for signs of artificial electromagnetic signals emanating for other star systems in our galaxy.  These may be attention-getting beacons or radio frequency leakage.  CETI, i.e., Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence by electro-magnetic radiation on behalf of mankind, is not yet officially approved of by the United Nations, though protocols do exist for who will speak for Earth, and what should be said in reply, should a signal be received from an ET civilization.  Thus, at present, there are no official radio or laser uplinks for sending messages to the stars.  We do not presently have the technical capability to do the precise point-ahead-targeting required for laser transmitters nor sufficiently powerful space-based lasers, but we can be assured that mankind will be able to accomplish this within the next 50 years - no time at all on the cosmic scale.

Over several decades, the American SETI community, which has been the main source of SETI research, has suffered ridicule in Congress because of the association in the public mind with UFOs and LGMs (Little Green Men).  There has always been a "giggle factor" when the subject of ETIs is mentioned.  Listening for signals from extraterrestrial beings is a very noble goal, and one that naturally flows from a world view that we are not alone in the universe.  Only in the past century have we developed the technology to detect such signals, though Philosophers, Theologians and Scientists have pondered the issue of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe for a good part of the past 1,000 years, if not longer.

Fortunately today, few on this planet believe we are alone in the universe.  Because of the interest that young people have in ET, the subject of SETI has great student appeal, and is a powerful way to teach science and motivate their interest in all the 'ologies!  Indeed, most of the previous talks on Optical SETI over the past 15 years or so have been given in a university environment.  For a history of Optical SETI visit

This talk marks the first time that Dr. Stuart Kingsley has presented material on Microwave and Optical SETI, which also includes slides on exotheology, to a mainly Jewish, lay audience.  For this reason, much of the complicated technical 'stuff' of interest to scientists and engineers, has been removed.  However, links to the technical 'stuff' will be found at the end of this preview, and within the downloadable PowerPoint presentation (which is available in PDF format).

Those wishing to hear this talk (or the usual more technical version) elsewhere in the United Kingdom, can reach Stuart at or 01202-296377.



This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, On the Origin of Species, the 200th anniversary of his birth, and the International Year of Astronomy (400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope towards the night sky).  It also marks the first occasion, since I returned to the UK from the USA over a year ago, to bring to Bournemouth the idea that mankind is now capable of detecting laser signals from extraterrestrials who may be trying to get our attention.

These days, the general public in the United States appears to have difficulties understanding the difference between Science and Faith, witness the controversial creationism/intelligent design debate and growing demands to teach religion as if it was science.  The facts are that our solar system is some 4.5 billion years old and the universe some 13.7 billion years old – plenty of time for evolution and survival of the fittest to do its magic and for intelligence to arise independently all over the Milky Way (our own) galaxy and the rest of the universe.  Our galaxy, which is some 100,000 light years in diameter, contains some 100 billion stars, while the observable universe contains a similar number of galaxies, so the time, and the number of opportunities for both life to arise, to develop into sentient beings and develop technology has been significant.  During the past 4.5 billion years, the evolutionary clock has been reset several times by cosmic catastrophes, and some speculate that life in our solar system may have first arisen on Mars; so effectively, we may all be Martians!

Andromeda Galaxy M31

The Andromeda Galaxy M31, 3.9 Million Light Years from the Milky Way

In 1990, the only star we knew that had a planetary system was our own.  In 1992 the first extra solar planetary system was discovered by earth-based telescopes, and today the number of known extra solar planetary systems is in excess of 340.   However, almost all of these exoplanets are large gas giants similar to Jupiter.  On March 6th of this year, NASA launched the Kepler Planet-Finder probe, whose specific aim is to find other planetary systems and small rocky planets with water in their atmospheres, similar to our own.

Recently, our own Professor David Weitzman took up a few column inches in the JC arguing the case for a world-view that does not see a problem between knowing that the universe is very old, and belief in a supreme being.  One can be religious, agnostic or an atheist, but still be in awe of this magnificent creation process set in motion a very long time ago.   Indeed, in years to come, mankind will not understand how it was that our ancestors every thought that we were alone in the universe. We are, no doubt, the “new kids on the block”.  It would make no sense from a human prospective for there to be a God and this huge incredibly complex universe, if we were the only ones that could comprehend and appreciate it.  Whether other island intelligent life forms distributed throughout the cosmos can communicate and exchange knowledge remains to be seen.

Of course, the big question or Fermi Paradox is “Where is everyone”?  Looking for signs of other sentient beings in the electromagnetic spectrum, i.e., The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, otherwise known as “SETI”, was first proposed in 1959, two years before the laser was invented.  SETI is related to UFOs from the point of view that both activities assume the presence of other advanced Alien technological civilizations.  However, while UFOologists assume that in time it will be easy to “wiz around the universe”, SETI assumes that it might never be possible to approach or even effectively exceed the speed of light, and the best that can be done instead of expensive, energy intensive travelling is to stay at home and transmit low-cost electromagnetic signals to indicate ones presence, and hope for a reply a very long time later!

It was only a century ago this year that Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention of Wireless Telegraphy, and now despite nearly half a century of radio-frequency searches with huge microwave dishes – next year marks the 50th anniversary of the first SETI search, called Project Ozma – so far no Aliens!  However, in 1990, I suggested to the community of SETI research scientists that perhaps we were looking in the wrong part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and should have in fact been searching for optical signals instead, for as any respectable Alien knows “lasers are far superior for interstellar communications”.  In this day and age of fibre-optics, even many humans understand the superiority of optical communications for more down-to-earth terrestrial applications.

This was not an original idea, yet Optical SETI (OSETI) for reasons which I will explain in my talk, had at that time been largely discounted as a viable approach.  This presentation will describe both the radio-frequency and optical approaches to SETI and how I set up the first observatory - The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory - in Columbus, Ohio, dedicated to the optical search, organised and chaired three international conferences on the subject from 1993 to 2001, and was able to convince the SETI community that OSETI was a sensible scientific pursuit.  In 2000, I was privileged to meet retired Bournemouth resident, the late Professor, Sir Fred Hoyle (famous for his phrase “Big Bang” and theory of “Panspermia”) when I was planning my third OSETI conference.  Since 1998, various organizations, like The SETI Institute and The Planetary Society, have set up OSETI facilities. This is something that an amateur astronomer can participate in with a modest size telescope, say 13 cm or larger aperture, and perhaps prove that "We are not alone".  I am now planning for starting OSETI activities in the Bournemouth area, and my June 22, 8 PM talk for the Adult Education series at the Murray Muscat Centre, Glen Fern Road, Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation (BHC), kicks off this activity in the United Kingdom.  I look forward to putting Bournemouth on the interstellar map!

Download a PDF version of the PowerPoint presentation (7 Mbytes) from the main COSETI web site here.  You don't have to be a scientist or engineer to understand most of this material.

For more information about Optical SETI, please visit

Version 1.5
First Upload : April 27, 2009
Revised: June 27, 2009


Biographical Details
Dr. Stuart A Kingsley is a Londoner, who was born in Stoke Newington on the first Yom Ha’atzmaut, and grew up in South Tottenham.  In 1967, he started a thin sandwich electrical engineering course at City University and Thorn Electrical Industries, and obtained a B.Sc. Honours degree in 1972.  Later that year he started a postgraduate degree in the Electronics & Electrical Engineering Department, University College London, specializing in the then new field of fibre optics.  After his Ph.D. course, Stuart worked for six years as a Research Assistant in the same department before leaving in June 1981 for an “adventure” in the United States.  There, he went to work for Battelle Columbus Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio as a Principal Research Scientist.  In 1984, he and his Ph.D. supervisor, Professor, Sir D.E.N. Davies, were honoured at the Royal Society with the prestigious Rank Prize for Optoelectronics, given for their major contribution to fibre optics.  At that time this was only the second occasion that it had been presented for that scientific field.  Stuart subsequently became a Senior Research Scientist at Battelle, and in 1987 left the company to become a photonics consultant.  In 1990, Stuart helped start a small photonics company, SRICO, Inc., which he subsequently became its VP of Engineering and then its Chief Scientist.  This was also the time that Stuart started his “extracarricular” promotion of  Optical SETI.  For family reasons, he left Columbus to return to the UK in January 2008, and settled in Bournemouth, joining the Wootton Gardens congregation shortly thereafter.  He now works part-time as a fibre-optic consultant (Fiberdyne Optoelectronics), and continues his relationship with SRICO, Inc. as their International Consultant.  Stuart has a mother, sister and nephew living in London. Stuart presently lives in Crag Head, where he is the Technology Director.  He maintains a number of web sites, including,, and the unofficial web site for the Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation and other shuls,  Dr. Kingsley is a UK/US citizen, a Member of the British Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET, formerly the IEE), Senior Member of the American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Member of the Eta Kappu Nu Society, and a Chartered Engineer.  A detailed resume may be found here.

Stuart is presently looking for a larger East Overcliff flat in Bournemouth, with great views of the sea and sky from which to restart his personal optical search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and encourage others to join the search in the United Kingdom.

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