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Searching at the Edge

Martin Rees, Britain's astronomer royal, says, "Our cosmic importance depends on whether we are alone or not. The main aim of science is to take steps toward answering the big questions." Now a Swedish university is funding a chair for a professor of the paranormal and SETI says they're being taken seriously?it's a start.

Sweden's Lund University will appoint Europe's first professor of parapsychology, who will start work in 2004. He'll study and teach hypnosis, clairvoyance and other edge subjects. "Verifying the existence of paranormal phenomena does not seem to be a promising field of science," complains philosophy professor Sven Ove Hansson. He"ll find out that's not true?as Dreamland listeners know, there's a lot of scientific evidence to back up these ideas.

SETI has been searching for signals from extraterrestrial life for over 40 years, and they haven't received any clear ET evidence yet. Ten years ago, NASA cut off SETI's funding, but they're still going strong, by "borrowing" off-hours computing power from thousands of volunteers.

"It's a great goal. That is a lot of what sustains you?the payoff," says SETI researcher Kent Cullers. "That's why we keep the champagne on ice."

"I think science fiction is our best guide," says Martin Rees. "You could have intelligent life living a contemplative life on the bottom of the ocean and not wanting to communicate."

SETI is patient, because replies to their signals could take thousands of years to get back to us. The message sent by satellite in 1974 still has 25,000 years to go before it's likely to reach an alien civilization. "It's more like the dialogue you have right now with Shakespeare or the ancient Romans," SETI's Jill Tarter says. "You can't necessarily ask them questions. You have to infer the knowledge that you want to gain from what it is they have told you."

She says, "I realized I lived in the very first generation of all human beings that had ever lived that could try and answer this question that humans have been asking themselves forever?and by doing an experiment, rather than asking the priests and the philosophers and having a belief system give you an answer. There's only one time in history that that's going to happen, and I happen to be living at that time."

Recent discoveries of what may be microbes from Mars interest Rees, who says, "If you could say life arose twice, independently, in one solar system, that would tell you straight away the origin of life didn?t involve a rare fluke and there must be some sort of life on millions of other planets."

If you want evidence of so-called paranormal abilities like talking with the dead, check out this scientific study.

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