Eclipses, Life and Other Cosmic Chances

Drake's Equation: the calculation of the odds of making contact with other intelligent life in the universe
Drake's Equation: the calculation of the odds of making contact with other intelligent life in the universe
Drake's Equation: the calculation of the odds of making contact with other intelligent life in the universe
Anne Bean, Eclipses, Life and Other Cosmic Chances

An art and science conference exploring cosmology and the nature of probability

It is said that we are living in a golden age of cosmology. Slowly the way the universe is put together is unfolding before our eyes. In 1999, Northern Europe was a direct witness to the way spinning bodies inexorably move in predictable paths when the sun went dark over Cornwall, the English Channel and in a line all the way to India. Artists are playing a part in these realisations: James Turrell remodelled a massive crater to capture the sun's light, Janet Saad-Cook worked with the Very Large Array in New Mexico to harness directly the sun's movements to create art, and Cornelia Parker attempted to send a meteorite into space. 

'Cosmic Chances' brought the scientists who battle with the fundamental mysteries of the universe - from NASA, the French Space Agency, Jodrell Bank and SETI - into a series of unique exchanges with artists at London's historic Royal Institution in this Arts Catalyst's conference. 


Conference Chair Roger Malina, Director of NASA's Extreme Ultra-Violet Explorer Observatory and Founder/Editor of Leonardo, the art science journal, presented the hottest astronomical discoveries from space telescopes

Artist James Turrell unveiled the final stages of his extraordinary life-long project at the Roden Carter - an extinct volcano transformed by earthmovers into a massive artwork.

Cosmologist Marcus Chown author of 'The Afterglow of Creation and the forthcoming 'The Magic Furnace', explored the chance correspondences that keep the nuclear reactor in the sky running.

Janet Saad Cook, artist, described her project for the Very Large Array - an enormous field of radio-telescopes in New Mexico - as part of her Global Sun Drawing, a single globe-encircling work of art using the sun.

David Wark, particle physicist, described the search for the - as yet undetected - solar neutrino underway in deep chambers around the world. Life Spreading Through the Universe

Chandra Wickramasinghe, collaborator with Sir Fred Hoyle on 'Life in the Cosmos' and other books, introduced the provocative notions of panspermia, biological determinism and cosmological constraints.

Historian Frank James of the Royal Institution examined the significance of chronicles and records of eclipses through the centuries.

Cornelia Parker, sculptor, described the progress in her extraordinary project to return a meteorite back into space.

Ian Morison, Jodrell Bank scientist and co-ordinator of Britain's role on the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence with the SETI Institute, updated the latest search with the big dish.

Sandra Chapman, astrophysicist from the University of Warwick, unveiled our precarious connection with the sun - the solar wind, a hurricane or particles which blows from the sun at incredible velocities, buffeting and battering the earth and extending far beyond the furthest planet of the solar system.

Ansuman Biswas, artist, described his proposal to place an array of dishes thousands of miles apart in uninhabited places to collect whatever falls from the sky.

Amanda Baker, regional co-ordinator of the SETI League, explained how the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is significant for the whole community.

Andrew Steele is an astrobiologist working on a project for NASA. He hopes to investigate the first sample coming back from Mars.