The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society

Editors: Martin Dominik and John C. Zarnecki

Observing the pinpoints of light on the night sky has probably ever inspired humans to speculate about the existence of other worlds, but still, in the vastness of the Universe, we know only one place that teems with life - Earth. If our home planet is not unique in the cosmos, but life happens to be common and universal, it is living generations that for the first time in history are given a realistic chance to see signatures of extra-terrestrial life being detected. The study and understanding of life in the Universe encompasses many, if not all, of the fundamental questions in biology, physics, and chemistry, but also in philosophy, psychology, religion and the way in which humans interact with their environment and each other. Whilst there is no way of predicting the outcomes of searches for extra-terrestrial life and we cannot be prepared for the unpredictable, the careful development of a societal agenda alongside a scientific agenda becomes mandatory.

  1. Read
  2. Buy
  3. Listen
  4. Also of interest
  5. Submit a theme proposal to Philosophical Transactions A
  6. Interact


Audio recordings of the talks and discussion from the Discussion Meeting (held 25-26 Jan 2010) which this issue is based on are available online.

Submit a theme proposal to Philosophical Transactions A

Philosophical Transactions A publishes Theme Issues, as well as issues based on Royal Society Discussion Meetings. We will consider proposals for theme issues on subjects across the whole of the physical sciences

First, theme proposers should download and complete our Theme Proposal Form. Once complete, this form should be submitted online to our proposal submissions system:

Please note that all the proposed authors must have agreed to contribute before we can consider a Theme proposal. Once a proposal has been approved, the Theme Organisers will usually contact the contributors to communicate to them a submission deadline agreed with the Editorial Office.

Theme organisers may wish to consider our Theme Issue guidelines for suggestions on how a Theme Issue should be constructed.


You can now create an eLetter, or write a comment, on all of our articles by using the 'Responses' link next to every Philosophical Transactions A article. Your comment will be linked to that article for others to see our guidelines for comments

You can also start a discussion in our Facebook group, or keep up-to-date with our news on Twitter. You can read blogs about our articles over at Research Blogging or check out our articles in the news.

Search Philosophical Transactions A

Social Networking