It's the last EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE FESTIVAL of the century. What are the chances of alien invasion or meteor collision before the next?

Words: Brian Donaldson

first experiment of colour TV 1928

first link between DNA and genetics 1944

first H-bomb tested 1951

THE 20TH CENTURY BEGAN WITH A San l‘ranciscan claiming that an X-ray had curcd his canccr. .»\s its cnd approachcs. wc arc conccrncd that our hade mohilc phonc may hc at thc wry lcast addictch and at thc worst as carcinogcnic as ltlt) tahs a day. In I‘)()(). \\'C \Vc‘t'c‘ still cock—zt-Iioop at thc thought ol~ a balloon pumpcd with

hydrogcn hcing ahlc to lift itscll' ol'l'

thc ground: in I990. wc discch‘I' that thc way to IlilVC a car which is as grccn as it is spccdy is to drill holcs into thc cxliaust. A hundrcd )‘c‘zu‘s ago. thc world‘s first hook of stamps was issucd: today. Bill (iatcs is doing his utmost to buy up thc lntcrnct.

'l'hings tmdouhtcdly changc. hut thc samc conccrns ahotmd. Ilcalth. trawl. spccd. information cxchangc.

106 THELIST ' '5 '

And. oh )‘cah. thc cxistcncc oi alicns and thc thrcat ol' immincnt invasion.

‘'c clscwhcrc in thc lllich‘I'sc‘ is mm of mankind‘s oldcst and dccpcst qucstions. hut it is as grcat a scicutil‘ic challcngc as cxcr.’ insists Dr Ralph l.orcnx. scnior rcscarch associatc at thc l'nix'crsity oi Arizona‘s Lunar and l’lanctar)’ Lab. ‘1 think wc arc on thc thrcshold ol' disctwcring whcthcr lil’c c\'ol\'cd on Mars. and it‘ so. whcthcr it cx'olvcd indcpcndcntly ol' lil'c on Iizlt'lll. .-\Iso. tlIlIititlin [Iic‘ scicntil‘ic challcngcs arc l‘ormidahlc. thc ncxt ccutur)~ will prohahly scc thc idcntil'ication oi carth—likc plancts around othcr stars.‘

So \ViII IIic‘ disc‘tn‘cr} oi Iii-c on Mars hc a good thing or had? Bill

Do we want to discover life on Mars in order to say'Hands up, you’re claimed, space-scum'?

l'ossili/cd worms wcrc dug up on thc Rcd I’lanct. "I‘his’ discchr)‘ spcaks to Us across all thosc billions of _\'cars and millions of milcsf thc Prcsidcnt said. ’II will surely hc onc of thc most stunning insights into our univcrsc that scicncc has cvcr uncchrcd.‘ ()r as .-\rthur (‘. (‘Iarkc would harm it: ~’l‘wo possihilitics cxist: cithcr wc arc alonc in thc univcrsc or wc arc not. Both arc cqually tcrril‘ying.‘

But do wc want to discover Iilc on Mars or .lupitcr for that mattcr in ordcr to s;t_\‘ ‘lli l'cllas. grcat to scc you. whcrc you hccn all this timc'.” ()r arc wc saying ‘Ilands up. _\'ou‘rc claimcd. spac‘c-sctriii".’ ln Visions. .\lichio Kaku. l’rol'cssor ol' 'I’hcorctical Physics at thc (‘ity

(‘linton was positix‘cly orgasmic whcn (‘ollcgc ol' .\'cw York. writcs: 'Spacc