Douglas Vakoch

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Douglas Vakoch
File:Douglas Vakoch.jpg
Born June 16, 1961
Minnesota, USA
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater

B.A., Carleton College
M.A., University of Notre Dame

Ph.D., Stony Brook University
Known for METI, SETI, Astrobiology
Scientific career
Fields SETI, Interstellar message composition, Psychology, Ecocriticism
Influences Frank Drake

Douglas Vakoch (born June 16, 1961) is an American search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) researcher, psychologist, and president of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence), a nonprofit research and educational organization devoted to transmitting intentional signals to extraterrestrial civilizations. Vakoch led METI's participation in Sónar Calling GJ 273b, which transmitted a series of interstellar messages to Luyten's Star, located 12.4 light years from Earth. Vakoch advocates ongoing transmission projects, arguing that this does not increase risks of an alien invasion as suggested by British cosmologist Stephen Hawking. He has participated in several SETI observation programs, and after sixteen years at the SETI Institute, where he was director of Interstellar Message Composition, Vakoch founded METI International. He has edited over a dozen books in SETI, astrobiology, the psychology of space exploration, and ecocriticism. He is general editor of two book series in ecocriticism and in the intersection of space and society. Vakoch has appeared widely on television and radio as a commentator on SETI and astrobiology. He is an emeritus professor of clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).

Early life and education[edit | hide | hide all]

Douglas Vakoch grew up in rural Minnesota.[1] He created his first interstellar message as a high school student—a series of two-dimensional pictures that built upon a message transmitted from Arecibo Observatory in 1974.[2][3] "The issue that really hit me early on, and that has stayed with me, is just the challenge of creating a message that would be understandable," he told The New York Times Magazine.[4] Vakoch earned a bachelor's degree in comparative religion from Carleton College, a master's degree in history and philosophy of science from the University of Notre Dame, and a PhD in psychology from Stony Brook University.[1] He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University before he accepted a position at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.[1]

Active Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Active SETI)[edit | hide]

Vakoch argues that in order to make contact, humankind may need to take the initiative in transmitting, a project called active SETI.[5] He has been called "a prominent voice in favor of active SETI,"[5] "the most prominent METI [messaging to extraterrestrial intelligence] proponent,"[6] and "the man who speaks for Earth."[7] In Discover's ranking of scientists either in favor of or opposed to transmitting, Vakoch was cited as "super pro," at the extreme of those advocating messaging.[8] After sixteen years at the SETI Institute,[9] where he was director of Interstellar Message Composition,[2][9] Vakoch founded METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence),[10] a nonprofit research and educational organization.[2]

Vakoch led METI's participation in Sónar Calling GJ 273b, which transmitted a series of interstellar messages to Luyten's Star, located 12.4 light years from Earth.[11] The project was initiated by the Sónar Festival to celebrate its 25th anniversary, and METI was invited to collaborate along with the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia.[12][13][14] METI created a scientific and mathematical tutorial that was transmitted at two radio frequencies on October 16, 17, and 18, 2017, from the 32-meter radio antenna in Tromsø, Norway, operated by the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association (EISCAT).[15] This tutorial was transmitted at 125 bits per second, using EISCAT's 930 MHz transmitter.[16] The duration of METI's tutorial message was 11 minutes on each of the three transmission dates in October 2017, for a total of 33 minutes. Within each 11-minute transmission, the tutorial was sent three times.[12] The only element of the tutorial that changed with each repetition was the time indicated on a "cosmic clock."[12] A novel feature of this clock is that it explains the passage of time by making reference to the duration of radio pulses themselves, meant to increase its intelligibility.[16] Luyten's Star was chosen as the target of the transmission because it is the nearest star visible from the EISCAT facility that is known to be orbited by an exoplanet in the star's habitable zone.[17] The transmission from Tromsø was announced on November 16, 2017, on the 43rd anniversary of the transmission of the Arecibo message.[18]

Vakoch said that METI's tutorial is "distinctive because it's designed with extraterrestrial SETI scientists in mind. We sent the sort of signal we'd want to receive here on Earth."[13] The repetition of the tutorial three times each day, which was repeated across three days, provides extraterrestrial scientists with an opportunity to conduct follow-up observations to confirm the signal. "This sort of confirmation is essential to having a credible SETI signal," Vakoch told CNET. "The last thing we want to do is send the aliens a Wow! Signal that's seen only once, but never replicated."

Vakoch noted that many past interstellar messages attempted to be encyclopedic, with the risk that by attempting to explain everything, the message may be unintelligible.[3][19] As an alternative, METI's message emphasized a few key scientific and mathematical concepts, starting with basic arithmetic, introducing triangles, and from there describing sine waves, allowing them to make reference to the radio signals used to transmit the message.[16] If extraterrestrials can detect METI's message, that means they have a radio receiver, which in turn requires a knowledge of some fundamental mathematics. "You’re not going to be a very good engineer, on Earth or GJ 273b, if you don’t know that one plus one equals two," Vakoch told Forbes.[20]

Given the distance between Earth and GJ 273b, a response could be received in less than 25 years. "I think that’s an unlikely outcome," Vakoch told New Scientist, "but it would be a welcome outcome."[21] If a response comes, however, that means "the galaxy is chock-full of alien life," he told Forbes.[20] Instead Vakoch suggested the process would need likely need to be replicated with many additional targets to receive a response. "It is a prototype for what I think we would most likely need to do 100 times, or 1,000 times, or 1 million times," he told "To me, the big success of the project will come if, 25 years from now, there's someone who remembers to look [for a response]. If we could accomplish that, that would be a radical shift of perspective."[15] METI plans to repeat this process with other stars.[19]

Vakoch says that intentional transmissions to GJ 273b do not increase the risk of an alien invasion, contrary to the concerns of Stephen Hawking, telling that "[i]t's really hard to imagine a scenario in which a civilization around Luyten's star could have the capacity to come to Earth and threaten us, and yet they're not able to pick up our leakage radiation."[15] He added that evidence of microbial life on Earth has been detectable even longer: "Any civilization that is capable of an alien invasion is already privy to our existence. Earth's atmosphere has been giving off evidence of the existence of life for two and a half billion years, by virtue of the oxygen in our atmosphere, so any paranoid aliens have had plenty of time to do us harm. There's no sign they've been here."[13]

When asked whether he thought the announcement of Sónar Calling GJ 273b would upset some within the SETI community, Vakoch told Newsweek that "[e]veryone engaged in SETI is already endorsing transmissions to extraterrestrials through their actions. If we detect a signal from aliens through a SETI program, there’s no way to prevent a cacophony of responses from Earth.... Once the news gets out that we’ve detected extraterrestrials, anyone with a transmitter can say whatever they want."[12] Vakoch says that some in the SETI community have criticized Active SETI as a viable strategy precisely because of the challenges of undertaking long-term projects.[15][22] Vakoch noted that efforts like Sónar Calling GJ 273b are not replacements for traditional passive SETI projects, but rather provide a complementary strategy.[19]

Vakoch has participated in public discussions about interstellar communication, arguing in favor of initiating transmission projects. This included a debate hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at its annual convention, held in San Jose, California on February 13, 2015 .[23][24] "[W]e should expand our strategies, so we are not only passively listening, but also transmitting intentional, information-rich signals," Vakoch said at the AAAS meeting, adding that "[w]ith recent detections of Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of other stars, we have natural targets for such transmission projects."[25] Vakoch argued that transmitting intentional signals does not increase the risk of an alien invasion, contrary to concerns raised by British cosmologist Stephen Hawking,[26] because "[a]ny civilization that has the ability to travel between the stars can already pick up our accidental radio and TV leakage.”[27][28] At the same AAAS meeting, astrophysicist and science fiction writer David Brin argued against this "barn door excuse"[23][28][29] and Brin contended that there should be no transmissions without international discussion.[30][28] Vakoch and Brin had a second debate at the annual ideacity conference in 2016, held in Toronto.[31][32][33] Vakoch also questions the logic of extraterrestrials traversing interstellar space to secure resources from Earth.[34] Vakoch told the Associated Press that active SETI is an “attempt to join the galactic club,”[35] and he argues that "it’s a reflection of the natural growth that you see in the science"[36] and "a reflection of SETI growing up as a discipline."[27]

Vakoch has argued for international consultation about transmission,[28][37] and he suggests avoiding “either-or” thinking by continuing international discussions even after beginning to transmit.[23][29] In an October 2015 letter in Nature Physics, he advocated the use of scientific peer review to determine whether to schedule time for transmission projects at publicly supported observatories,[38][39] a process that American astrobiologist Dirk Schulz-Makuch and Centauri Dreams's Paul Gilster argue is inadequate.[40][41]

“It may be that signaling of our intention to make contact is what’s really required to trigger a response,” Vakoch told Business Insider, adding that "the most critical reason to add Active SETI to our search strategy is that this may be the strategy that lets us make contact."[42] He suggests that this initiative from humankind may be a prerequisite for making contact. "We've always assumed that if the other civilization has the ability to communicate, they'll take on the burden of contacting us," he said to Monitor on Psychology, adding "[t]hat's not at all obvious to me."[5] Instead, he suggests that advanced extraterrestrials may be akin to “hyperintelligent cats—they know we’re here, but they just don’t care,”[43] and the goal of sending messages is to intrigue extraterrestrials enough to respond.[44] Vakoch suggests that sending intentional signals can test the Zoo Hypothesis, which assumes that extraterrestrial intelligence may be monitoring Earth, but they are waiting for a clear indication that humans wish to communicate.[45] He notes that if extraterrestrial civilizations are far from Earth, an exchange of messages could be a communication across generations.[46] Vakoch says that the financing of interstellar transmissions requires supporters who take a long-term perspective.[47]

Vakoch advocates initial active SETI projects that make use of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico,[48] during gaps in the schedule for planetary radar studies of recently discovered asteroids.[23][30][28] He proposes targeting stars located within 25 parsecs of Earth,[29] and he advocates transmitting repeatedly to "a set of nearby stars over the course of several months or years.”[25] Vakoch participated in radar studies of the near-Earth asteroid 2015 HM10 using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia in conjunction with the NASA Deep Space Network.[49][50]

When astronomers announced in August 2016 the discovery of a potentially Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of the star nearest our solar system, Proxima Centauri, Vakoch emphasized that if inhabited, the star’s close proximity to Earth would allow a round trip exchange of messages with extraterrestrials in less than nine years, telling CNET "[w]e could have several back-and-forth exchanges with any civilizations there over the course of a human lifetime."[51] “[W]e could finally have something like a real conversation with an alien, with the usual give-and-take that happens when we meet a stranger,” Vakoch told WIRED, adding “In less than a decade, we could send a message and receive a reply from curious Centaurians.”[52] Vakoch responded to earlier theories that planets orbiting red dwarf stars like Proxima Centauri would not be suitable to sustain life because they would be tidally locked, with one side of the planet always facing the star and the other side facing away, meaning that "[o]ne side of the planet would be scorched, while the other side would be perpetually frozen."[51] Vakoch argued that "new models of exoplanet atmospheres and oceans suggest that heat might be distributed around a tidally locked planet, leaving the door open for habitability. Even if the newly discovered exoplanet around Proxima Centauri is tidally locked, it could still be prime real estate for life."[51] Nevertheless, Vakoch noted challenges to the habitability of this planet, saying "[t]he biggest downside of Proxima Centauri for alien hunters is that it's a flare star, dramatically and unpredictably varying in brightness over the course of a few minutes due to its magnetic activity."[53]

Vakoch made similar comments about the potential habitability of exoplanets orbiting another red dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, noting "[b]ecause these planets have an orbit so close to the TRAPPIST-1 star, they are thought to be subject to the phenomenon of synchronized rotation."[54] He added that heat might be transferred on tidally locked planets, drawing a parallel to Earth: "[w]hen the Sun sets at night on the Golden Gate Bridge, I do not worry that San Francisco Bay will freeze."[54]

Vakoch’s edited book Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI),[55] based on papers presented at sessions he chaired at the 2010 NASA. Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon),[56] includes a section devoted to Active SETI.[57]

Passive SETI[edit | hide]

In 2010, Vakoch was one of the leaders of Project Dorothy, a multinational effort launched by Japanese astronomer Shin-ya Narusawa to observe several stars for signals from other civilizations to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Project Ozma, the first modern-day search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).[58] Telling The Washington Post about the Project Dorothy observations, Vakoch said "[w]hat this weekend really does is begin the process of making it possible to track a possible SETI signal around the globe," and he added "[i]f a signal is detected, it has to be confirmed and followed, and now we're setting up a network to do that."[58]

Vakoch participated in the earliest SETI observations of the anomalous star KIC 8452852, also known as Tabby’s Star, which some astronomers have hypothesized may be orbited by an alien megastructure.[59] The observations were conducted at optical frequencies at METI’s Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama,[60] and also at radio frequencies at the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in the United States.[61][62][63] No indications of artificial signals were detected at either facility: "The hypothesis of an alien megastructure around KIC 8462852 is rapidly crumbling apart," he said, adding "[w]e found no evidence of an advanced civilization beaming intentional laser signals toward Earth.”[64] Vakoch argued that the name Tabby’s Star is sexist because stars named after male astronomers have not used their first names.[65] Instead, Vakoch suggests that KIC 8452852 should be referred to as Boyajian’s Star, in recognition of Tabetha S. Boyajian, who led the team discovering the anomalous dimming.[65]

When a candidate SETI signal from the direction of the star HD 164595 was first announced by Russian astronomers, Vakoch told CNN that "[t]he signal from HD 164595 is intriguing, because it comes from the vicinity of a sun-like star, and if it's artificial, its strength is great enough that it was clearly made by a civilization with capabilities beyond those of humankind."[66] Given the strength of the signal detected from Russia, Vakoch said we could determine how advanced the transmutting civilization is if the signal is artificial, using the Kardashev Scale that hypothesizes Type I, Type II, and Type III civilizations: "If the signal from HD 164595 is from a civilization that is radiating out electromagnetic signals in all directions, that takes tremendous energy -- the energy of an entire star, represented by a Type II civilization," Vakoch told CNET.[67] “If it’s focused at Earth, then the civilization doesn’t need to have quite that great of a capability. It could be a Type I,” Vakoch said.[68] "Humanity is currently somewhere between Type 0 and Type I," he explained.[67] Vakoch said that "[i]n the past, plans for SETI follow-up observations have focused on confirmation of the original signal, seeking a repeat signal at the same frequency. That’s a critical step for confirmation – and we don’t yet have evidence that this sort of follow-up has happened for HD 164595."[69] Vakoch said that METI’s optical SETI observatory in Panama would be able observe HD 164595 "about an hour shortly after sunset each night,” weather permitting,[70] telling CNN that they would be "searching for any brief laser pulses that might be sent as a beacon from advanced extraterrestrials."[66] Because the Panama observatory is designed to avoid false positives, “[i]f we get a signal there, that’s a really strong sign we’ve really discovered extraterrestrial life,” Vakoch said, adding “[n]ow, we don’t expect to find that, but we’re going to do our due diligence. This is the sort of thing that, internally, we do all the time.”[71] While the original signal from the direction of HD 164595 was detected at radio frequencies, Vakoch argued for expanding the search to other frequencies: "if this were really a signal from extraterrestrials, we'd want to survey the target star across as much of the electromagnetic spectrum as we could."[66]

Vakoch was not optimistic about detecting a signal from HD 164595 but he said that follow-up observations help prepare for detecting a real signal: “I think the likely outcome of this is that there’s no indication that it’s ET, but it provides a critical preparation for a day we may really discover intelligence out there,” he told New Scientist.[72] Vakoch argues that replication of a putative SETI signal is essential for confirmation, and the lack of such replication means that past signals such as the Wow! signal have little credibility.[73][74] "Without corroboration from an independent observatory, a putative signal from extraterrestrials doesn't have a lot of credibility," he told CNN.[66] He urged that HD 164595 should not be treated as a plausible candidate without further confirmation: “Assuming we don’t find any evidence of a transmitting civilization as we conduct follow-up observations, the worst outcome would be to turn HD 164595 into another Wow signal – seen once, never confirmed, but lurking in the imagination as perhaps really a message from another world. Unless we can observe another similar signal from the vicinity of this star, we need to dismiss the May 2015 signal as a spurious result, and not wishfully hope it was really from ET.”[75]

When two Canadian astronomers argued that they potentially discovered 234 extraterrestrial civilizations through analysis of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database, Vakoch doubted their explanation for their findings, noting that it would be unusual for all of these stars to pulse at exactly the same frequency unless they were part a coordinated network: “If you take a step back,” he said, “that would mean you have 234 independent stars that all decided to transmit the same way.”[76] “The general mindset in SETI is that, before you say it’s an extraterrestrial intelligence, you have to think really creatively about what the natural explanations might be—and I think it’s way too early in the game to jump to the conclusion that it’s extraterrestrial intelligence,” Vakoch said.[77]

When astronomers announced in January 2017 that the fast radio burst FRB 121102 comes from a dwarf galaxy almost three billion light years from Earth, Vakoch said that METI was using the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama to search for brief laser pulses from the same target. "I'm not holding my breath, and I'm not expecting to find any evidence of ET, but the follow-up is straightforward, so we'll make the observations out of due diligence," he told CNET, adding "[s]o far we've found nothing that looks like the telltale sign of extraterrestrial technology."[78]

After the star Wolf 1061 was announced to be orbited by three "super-Earths," including Wolf 1061c that lies in the star's habitable zone, Vakoch reported that METI had on four separate occasions observed the star for brief laser pulses from its optical SETI observatory in Panama.[79] "[T]he fact that there’s a roughly Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of a star so close to our own solar system is a good omen as we continue our search for life on other planets,” he told Gizmodo.[80] "So far, we've found no indications of advanced technologies in this promising exoplanet just 14 light-years from Earth," he said.[79]

When unusual radio signals were reported in the vicinity of the red dwarf Ross 128, Vakoch noted that this star had already been searched for brief laser pulses five times in the past from METI's optical SETI observatory in Panama, with no evidence of extraterrestrial technology detected. He observed that the signals detected from Ross 128 did not fit the expected profile of a radio signal from extraterrestrials, and the signals had not repeated, which is further reason not to treat these signals as credible evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.[81]

When China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) went online, Vakoch told CNN that "China's latest telescope will be able to look faster and further than past searches for extraterrestrial intelligence."[82] He told The Telegraph that FAST is a “game-changer in the search for life in the universe".[83] "FAST's innovative design and huge collecting area give it unsurpassed speed and sensitivity, making it vital to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the coming decades," Vakoch told Xinhua, adding "[w]e can expect China to become a world leader in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence because of its demonstrated commitment in building FAST."[84] The telescope will study the distribution of hydrogen to understand the origin of the universe, and Vakoch says that "[b]ecause of FAST's incredible sensitivity, it will be able to chart the hydrogen distribution even in far flung galaxies."[82] He expected that FAST would lead to "a dramatic increase in the number and variety of pulsars discovered."[84] Vakoch also noted the limitations of the telescope, saying "FAST may help explain the origin of the universe and the structure of the cosmos, but it won't provide warning of Earth-bound asteroids that could destroy human civilization."[82]

When plans were announced to build the Qitai Radio Telescope (QTT), which would be the largest steerable radio telescope in the world, Vakoch noted its ability to pinpoint stars that are not accessible to FAST.[85] He noted the QTT could support the search for extraterrestrial life by scanning interstellar space for complex organic molecules, as well as searching for narrowband techno-signatures indicative of extraterrestrial intelligence.[85] Because FAST and the QTT can both search within the "water hole" that SETI scientists have long preferred, Vakoch told CNET that each observatory could confirm interesting signals detected by the other observatory within this frequency range.[86]

Vakoch suggests that the detection of extraterrestrials in a standard SETI scenario may be less clear-cut than usually assumed: "I think the assumption that one day someone is going to announce that we’ve discovered extraterrestrial intelligence, and now the world knows, is a fallacy, because there’s going to be much more ambiguity in the process."[87] “Unlike Hollywood movies, where you get a quick 'yes or no' about a possible signal from aliens,” Vakoch told Universe Today, “the real SETI confirmation process takes some time. It’s easy to think that all we need to do is get on the phone with an astronomer at another location, and we’re all set. But even when colleagues at other facilities are willing to observe, they may face technical limitations.”[88] He also assumes it may take some time to decode any message: "I don't think we're going to understand immediately what they have to say," he told ABC News.[89] “There’s going to be a lot of guesswork in trying to interpret another civilization," he told Science Friday, adding that "[i]n some ways, any message we get from an extraterrestrial will be like a cosmic Rorschach ink blot test.”[90]

Vakoch contends that it is essential to expand an understanding of SETI beyond the technology needed to search by also re-examining assumptions about the nature of intelligence, which was the motivation for the METI workshop, “The Intelligence of SETI: Cognition and Communication in Extraterrestrial Intelligence,”[10] held in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 18, 2016.[91] "By studying the variety of intelligence found on Earth," Vakoch said, "we can gain new insights into sending messages to life on other planets."[92] He called for "rethinking what SETI means," saying "what we haven't caught up with is the real understanding of intelligence."[93] Vakoch told the International Business Times that "[i]n this new approach, we're putting the intelligence back into SETI."[93] He argues that the fact that extraterrestrial intelligence may rely on different senses than humans adds to the complexity of interspecies communication.[94][95][96]

Interstellar message design[edit | hide]

Vakoch "leads an international group of scientists, artists and scholars from the humanities, as they ponder how we could communicate what it’s like to be human across the vast distances of interstellar space."[97] He advocates creating interstellar messages that begin with concepts shared by humans and extraterrestrials, such as basic mathematics and science and building on these shared concepts to express content that may be distinctly human.[98] He argues that while mathematics and science provide the best starting point for interstellar messages, it is possible that extraterrestrial mathematics and science may vary significantly from human mathematics and science.[73] He notes that on Earth both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries provide internally consistent frameworks for understanding the world, but they vary in their foundational assumptions.[96][47] Vakoch provided an overview of interstellar message design at the 2012 TEDx Nashville.[44]

In contrast to the images included on the Voyager Golden Record that emphasized the positive aspects of life on Earth, Vakoch proposes that we should be honest about human frailties.[99][100][101] He suggests that the most informative things that humankind can convey to an advanced civilization are the struggles humankind is going through as an adolescent technological civilization.[97][98][102][94] Vakoch argues that if we contact other civilizations, they will likely be thousands or millions of years older than humanity's civilization, meaning the extraterrestrial civilization would have greater stability.[103] "Perhaps it is not the beauty of our symphonies that will set us apart from extraterrestrials, nor our moral perfection – living true to our ideals of altruism. If we wish to convey what it is about us that is distinctive, it may be our weakness, our fears, our unknowing – and yet a willingness to forge ahead to attempt contact in spite of this," Vakoch told The Psychologist.[95]

Vakoch calls for increasing the range of people participating in interstellar message design, and he led a workshop in Paris in 2002 on the interface of art and science in interstellar messages.[104] Speaking to Reuters on the day of the meeting, he said "Today the focus has been on whether we can explain something about our aesthetic sensibilities. Is there something about art that is either universal or that can be taught, step by step, to another intelligence?"[104]

He chaired a follow-up meeting in Paris in 2003 called "Encoding Altruism," focusing on communicating altruism in interstellar messages.[105][106][46] Vakoch stressed that the goal of the workshop was not to present an image of humanity as unambiguously altruistic.[107] "Previous attempts at communication, such as on the Voyager space probe, presented the positive side of human beings," Vakoch told Nature, adding "There's been no poverty, or war, or the nuclear mushroom cloud. We're trying to start a tough dialogue about how we describe the breadth of human experience."[108]

Vakoch also led meetings attended by anthropologists and sociologists,[109] and he advocates interstellar messages that capture the diversity of human cultures.[110][94]

In 2009 Vakoch launched an internet-based project called Earth Speaks to collect messages from people around the world that they would want to send to extraterrestrial intelligence.[111][112] "One of the strongest themes we see in ‘Earth Speaks’ is a concern with our current environmental crisis," Vakoch said.[113] Among the messages gathered in the Earth Speaks project, "the loudest message is people asking for help," Vakoch told The New York Times.[114] "We gathered messages from people in over 80 countries around the world, and really sort of got the pulse of what people think we should say to other civilizations. Sometimes it maps on to what scientists are saying, suggesting we should start with math and science, and a lot of the greetings are just basic greetings of 'Hello, from the people of planet Earth,'" Vakoch told the Observer, adding that "[o]ne of the most interesting findings are that sometimes people have said if we find another civilization beyond Earth, it will diminish the differences we see between cultures and ethnicities here on Earth, because they’ll be so minuscule compared to the differences between ourselves and extraterrestrials. The exercise of preparing for a reply seems to be furthering that process of seeing our commonalities."[115] Vakoch said that Earth Speaks messages differed from greetings in the Voyager Golden Record insofar as the Earth Speaks messages included negative depictions of life on Earth.[116] The Earth Speaks project was also expanded to Spanish-speaking respondents as La Tierra Habla.[117]

Vakoch suggests that even if we never make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, the process of creating interstellar messages is valuable,[118] for example, by encouraging people to reflect on what they most care about.,[119][116]

He judges the proposal to send extraterrestrials a "digital data dump" of the full contents of the internet as "ugly,"[119] though he says there is no harm in doing this unless interstellar communication is a form of commerce, in which case we may shortchange future generations of humans by giving away everything from the outset of an interstellar exchange.[120] In contrast, Vakoch advocates sending interstellar messages that convey aesthetic concepts.[121] His own interstellar messages have been exhibited at the Chabot Space and Science Center[122] and at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, the latter in his @rt outsiders 2003 exhibit on interstellar messages about altruism titled "Le sacrifice de soi."[123] When asked by Science magazine what message he would want to send to extraterrestrials, Vakoch responded, "I would want to ask an extraterrestrial: What do you care about? What makes you happy?"[124][125]

Societal impact of SETI and astrobiology[edit | hide]

Vakoch argues for the importance of identifying analogues for making contact with extraterrestrials, because humans do not have direct access to extraterrestrial civilizations in advance of contact.[73] He suggests that the challenges of decoding the Rosetta Stone may provide insights into the challenges facing SETI scientists if they detect an information-rich signal from another civilization.[73][126][127]

Vakoch and Yuh-shiow Lee conducted a survey to assess people's reactions to receiving a message from extraterrestrials, including their judgments about likelihood that extraterrestrials would be malevolent.[128] "Chinese participants were able to imagine contact would lead to both risks and benefits,” Vakoch told The Washington Post, while Americans imagined the discovery of extraterrestrials would be "all good or all bad, but not both."[129] "People who view the world as a hostile place are more likely to think extraterrestrials will be hostile," Vakoch told USA Today.[130]

Vakoch says the majority of people already believe in the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.[131] Vakoch argues that the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence would not diminish the uniqueness of humankind.[73][97][132] Vakoch suggests that learning about an extraterrestrial civilization would increase people's self-understanding.[133] He argues that it is not likely that the discovery of extraterrestrial life will impact religious beliefs,[134] and he doubts that humans would be inclined to adopt extraterrestrial religions,[135] telling ABC News "I think religion meets very human needs, and unless extraterrestrials can provide a replacement for it, I don't think religion is going to go away," and he added, "[i]f there are incredibly advanced civilizations with a belief in God, I don't think Richard Dawkins will start believing."[136] Citing a survey by theologian Ted Peters that showed people were likely to think the discovery of extraterrestrial life would challenge the religious beliefs of other people, but their own beliefs would remain intact, Vakoch told The Washington Post that "[i]t looks like we don’t need to be worried about others not being able to handle an announcement of extraterrestrial life.... They’ll do just fine."[129]

Vakoch has edited a number of books that examine topics in SETI and astrobiology from multiple disciplinary perspectives, and these books have been reviewed in a number of journals. The review journal Choice described Vakoch's Extraterrestrial Altruism: Evolution and Ethics in the Cosmos[137] as "a fascinating speculation into the human condition and what makes us unique or perhaps not unique among all the (hypothetical) intelligences in the universe" and noted that the "book gives a broad perspective on the human condition and will be enjoyable to readers with a wide range of interests,"[138] highly recommending it for "[a]ll academic, general, and professional readers."[138] The same journal said about Vakoch and Matthew F. Dowd's The Drake Equation: Estimating the Prevalence of Life Through the Ages[139] that "[m]ost chapters are accessible to general readers, while some are at the advanced undergraduate or graduate level. Useful as a novel approach to a popular subject"[140] and recommended the book for "[a]ll library collections."[140] Vakoch and Albert A. Harrison's Civilizations Beyond Earth: Extraterrestrial Life and Society[141] was recommended for "[a]ll readers" by Choice.[142] Vakoch's Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication,[143] published by NASA, was selected by Library Journal as a "notable government document" of 2014, saying "[w]hile this is serious scholarship, general readers will appreciate the accessible writing."[144] DttP, Documents to the People wrote that "[t]hese authors have tackled a somewhat controversial subject in a very serious and non-condescending manner, which will be much appreciated by the reader. Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication is highly recommended for anyone interested in learning about the human quest to communicate with alien civilizations."[145] The same book was cited as an example of budgetary waste by Senator Tom Coburn.[146] Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication included a passage that several news stories took out of context to suggest that NASA had found evidence of extraterrestrial visitation in rock art.[147]

"Are we alone in the universe? If not, then what might that mean?" begins the Journal for the History of Astronomy's review of Vakoch's Astrobiology, History, and Society[148] and continues by saying "[t]his fascinating volume offers a history of what Western cultures have thought about these questions, a sampling of current work by scientists in astrobiology, and a group of probing essays on how human societies might respond if/when first contact with extraterrestrial life (ETL) or intelligence (ETI) would occur. It is useful to have all this in a single volume - a useful source for scientists, historians, anthropologists, and many other disciplines that concern themselves with these two large questions."[149]

Vakoch serves as the general editor of the Space and Society series, a scholarly book series published by Springer.[150]

Space exploration[edit | hide]

Vakoch has contributed to the study of space exploration, most notably through books examining psychological dimensions of space travel. The Journal of Military History noted about Vakoch’s edited book Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective that "[f]or those interested in an overview and synthesis of some of the key issues in the psychology of space exploration, this book provides a great introduction," adding that "[m]ost interestingly to those whose primary interest lies in history, many of the chapters engage the history of the psychology of space exploration quite well, most notably in the book’s first two chapters."[151][152] Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine observed that "[t]his book is unique in that it places much of the ongoing research and interest in the topic of human behavior and performance in space in historical perspective" and concluded that "[i]t is certainly worthwhile reading for those directly involved in the next phase of human exploration of space as well as those who will witness this phase from the confines of Earth."[153] Isis wrote that "[t]his diverse and thought-provoking collection represents an important departure for the NASA History Series, a turn from works focused on machines, missions, and management structures to a concern with the smaller group of space sciences interested in human subjects, like space medicine and human factors engineering" and noted that the book "represents an important step in bringing the human-focused space sciences to the attention of a wider audience."[154]

The Journal of Mind and Behavior noted that Vakoch’s follow-up book On Orbit and Beyond: Psychological Perspectives on Human Spaceflight includes several chapters that address the implications of the increased autonomy that astronauts would have on missions to Mars and Saturn, as compared to orbiting Earth or travelling to the Moon.[155][156] In an interview Vakoch explained the implications of this increased autonomy: "On missions to Mars, where greater autonomy will be expected of astronauts because of the greater distances, ground personnel should expect that their own roles will change over the course of the mission. Unless ground personnel are prepared, they may feel like they are no longer playing as central a role as they did shortly after liftoff because astronauts are now making more decisions."[157]

Vakoch explored the positive impact that space exploration can have on astronauts through the Overview Effect: "At its core, the Overview Effect is about gaining a new perspective about life on Earth, by viewing Earth from a distance. Having survived the flight into Earth orbit, contained in the artificial environment of a space capsule, astronauts look back to their home world with a sense of awe and wonder, appreciative of the fragility of their own planet."[157] He also drew parallels between the Overview Effect and the impacting of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence: "It has often been said that if we ever detect a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence, letting us know that we are not the only intelligent species in the galaxy, then the differences across terrestrial cultures that seem so crucial today will seem much less important. The differences between Us and Them across cultures here on Earth will seem trivial, when we compare our human commonalities with a new alien Them that evolved independently on another world. The Overview Effect provides a similar sense of perspective for those astronauts who have been able to see Earth from a distance, where the boundaries that we draw on maps are invisible, seeming more like human-made constructions than inevitabilities."[157] "From space, those lines that separate nations are invisible," Vakoch told Forbes, speaking of a photograph taken of Earth by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission, adding that "the Earthrise photo implies unity, one planet without boundaries."[158]

Vakoch told WIRED that today’s astronauts need capacities that differ from the earliest astronauts: "Historically someone with the 'right stuff' was a tough, individualistic person who could explore an unknown frontier with great courage and certainty…. Now, you not only need to be a self-sufficient individual, you need to be able to work with astronauts from other cultures on the International Space Station.... If you’re an American astronaut, very often you’ll be working with people who don’t put as high an emphasis on individualism as the United States does. So, beyond the need for autonomy and independence, there is a greater need for interpersonal and intercultural sensitivity among astronauts."[159] "In the early days of space exploration, it really was important to just have the 'right stuff.' If you don’t get along very well with people, you can suck it up for a couple weeks," he told Inverse, adding "[b]ut when you’re talking about a mission that’s going to last for a year, and you don’t have a safe way to vent, that’s going to be a big problem."[160] "The expectation that astronauts 'have the right stuff' is a big barrier," Vakoch told The Verge, adding that "[t]hey don't want to admit faults, nor do they want to lose flight status."[161] He said that astronauts on long-duration missions beyond Earth’s orbit will face new challenges, telling NOW.SPACE that "there’s going to be a lot of boredom on a trip to Mars."[162] "Boredom and feeling separation from home will peak during the travel between Earth and Mars and back," he told Nightsky.[157] Vakoch told OMNI that despite the challenges of boredom, "[t]he greatest advantage of having humans onboard a deep space mission is that we excel at dealing with the unpredictable."[163]

The Mars One plan to send settlers on a one-way mission adds additional stresses for astronauts, Vakoch told Discovery Channel Magazine: "Mars One is revolutionary because it overcomes one of the greatest challenges faced by past missions planned for the Red Planet: getting back home safely," adding that "[a]stronauts usually have the comfort of knowing they can return to a safe, familiar environment. However difficult the mission is, there’s an end in sight. Not so for Mars One. By launching off to Mars, they’ll be making a commitment to an unknown way of life that they can never 'unchoose.'"[164] He said there are analogues of people making one-way trips, though "[m]ost people can’t conceive of going on Mars One, because they can’t imagine leaving behind everything they love on Earth," adding that "[i]n reality, this is similar to the loss that all immigrants felt throughout the history of human migrations, whether they were forced to leave home or whether they left voluntarily."[164]

At the 2008 annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Vakoch chaired the symposium "To the Moon and Mars: Psychology of Long-Duration Space Exploration,"[165] which was identified as a "highlight" of the convention.[166]

Vakoch has also examined unmanned space exploration. Commenting on plans to send miniature spacecraft to a nearby star, he told the International Business Times that "[b]y sending hundreds or thousands of space probes the size of postage stamps, Breakthrough Starshot gets around the hazards of spaceflight that could easily end a mission relying on a single spacecraft. Only one nanocraft needs to make its way to Alpha Centauri and send back a signal for the mission to be successful. When that happens, Starshot will make history."[167] Focusing within the solar system, he commented on NASA’s plans to send a lander to Jupiter’s moon Europa, telling Gizmodo that "[t]he top priority of this lander mission will be to search for evidence of life on Europa," adding that "even if that main goal isn’t met, we will learn a great deal about the potential habitability of this icy moon, which will be essential for future, even more ambitious missions."[168]

Cognitive, cross-cultural, and clinical psychology[edit | hide]

Vakoch has collaborated on several empirical studies of human cognition. His research in psycholinguistics with Lee Wurm explores the perception of speech and emotion from an evolutionary framework,[169][170] with their findings indicating that "speech perception and the affective lexicon" are "closely tied together."[171] Vakoch's experimental work with Yuh-Shiow Lee suggests that complex rules are learned better through implicit learning, while simple rules are learned better though explicit learning,[172] with their research suggesting that "implicit learning can be more efficient than explicit learning."[173] Vakoch and the late psychotherapy researcher Hans Herrman Strupp suggested that the expert understanding of experienced psychotherapists is not adequately captured by manualized psychotherapy,[174] and they argued that manualized training can impede "the development of clinical judgment and complex reasoning."[175][176]

Vakoch’s cross-cultural research on the perception of tonal languages with Yuh-Shiow Lee and Lee Wurm suggests that native speakers of tonal languages are better able to discriminate tonal differences than speakers of non-tonal languages,[177][178] finding "that English listeners had difficulty discriminating Cantonese and Mandarin tones; these authors also found that speakers of the two tone languages were better at discriminating tone contrasts of their own language than of the other language (although they were still better than the English listeners)."[179]

Vakoch’s edited volume Altruism in Cross-Cultural Perspective[180] has been called "a high-quality tool for cross-cultural studies of altruism and beyond”[181] and PsycCRITIQUES notes that "[t]his book should be of interest to both students and professionals concerned with gaining a broader understanding of altruism in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary perspectives” and judges that the epilogue "is worth the price of the book alone."[182] PsycCRITIQUES also identifies limitations of this book: "Although a number of authors address the role of altruism in the context of Eastern religions (Taosim and Hinduism), traditional rituals, and spiritualism, a weakness of the book is that the role of altruism in the Judeo-Christian tradition is barely examined" and "[a]nother weakness is that the chapters are not pulled together very successfully. It would have been helpful to have a final overview chapter to pull the various strands together."[182]

Vakoch is a professor of clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).[5][183]

Ecopsychology and ecocriticism[edit | hide]

In conjunction with the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in 2008, Vakoch assessed people's responses to environmental problems.[184] "I think most people recognize we face a severe environmental crisis, but it's hard to deal with that head-on because most people feel helpless to do anything about it," he told USA Today, adding "[i]f we look at the nature of the problem, it is so big it's hard to know what any individual can do in their own life to make a difference."[184] Vakoch called for additional research into the psychology of environmental issues, saying "[w]e are recognizing that environmental problems have a tremendous impact on many aspects of our lives, but we need a lot more work."[184] He cautioned that "[w]e can't afford to let this increased environmental concern become just another fashionable trend."[184]

"Psychologists are increasingly becoming involved in helping alleviate environmental problems," Vakoch told CQ Researcher, adding that "[p]sychologists are very experienced in dealing with denial and in helping to frame messages in ways that people can hear the bad news without being paralyzed by it."[185] "The most important lesson . . . is that there is no 'one size fits all' solution to environmental problems," Vakoch said, adding "[t]o create effective public policies, leaders need to recognize that different people are willing to adopt more environmentally sound behaviors for different reasons. What's compelling for one person will fail for another."[185]

PsycCRITIQUES's review of Vakoch and Fernando Castrillón's Ecopsychology, Phenomenology, and the Environment[186] observes that "[a]lthough ecopsychological phenomenology’s lack of shrillness is refreshing and laudable for the intrinsic human values it promotes, the book’s strengths contain its vulnerability. We have reached some critical tipping points, and we cannot continue with business as usual. The authors in Ecopsychology, Phenomenology, and the Environment are well aware of this. Rather than making dire warnings, they ask the big questions."[187] This reviewer noted that "[w]hat I liked least about Ecopsychology, Phenomenology, and the Environment is that all of its authors are North Americans or people living in North America" and "[w]hat I liked most about it, apart from some really beautiful writing, is its mature approach to suffering and the wildness of our nature, as part of the great chain of being. There is a cogent argument that we must address our sense of separateness from the world that holds us. I believe that readers will come away with an expanded sense of identity, and with a sense of calmness about what can be done and how one might go about contributing."[187]

Vakoch’s books in ecofeminism have been widely reviewed in scholarly journals. The review journal Choice recommended Vakoch's Feminist Ecocriticism[188] for “[u]pper-division undergraduates through faculty,”[189] and Environmental Philosophy called it "an excellent contribution of Post-structuralist Ecofeminist thought on the contemporary liberatory alternatives debate."[190] English Studies noted that "[u]nfortunately, Feminist Ecocriticism presents a slightly anachronistic view of ecofeminism, and fails to take into account the many exciting developments taking place in the field since 2000, such as material feminism"[191] and "[t]he collection's main flaw is that the essays rarely, if at all, reference scholarly work published since the turn of the century,"[192] while "the biggest contribution it makes, which is certainly not unimportant, is to the study of individual works, most notably Carson's sea books (Sullivan) and Silent Spring (Magee)."[193]

The reviewer of Vakoch's Ecofeminism and Rhetoric[194] for the journal Women & Language noted that "[t]he material is challenging—in terms of its challenge to popular thinking and conventional scholarship—and, yes, even troubling. However, the authors' reflection on their own work and the frames offered at the beginning and the end of the book provide useful ways of processing the theories and examples, making this is a book to which I will return. Ecofeminism and Rhetoric provides a strong overview of the field, news ways of operationalizing ecofeminist theory, and an awareness of possible problems with ecofeminism and answers to those critiques."[195] The same reviewer wrote that "[b]ecause Ecofeminism and Rhetoric provides a strong overview of the field, proffering both classic and innovative ecofeminist critiques, it is appropriate for a variety of audiences ranging from the seasoned ecofeminist to one who has just discover ecofeminism. Additionally, reading the epilogue first will help the selective reader choose how to prioritize the chapters. I will use this book again in projects outside of ecofeminism because the lens is well cultivated and the meta-conversation insightful."[196]

The Journal of Ecocriticism said of the same book "[i]n many ways, Ecofeminism and Rhetoric continues the shift toward an interdisciplinary approach in academic publishing. Relevant to many academics, its clear prose, recognizable ecologies, and varied topics attract readers from English departments to the Biological sciences. Undoubtedly, versatility and applicability of Vakoch’s essay collection should not be overlooked."[197] Gender, Place & Culture commended "the collection on its ambitious scope" and suggested that "research students and academics will enjoy reading it, and undergraduate students may benefit from the overview chapters that frame the theoretical approaches therein."[198] Anthropological Forum said "Ecofeminism and Rhetoric is a worthwhile contribution which will be valuable for undergraduates and researchers both within and outside the academic field of ecofeminism. It has much to commend it as an introductory text in the area."[199] Rhetoric Review noted that "Ecofeminism and Rhetoric gives us a small but potentially very valuable window on one avenue of developing the field in this postapocalyptic era of global warming, species reduction, desertification, ecoracism, environmental injustice, slumming as a growth industry in rapid urbanization, and one energy crisis after another."[200] The same journal wrote that "[a] book on ecofeminist rhetoric assumes a difficult task. Not only does it venture into relatively uncharted territory, it also proposes to bring together three fields that all have distinct identities and a large specialized literature: feminism, environmental studies, and rhetoric. The temptation in any analysis of this kind is to focus on one of the three areas at the expense of the others rather than to achieve an effective synthesizing vision. While this collection of essays does an admirable job of opening the topic of ecofeminist rhetoric to further inquiry, it does not achieve the synthesizing vision except in rare moments. What suffers most in the mix is rhetorical scholarship."[201]

Vakoch’s edited volumes in ecofeminism have been criticized for not including adequate multicultural representation among the contributors and perspectives.[199][202] One reviewer questioned a volume on ecofeminism that includes so many male contributors.[199]

Vakoch serves as the general editor of the Ecocritical Theory and Practice series, published by Lexington Books.[203]

Recognition[edit | hide]

  • Vakoch was elected as a member of the International Institute of Space Law in 2002.[204]
  • In 2006 he was awarded a Leonardo da Vinci Space Art Award "for dedication to the language and codes for broader cosmic reception and communication and their broader cultural meanings."[205]
  • Vakoch was elected as a corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics in 2009.[206]
  • In 2010 he presented the talk "Aesthetics for Aliens: Art, Music, and Extraterrestrials" in the Victor M. Bearg Science and Humanities Scholars Speaker Series at Carnegie Mellon University.[207]
  • He gave a keynote address in 2011 on "a psychological perspective on sending messages to unknown extraterrestrial life forms" at an international symposium on the History and Philosophy of Astrobiology on the island of Ven, hosted by the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Study at Lund University in Sweden.[208]
  • In 2016 Vakoch gave the Benjamin Dean Astronomy Lecture "Calling the Cosmos: How to Talk with Extraterrestrials" at Morrison Planetarium of the California Academy of Sciences.[209]
  • He gave the keynote address "Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)" for the Astrobiology Track at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[210]
  • Vakoch is a member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Within the IAU, he is a member of Division B (Facilities, Technologies and Data Science), Division C (Education, Outreach and Heritage), Division F (Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy), Commission B4 (Radio Astronomy), Commission C2 (Communicating Astronomy with the Public), and Commission F3 (Astrobiology).[211]

Filmography[edit | hide]

Date Film As Video Link
2008 Calling E.T.[212][213] Himself Trailer[214]
2015 The Visit: An Alien Encounter[215][216][217] Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute[218] Full film (in English),[219] (in Italian)[220]


2019 Earthling’s Quest[222][223] Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, President, METI International Trailer[224]

Television[edit | hide]

Date Network/Channel Program Episode As Video Link
1999-12-20 Channel 4/Discovery Channel[225] Equinox Episode 14, Talking with Aliens[226][227][228][229] Himself, as Douglas Vakoch Full episode
2002-08-02 Australian Broadcasting Corporation Catalyst Are We Alone? (Part 2)[230] Himself, as Dr Doug Vakoch
2006 arte Cosmic Connexion[231][232] Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Psychologue-Psychologe, SETI Program segment (in French)[94]
2007-08-07 BBC The Cosmos: A Beginner’s Guide Episode 1, Life in the Cosmos[233][234][235] Himself, as Dr Doug Vakoch, SETI Institute Full episode (in Russian)[236]
2009 PBS Closer to Truth Episode 31, Where are They, All Those Aliens? Himself, as Doug Vakoch
2009 PBS Closer to Truth Episode 46, Would Intelligent Aliens Undermine God? Himself, as Doug Vakoch
2010-08-23 France 2 Sommes-nous seuls dans l'univers ?[237][238] Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Responsible des messages interstellaire, SETI Institute, Mountain View, Californie, USA Full episode (in French)[239][240]
2011-02-13 Discovery Science Alien Encounters (TV series)[241] Episode 1, The Message Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Psychologist, SETI Institute Full episode[242][243]
2011-03-20 Discovery Science Alien Encounters (TV series)[241] Episode 2, The Arrival Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Psychologist, SETI Institute Full episode[244][245]
2012-05-24 History Channel/ Smithsonian Channel The True Story Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The True Story Himself, as Dr Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, S.E.T.I. Institute Full episode[246]
2013 arte Zwischen Himmel und Erde[247] Episode 13, Kalifornien, Kommunikation mit Ausserirdischen[248] Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Directeur des communications interstellaire, Seti Institute Full episode (in German)[249]
2013-03-19 Science Channel[250] Aliens: The Definitive Guide Episode 1, What to Expect[251][252] Himself, as Dr. Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute Full episode (in Russian)[253]
2013-03-26 Science Channel[250] Aliens: The Definitive Guide Episode 2, How to Prepare[254][255] Himself, as Dr. Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute Trailer[256]
2014 History Channel Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Senior Scientist, SETI Institute Full episode[257]
2015 Is Anybody Out There?[258] Himself, as Douglas A. Vakoch Ph.D. Director of Interstellar Message Composition Trailer 1,[259][260] Trailer 2[261]
2015 PBS Closer to Truth Episode 183, Does the Cosmos have a Reason? Himself, as Doug Vakoch
2016-04-29 PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Himself, as Doug Vakoch, METI International Full segment[262]
2016 Česká televize Hyde Park Civilizace[263] Himself, as Dr. Douglas Vakoch, President of METI International Full episode[264]
2016-08-29 ABC7 Science World Buzzing Over Galactic Space Radio Blip Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Ph.D., METI International Full segment[265]
2017-02-07 Science Channel What on Earth? Season 3, Episode 12, Curse of the Sea Monster[266] Himself, as Dr Douglas Vakoch, Astrobiologist
2017-04-04 EénVandaag Don’t phone ET Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence Full segment (in Dutch)[267]
2017-04-20 NPO 1 Kuipers zoekt contact Himself Trailer (in Dutch)[268]

Radio[edit | hide]

Date Network/Station Program Episode As Audio Link
2002-07-31 Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National (RN) Perspective Conversing with Extra Terrestrials[269] Himself, as Doug Vakoch
2003-11-13 NPR/KQED Forum Extraterrestrial Life[270][271] Himself, as Dr. Doug Vakoch, SETI Institute
2004-09-20 BBC Radio 4 First Impressions[272] Himself, as Doug Vakoch
2008-12-01 Pulse of the Planet KSC SETI - Math Speak Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute Full episode[273]
2008-12-08 Pulse of the Planet KSC SETI - Messages Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute Full episode[274]
2010-02-23 Pulse of the Planet Kids' Science Challenge: SETI - Greetings from Earth Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute Full episode[275]
2012-01-21 BBC Discovery Seti, the past, present and future Himself, as Doug Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute Full segment[276]
2012-05-01 BBC Wales Science Cafe[277] Astrobiology Himself, as Doug Vakoch, SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
2013-07-15 BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth Is anyone listening to us? Himself, as Doug Vakoch, SETI Institute Program segment[278]
2013-07-22 BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth How do you talk to an alien? Himself, as Doug Vakoch, SETI Institute Full episode[279]
2013-12-13 Interfaith Voices Would Alien Contact Change Religion on Earth? Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute Full segment[280]
2014-12-15 NPR/KQED KQED Science Designing the Interstellar Doorbell (Or How to Talk to ET) Himself Full episode[281]
2015-07-23 PRI/KCRW To the Point Big Money and New Discoveries in the Search for Aliens Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, SETI Institute Full segment[282]
2016-11-18 NPR/Science Friday Science Goes to the Movies ‘Arrival’ Himself, as Doug Vakoch, president, METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International Full segment[283][284]
2016 Newstalk Moncrieff Messaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, president, Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Full segment[285]
2016-11-25 CBC Radio The Current If there are aliens, how can we communicate? Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, president, METI International Full segment[286]
2017-02-01 RCN - Radio Cadena Nacional Sala Internacional Nuevos esfuerzos por contactar vida extraterrestre Himself, as Douglas Vakoch, presidente de METI International Full episode (in Spanish)[287][288]
2017-02-13 The Wow! Signal Podcast Episode 35, There is Here Himself, as Doug Vakoch,'s president Full episode[289]
2017-02-20 SWR2 Wissen E.T. - hörst Du mich?: Das METI-Project Himself, as Dr. Douglas Vakoch, Präsident der Non-Profit-Organisation METI Full segment (in German)[290]

Selected bibliography[edit | hide]

Vakoch, D. A. (2011). Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence. Albany, State University of New York Press.[55]

Vakoch, D. A. (2011). Ecofeminism and rhetoric: critical perspectives on sex, technology, and discourse. New York, Berghahn Books.[194]

Vakoch, D. A. (2011). Psychology of space exploration: contemporary research in historical perspective. Washington, DC, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Communications, History Program Office.[152]

Vakoch, D. A. (2012). Feminist ecocriticism: environment, women, and literature. Lanham, MD, Lexington Books.[188]

Vakoch, D. A. (2013). Altruism in cross-cultural perspective. New York, Springer.[180]

Vakoch, D. A. (2013). Astrobiology, history and society: life beyond earth and the impact of discovery. Heidelberg, Springer Verlag.[148]

Vakoch, D. A. (2013). On orbit and beyond: psychological perspectives on human spaceflight. Heidelberg, Germany, Springer-Verlag.[156]

Vakoch, D. A. (2014). Archaeology, anthropology, and interstellar communication. Washington, DC, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Communications, Public Outreach Division, History Program Office.[143]

Vakoch, D. A. (2014). Extraterrestrial altruism: evolution and ethics in the cosmos. Heidelberg [u.a.], Springer.[137]

Vakoch, D. A., & Castrillon, F. (2014). Ecopsychology, phenomenology, and the environment: the experience of nature. New York, Springer.[186]

Vakoch, D. A., & Dowd, M. F. (2015). The Drake equation: estimating the prevalence of extraterrestrial life through the ages. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.[139]

Vakoch, D. A., & Harrison, A. A. (2011). Civilizations beyond earth: extraterrestrial life and society. New York, Berghahn Books.[141]

Vakoch, D. A., & Mickey, S. (2018). Ecofeminism in dialogue. Lanham, MD, Lexington Books.[291]

Vakoch, D. A., & Mickey, S. (2018). Literature and ecofeminism: intersectional and international voices. London, Routledge.[292]

Vakoch, D. A., & Mickey, S. (2018). Women and nature?: beyond dualism in gender, body, and environment. London, Routledge.[293]

References[edit | hide]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Overbye, Dennis (2002-03-05). "SCIENTIST AT WORK: DOUGLAS VAKOCH; When It's Not Enough to Say 'Take Me to Your Leader'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Scoles, Sarah (2016-07-15). "Meet the Guy Who Left the SETI Institute to Talk to Aliens". WIRED. Retrieved 2017-04-16. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hintermayer, Niklas (2018-03-09). "Anyone there?". Forbes Utopia. Retrieved 2018-03-09. 
  4. Johnson, Steven (2017-07-02). "To Whom It May Concern". The New York Times Magazine: 36. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Winerman, Lea (October 2015). "Hello? Anyone out there?". Monitor on Psychology. 46 (9): 44. 
  6. Boyle, Rebecca (2017-02-08). "Why these scientists fear contact with space aliens". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  7. Rothman, Joshua (2014-06-10). "The Man Who Speaks for Earth". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-04-17. 
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