LAFSF Presents ‘Minds Beyond Earth: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, UFOs And The Heavenly Host’ June 27 At SALA’s Roxy Theater


Nels Hoffman is slated to speak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 27 at SALA’s Roxy Theatre. Pizza will be served at 6 p.m. in the foyer.

For millennia, humans have looked to the heavens for guidance, help, and hope. In 1959, Guiseppi Cocconi and Philip Morrison proposed a search for radio signals sent by a hypothetical advanced civilization on a  planet “near some star rather like the Sun.” Morrison, a veteran of the Manhattan Project and a student  of Oppenheimer’s, was looking for hope – hope that the discovery of an advanced civilization would  show that scientific societies could survive the danger posed by nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile Frank Drake had  secretly begun such a search at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 1975 the US government  began funding NASA to carry out the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The program would go  on for nearly 20 years. Today SETI continues under private funding. Although not directly connected to  SETI, unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) likewise conjure ideas  of extraterrestrial intelligence. Also like SETI, UFOs and UAPs have been the subject  of government investigations, but motivated by national security concerns, under Project Blue Book  (1952-1969) and more recently pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022,  which requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit an annual report to Congress on  UAPs. The concept of UFOs continues to attract popular attention, a phenomenon which itself is  garnering greater interest in academia, no matter whether the government is interested or not.  Although not the subject of any government investigations, a host of angels — celestial intelligence — is  affirmed to exist by many religious believers around the world, who regard the “watchers and holy  ones” as active agents in human affairs. We’ll consider the human propensity to look to the heavens,  and compare and contrast SETI, UFOs, and angels as sources of guidance, help, and hope. 

Nelson M. Hoffman, PhD, is a physicist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in the Plasma Theory  and Applications Group of the Computational Physics (XCP) Division. He earned a B.A. in Physics from  Rice University in 1970, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin in 1974. His research  interests are mainly in the areas of laser-driven fusion and plasma physics, currently emphasizing ion kinetic models for transport in laser-driven capsule implosions, gamma-ray diagnostics of such capsules,  and statistical inference (“machine learning”) applied to data analysis. He has authored or co-authored  more than 85 technical publications, which have garnered more than 2300 citations. Nels is a member of First United Methodist Church of Los Alamos, and is active in the Kairos Prison Ministry. He is a  founding member and past president of the Los Alamos Faith & Science Forum (LAF&SF). Influenced by  the writings on the history of science and culture by Toby Huff, Lawrence Principe, James Hannam,  David Lindberg, Joseph Henrich, and many others, Nels believes it is highly likely that, without the crucial  influence of Christianity in human cultural history, modern science would not even exist. 

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