Knowing that Dr. Laurance Doyle could be our Earth’s first ambassador to aliens from outer space, the chance of a positive first encounter seems possible with him at the helm. Working as the Principal Investigator for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Doyle has promulgated the reality of finding inhabitable planets to the point where he believes they will definitely identify quite a number of them within the next few years. In addition, his research into communicating with animals on our own planet, has furthered the possibility of communicating with aliens once we know exactly where to point our radio telescopes.
“Our primary work is expressing God in our unique way – and remembering this job in our day-to-day activities is the source of joy, and dispels competition, insecurity, or discouragement,” said Doyle. “In my work I have to come up with new ideas, new solutions, and it has been of immeasurable value to know that the infinite Mind supplies all ideas, so there is always an answer. Knowing there is always an answer, then, we listen for the inspiration until it comes, and it always does.”
Doyle gave a talk at Wanamaker Hall on October 20 entitled “Information Theory, Animal Communication & Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” The astrophysicist gave a slide show of his work and played audio recordings of different mammals and humans, used a mathematical field called ‘information theory’ to quantify animal communications and compared them to human speech of many languages. The results were astounding as he showed graphs that have the language of bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales matching the information theory graphs of all the major human languages. Therefore it would seem as though any alien language should also follow the same trends. Doyle and his research partner were the first ever to use this theory for quantifying the communication of bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, squirrel monkeys and ground squirrels, although the theory was invented years ago to study how much voice and data was being transferred over phone lines.
It is this kind of creative thinking that will help scientists to be able to discern extraterrestrial communications once we are able to record any with radio telescopes, like the ones used by SETI. Doyle is no stranger to other human languages either, as he has studied Navajo and Cherokee.
“I taught Native American history at Principia for several years and one of the aspects of Native American culture that I love is gratitude and respect for all of creation – the all inclusiveness of everything in the ‘sacred circle,'” said Doyle. “All of God’s creation is sacred, and this respect is a teaching that could significantly help the modern world. Respect for the Earth and our fellow inhabitants is a big part of indigenous cultures worldwide, and this kind of gratitude is an important quality for the future of humankind.”
Doyle is the chief investigator into photography and data that comes from the NASA Kepler Spacecraft in outer Earth orbit, which is a telescope focused on one region of space where they believe they will find many planets like Earth. On a daily basis at SETI, Doyle downloads data from the spacecraft and reviews it for the discovery of extrasolar planets using techniques he and other collaborators at SETI have invented over the years. At one of his talks to Physics students during his visit to Prin, he showed a PowerPoint presentation which revealed a brand new extrasolar detection system that he only recently discovered using data from Kepler, although he is very grateful to have one of his fellow collaborators at SETI help him write and publish the scientific paper which will unveil it to the world. Doyle has very special appreciation for collaboration between different fields in all kinds of science.
“One way of viewing the ‘whole man’ concept of education at Principia might be to dig deep into one academic field, but then see its connections with other fields of study,” said Doyle. “For example, by learning physics deeply, one can relate to the depths of music, or history. And if you see these connections, I think one will find new discoveries on the borders between disciplines. I’ve spent most of my career exploring these borders, mixing various fields with mostly astronomy, and it has been very fruitful and fun.”
This is also very true for Doyle and Christian Science, as he has published many articles in the Christian Science Sentinel and Journal, and even special recordings for radio broadcasts by Sentinel radio and some sold in Christian Science Reading Rooms. He gave at least two talks on Christian Science during his most recent visit at the end of last month, both of them in the Joe McNabb House living room. One talk was called “Academics and Spiritual Growth” and the other was “A Spiritual Career for Everyone.” In one of his talks he referenced Infinite Mind in a special way.
“Infinite Mind is the aspect of God that I most associate with creation. Since a mind can only think ideas like that mind, the infinite (and therefore only) Mind must be thinking ideas like Itself only. This is why creation is the image and likeness, or reflection, of God. Creation is the ideas of the infinite Mind and, as Mary Baker Eddy wrote, ‘ever appearing.’”
Doyle truly covered all kinds of ground during his visit, including a visit and talk to Middle and Upper School students at the Upper School Gallery, where he discussed “Solar and Lunar Eclipses in History.” He also ventured into the city of Saint Louis where he gave a talk at the Science Cafe entitled ‘Quantum Astronomy.’ He shared the same topic with chemistry students at Prin who are studying Quantum Chemistry.
Some other details found in his Principia biography, Doyle has been a Principal Investigator with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, since 1987, where his main projects have been the photometric detection of extra-solar planets, the application of information theory to animal communications, the ecology of circumstellar habitable zones, and the application of quantum physics to solve certain astronomical problems. He is a visiting Lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz teaching classes on Life in the Universe, and Light & Optics, and has about one hundred refereed papers in scientific literature. He is President of Planet Quest, a non-profit corporation that brings planet detection capability to the public via an educational screen-saver and browser. He has taught quantum physics, thermodynamics, introductory astronomy, history of science and Native American history here at Prin in the 1990’s. He is presently a Participating Scientist on the Science Team of the NASA Kepler Mission with responsibility for detection of extrasolar planets around eclipsing binary star systems.