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2/20/96

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"Destiny of Man" subject of public lecture

STANFORD -- Ronald N. Bracewell - a radio astronomer who pioneered a new method for detecting planets around other suns and also developed a method for reconstructing astronomical images that was adopted for use in CAT scanners - will deliver the 15th annual Bunyan Lecture at Stanford.

The free, public lecture, "The Destiny of Man," is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, in Terman Auditorium. The event is sponsored by Stanford's astronomy program.

The theme for Bracewell's talk is taken from the bequest that established the annual lecture series 16 years ago. James T. Bunyan, who worked at the Hoover Institution, specified that after his death his accumulated savings be used to endow lectures that "inquire into man's changing vision of the cosmos and of human destiny as revealed in the latest discoveries in the fields of astronomy and space exploration."

Bracewell will address the topic by looking at a variety of predictions of humanity's future, ranging from the optimistic to the pessimistic. "I look at it this way. We don't know where we are going, but there are a number of people who have views on it. You can make some interesting predictions if you look at the time scale of things that could happen and the sequence in which they will happen. In that way you can determine that a number of things that ought to happen never will," he said.

Take the possibility that Earth will end by being sucked into the sun. While that will happen if nothing else intervenes, it is far more likely that the sun will explode in a nova before it swallows its planets, Bracewell said.

The topics he will cover include the probability that intelligent life exists on other planets in the galaxy; the likelihood that life originated in some other part of the galaxy and was started on Earth by space-spanning bacterial spores; and whether the universe is headed toward some form of cosmic consciousness.

Bracewell is the Lewis M. Terman Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. He is most often associated with his work in radio astronomy, although he has published in the fields of electromagnetic theory, applied mathematics and solar physics. He is the author of the popular book The Galactic Club: Intelligent Life in Outer Space.

A native of Australia, Bracewell received his doctorate from the University of Sydney. He has been elected a foreign member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards for his scientific achievements.

-dfs-

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