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Guest Editorial

Passing the SETI Torch
by H. Paul Shuch
Executive Director Emeritus

When I first became engaged in the SETI discipline more than four decades ago, the founders of the field (with household names such as Drake, Oliver, Billingham, Kraus, Bracewell, and Morrison, to name just a few) were still very much alive and active, offering both leadership and mentorship. Senior educators and scientists all, I sought them out, and found them all most generous with their time and guidance. With their encouragement, I joined SETI Generation Two. The pioneers of Generation One nurtured and guided me, enabling me to become modestly successful. I only hope I proved worthy to follow in their footsteps.

Last month, while attending SETIsymposium2022 at the Pennsylvania State University, I was given the opportunity to meet some of those I will call SETI Generation Three, a sizeable cadre of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars whom I look forward to mentoring. This is altogether appropriate, as I have now reached the age that many of SETI's pioneers had attained when first I sought out their guidance.

I found the quality of the posters and presentations I observed at Penn State truly stunning. SETI Generation Three is employing tools from disciplines that didn't even exist when I started down the yellow brick road, and those tools (from diverse fields such as gaming theory and machine learning) are opening up doors I never knew existed. And because of these talented youngsters, the discipline is evolving. What started out as observational SETI has been transformed into a complex search for biosignatures and technosignatures. Despite what little mentorship and encouragement I can offer, I find myself sitting back and watching in awe from the sidelines.

And this, of course, is as it should be. SETI is a dynamic, not a static, discipline. In the words of Leslie Fish's inspiring song Hope Eyrie, "if you will not perish, then grow." And the growth of the SETI field is truly astounding.

I took a lot of pictures at SETIsymposium2022. Over the coming months, in our Image of the Week posts to the SETI League website, you will meet many of the members of SETI Generation Three. Hopefully, as we are able to put pandemic restrictions behind us, you will meet some of these gifted young scientists in the flesh. I'm certain you will be as impressed as I am.

I am very proud to be able to pass the SETI torch to such worthy descendants.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.

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