Tag Archives | SETI

The Cost of Keeping the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Going vs. Other ‘Human’ Affairs

Very interesting post from the MicroCosmologist blog:

So it looks like the Allen Telescope Array is falling onto the chopping block in this era of fiscal “emergency.” To me, this sounds a lot like the recent battle to defund NPR or PBS, in that the money they need to continue is just … chump change in the grand scheme of finances. They’re $2.5 million short, and for that, they’ll need to stop taking data and shut down the telescope array. It deeply bums me out to think that such a low value is placed on the quest to find other intelligence in our universe. When compared with so many other things that gladly get millions or billions of dollars, it’s maddening to see SETI so marginalized …

And to put things into perspective, I’ve whipped up this handy infographic, comparing how $2.5 million compares to so many other things that we absolutely must have, and will not hesitate to pay for:

SET Infographic

Background info on the shutdown here.

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SETI Shuts Down Search For Aliens

300px-SETI@home_Multi-Beam_screensaver

Screen shot of the screensaver for SETI@home. Source: Namazu-tron (CC)

There was a time when running the SETI@Home screensaver to provide spare computing power to find alien radio transmissions was the coolest thing on the Internet (SETI = Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). That was a long time ago, though, and now the SETI Institute has closed down the Alien Telescope Array, effectively giving up the search, for lack of interest and funding. Lisa Kriegel reports for the Mercury News:

If E.T. phones Earth, he’ll get a “disconnect” signal.

Lacking the money to pay its operating expenses, Mountain View’s SETI Institute has pulled the plug on the renowned Allen Telescope Array, a field of radio dishes that scan the skies for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.

In an April 22 letter to donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson said that last week the array was put into “hibernation,” safe but nonfunctioning, because of inadequate government support.

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The Search For Alien Space Miners

Dune SandwormRay Villard writes on Discovery News:

Rather than looking for aliens who use interstellar radio signals to say “hi,” an alternative search strategy is simply to spy on any mega-engineering projects that an advanced civilization might be undertaking. Veteran SETI astronomer Jill Tarter calls this strategy “SETT” — the Search for Extraterrestrial Technology.

A new science paper by Duncan Forgan at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Martin Elvis at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., suggests we look for evidence of a very ambitious macro-engineering project: the wholesale mining of an asteroid belt. The asteroid material may be mined to build space colonies, solar power satellites or maybe even an entire “ringworld,” as imagined by sci-fi writer Larry Niven.

What’s more, precious metals are in high demand for technologies such as computers, high-speed networks and mobile phones. So-called “green technologies” of the future, such as hydrogen fuel cells, will also place a demand on rare resources.

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Proof of Aliens Could Come Within 25 Years, Scientist Says

setconlogoFrom Space.com:

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Proof of extraterrestrial intelligence could come within 25 years, an astronomer who works on the search said Sunday.

“I actually think the chances that we’ll find ET are pretty good,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View, Calif., here at the SETI con convention. “Young people in the audience, I think there’s a really good chance you’re going to see this happen.”

Shostak bases this estimation on the Drake Equation, a formula conceived by SETI pioneer Frank Drake to calculate the number (N) of alien civilizations with whom we might be able to communicate. That equation takes into account a variety of factors, including the rate of star formation in the galaxy, the fraction of stars that have planets, the fraction of planets that are habitable, the percent of those that actually develop life, the percent of those that develop intelligent life, the fraction of civilizations that have a technology that can broadcast their presence into space, and the length of time those signals would be broadcasted…

[continues at Space.com]… Read the rest

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Ex-Canadian Defense Minister Says Aliens Have Visited Earth: Hawking Is Wrong About Them

CTV News reports:
Live Long and Prosper

Stephen Hawking’s warnings of an alien invasion have prompted a vigorous defence of extraterrestrials by their most prominent Canadian fan. Former federal defence minister Paul Hellyer, 86, believes not only that aliens have visited Earth but also that they have contributed greatly to human technological advances.

So he can’t quite understand why the world renowned astrophysicist views them with such trepidation; Hawking recently warned that malevolent aliens could lead to the destruction of humanity.

The longtime cabinet minister accuses Hawking of spreading misinformation about extraterrestrials.

“I think he’s indulging in some pretty scary talk there that I would have hoped would not come from someone with such an established stature,” Hellyer said in an interview.

“I think it’s really sad that a scientist of his repute would contribute to what I would consider more misinformation about a vast and very important subject.”

Hawking speculates in a new documentary that most extraterrestrial life will be similar to microbes, or small animals — but he adds that advanced life forms may be “nomads, looking to conquer and colonize” new planets.

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Stephen Hawking: Aliens Might Kill Us All

Alien Attack!Jonathan Leake writes in the Times:

The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

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SETI Opens All Data and Coding to the Public

Ole Ole Olson writes on News Junkie Post:

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) just announced that it is releasing all information to the public. SETIQuest.org was launched on Wednesday to facilitate the release and help coordinate an ‘army of citizen scientists’ to help search for anomalies in interstellar microwave patterns.

The New Scientist reports, “SETIQuest is the product of astronomer Jill Tarter’s TED Prize wish. After being awarded the TED Prize last year, Tarter was given the opportunity to make a single wish before an auditorium full of the top names in technology and design. Tarter wished that they would “empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.”

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Hubble Detects Mysterious Spaceship-Shaped Object Traveling at 11,000 MPH

Jesus Diaz writes a very thought-provoking article on Gizmodo:

Is This a Real UFO?

Hubble has discovered a mysterious X-shaped object traveling at 11,000mph. NASA says that P/2010-A2 may be a comet, product of the collision between two asteroids. Or a Klingon Bird of Prey. Either way, UCLA investigator David Jewitt is excited:

This is quite different from the smooth dust envelopes of normal comets. The filaments are made of dust and gravel, presumably recently thrown out of the nucleus. Some are swept back by radiation pressure from sunlight to create straight dust streaks. Embedded in the filaments are co-moving blobs of dust that likely originated from tiny unseen parent bodies.

OK, David, we will believe you until Jerry Bruckheimer finish his next movie, in which a “comet” suddenly stops, turns to Earth, and starts firing anti-matter rays against our underpants.

The weirdest thing, however, is not only the prettyful X-shaped debris pattern, but the fact that its 460-foot-wide nucleus is outside the dust halo and separated from the trail.

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Digital Revolution Makes Us Invisible To Aliens

The Telegraph is reporting that satellite television and the digital revolution is making humanity more and more invisible to inquisitive aliens on other planets:

That might be good news for anyone who fears an “Independence Day” – style invasion by little green men. But it is also likely to make the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence by Earthly scientists harder, Dr Frank Drake believes.

Dr Drake, who founded the SETISETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) organisation in the US 50 years ago, said the digital age was effectively gagging the Earth by cutting the transmission of TV and radio signals into space.

At present, the Earth was surrounded by a 50 light year-wide “shell” of radiation from analogue TV, radio and radar transmissions, he said.

But although the signals had spread far enough to reach many nearby star systems, they were rapidly vanishing before the march of digital technology.

To a race of observing aliens, digital TV signals would look like noise, said Dr Drake.

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Do You Speak Alien?

AreciboMessageStephen Battersby writes in New Scientist:

The cosmos is quiet. Eerily quiet. After decades of straining our radio ears for a whisper of civilisations beyond Earth, we have heard nothing. No reassuring message of universal peace. No helpful recipe for building faster-than-light spacecraft or for averting global catastrophes. Not even a stray interstellar advertisement.

Perhaps there’s nobody out there after all. Or perhaps it’s just early days in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and we’re listening to the wrong star systems or at the wrong wavelengths.

There is another possibility, says Douglas Vakoch, head of the Interstellar Message Composition programme at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, which ponders the question of how we should communicate with aliens. “Maybe everyone’s listening but no one is transmitting. Maybe it takes an audacious young civilisation like ours to do that.”

So should we start sending messages into the void? And if so, how can we make ourselves understood to beings we know nothing about?

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