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posted by martyb on Saturday October 29 2016, @07:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the Betteridge-says-No dept.

A little over 80 years ago, humanity first began broadcasting radio and television signals with enough power that they should leave Earth's atmosphere and progress deep into interstellar space. If someone living in a distant star system were keeping a vigilant eye out for these signals, they would not only be able to pick them up, but immediately identify them as created by an intelligent species. In 1960, Frank Drake first proposed searching for such signals from other star systems by using large radio dishes, giving rise to SETI: the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Yet over the past half-century, we've developed far more efficient ways to communicate across the globe than with broadcast radio and TV signals. Does searching for aliens in the electromagnetic spectrum even make sense anymore ?

[...] After all, if someone from a culture that was versed only in smoke signals and drum beats found themselves deep inside the heart of a forest, they might conclude that there was no intelligent life around. Yet if you gave them a cellphone, there's a good chance they could get reception from right where they stood! Our conclusions may be as biased as the methods we apply.

[...] But if we weren't looking for electromagnetic signals, what would we look at? Indeed, everything in the known Universe is limited by the speed of light, and any signal created on another world would necessitate that we be able to observe it. These signals — in terms of what could reach us — fall into four categories:

Electromagnetic signals, which include any form of light of any wavelength that would indicate the presence of intelligent life.

Gravitational wave signals, which, if there is one unique to intelligent life, would be detectable with sensitive enough equipment anywhere in the Universe.

Neutrino signals, which — although incredibly low in flux at great distances — would have an unmistakeable signature dependent on the reaction that created them.

And finally, actual, macrobiotic space probes, either robotic, computerized, free-floating or inhabited, which made its way towards Earth.

How remarkable that our science-fiction imaginations focus almost exclusively on the fourth possibility, which is by far the least likely ! (requires Javascript) (

Also covered by: Three Alternate Ways Scientists Should Hunt For Aliens

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Saturday October 29 2016, @09:54PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 29 2016, @09:54PM (#420273) Homepage Journal []

    It doesn't take a military mind to find reasons NOT to contact alien species. But, the military mindset works. Cixin Liu's story is an excellent one, with plenty of "science" contained wwithin the science fiction.

    It stands to reason (to me at least) that the intelligent life form on any given planet will also be the dominant species. That is, other life forms preyed upon that intelligent species before it became intelligent. I suspect that no sentient life will be entirely trusting of other sentient life forms.

    There may be a thousand different life forms out there, watching us. And, we don't measure up for any number of reasons. Maybe we're to violent - that is a popular idea among the more meek and mild members of society. Or, maybe we're just not smart enough. Or, maybe we are to short lived to bother with.

    But, I'll go with the fear factor. We are a violent race or species. Given that 100% of all the known intelligent life forms THAT WE KNOW OF are violent, it may be safe to assume that other intelligent life forms are also violent.

    They won't contact us unless and until they feel that they can A: beat us and B: gain something from beating us.

    It's entirely possible that other intelligent species have zero use for this scuzzy-assed muddy rock. No use at all. They don't need or want ANY of the resources to be found here. Why would they even talk to us?

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  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29 2016, @11:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 29 2016, @11:29PM (#420338)

    Runaway's greatest fear: Mooslims from Outer Space!!!! With Sharia Ray Guns!!! Will humanity survive?

  • (Score: 2) by BsAtHome on Saturday October 29 2016, @11:30PM

    by BsAtHome (889) on Saturday October 29 2016, @11:30PM (#420340)

    Why would they even talk to us?


    And yes, it can kill you. However, we still do it many places here on this rock.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30 2016, @12:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30 2016, @12:37AM (#420382)
      What if their talking fries the planet?
  • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30 2016, @01:07AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30 2016, @01:07AM (#420393)

    Why talk to us?

    If they have religion, they, like us, would think it universal.

    Maybe they, like me, would be curious if they matched.

    Might bring sanity to both civilizations.

  • (Score: 1) by ShadowSystems on Sunday October 30 2016, @04:32AM

    by ShadowSystems (6185) <{ShadowSystems} {at} {}> on Sunday October 30 2016, @04:32AM (#420432)

    Actually they were here for quite a long time before they left.
    *Holds up my cut glass bowl with the inscription "So long & thanks for all the fish."*
    I'm afraid my 'thumb isn't picking up anything anymore.