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Hairspray Could Help Us Find Advanced Alien Civilizations

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the at-least-the-fashionable-ones dept.

Space 211

Hugh Pickens writes "Charles Q. Choi reports that hairspray could one day serve as the sign that aliens have reshaped distant worlds because one group of gases that might be key to terraforming planets are CFCs. 'Our hypothesis is that evidence of intelligent life might be evident in a planetary atmosphere,' says astrobiologist Mark Claire at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science. CFCs are entirely artificial, with no known natural process capable of creating them in atmospheres. Detecting signs of these gases on far-off worlds with telescopes might serve as potent evidence that intelligent alien civilizations were the cause, either intentionally as part of terraforming or accidentally via industrial pollution. 'An industrialized civilization will be one that will use its planetary resources for fabrication, the soon-to-be-detectable-from-Earth atmospheric byproducts of which could be a tell-tale sign of their activity,' says astrobiologist Sanjoy Som. CFCs can be easily recognized in planetary atmospheres because their atmospheric 'fingerprint' (i.e. chemical spectra) is very different from natural elements, and are a tell-tale sign that life on the surface has advanced industrial capabilities. Using state-of-the-art computer models of atmospheric chemistry and climate, researchers plan to discover what visible signs CFCs and other artificial byproducts of alien terraforming or industry might have on exoplanet atmospheres. 'We are about a decade away of being able to measure detailed compositions of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets,' says Som."

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211 comments

Much more than that (5, Insightful)

staltz (2782655) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104453)

Detecting CFCs applies well if you imagine that aliens are human-like. But real aliens can in reality substantially different than humans. The Universe is weird enough to allow some surprises.

I've read some news about some odd planets floating somewhere. One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol. Life could be present in these odd places, and the way life manifests itself might be totally different from what we see here on Earth.

So yes, CFC is a good sign, but aliens might be much weirder and let's not expect that they follow the same patterns as we do. I mean, aliens don't need hairspray.

Re:Much more than that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104489)

If it's from hairspray, they can't be all *that* intelligent.

Re:Much more than that (4, Funny)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105793)

Not only alien life, but proof that stupidity is universal.

Found via the Sigue Sigue Sputnik satellite... (5, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105851)

If it's from hairspray, they can't be all *that* intelligent.

Judge for yourself- here are some pictures [google.co.uk] of aliens we've discovered using the hairspray detection technique.

Their communications technology [apeculture.com] is still remarkably primitive though.

Re:Much more than that (4, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104497)

and the way life manifests itself might be totally different from what we see here on Earth.

Harumph. Physics and chemistry work virtually the same way everywhere. What makes you think that they will discover something significantly different from CFCs as an inert propellant?

Re:Much more than that (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104717)

What makes you think that life on another planet won't have found some biological use for CFCs?

Re:Much more than that (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105157)

What makes you think that life on another planet won't have found some biological use for CFCs?

Oh man, talk to a chemist, they are inert, which makes things biologically complicated and the precursors are beyond nasty. For a good time google for Bromotrifluoromethane Synthesis (aka what you non-chemists would call "Halon") and imagine what it takes to make it both industrially and almost unimaginably via biosynthesis. Its not so much the final step that's the problem, but the precursors, processing the raw materials, etc.

Its probably a pretty good "dependency" marker indicating advanced stainless steel fabrication, extensive acid production industries, hmm I'd have to think. Biological tissue has severe issues dealing with fluorine ions, which is too bad.

Its not for lack of evolutionary pressure. Plenty of vessels and orifices would benefit by a native layer of teflon. Imagine the predator prey relations in a world of teflon skin. Some of the room temp liquid CFCs would superficially make a good replacement for that fluid in the bone joints (sorry not doc don't know its technical name).

Theres also some evolutionary pressure in that you'd need a species that eats flourite ore rocks (or at least stuff grown in its soil, or naturally heavily floridated water) AND in the halon example a biological bromine source... One or the other, OK, but at this time of day I can't think of a way to pull off both. Some kind of migratory coastal ruminant mammal? Um...

Also there's some thermodynamics issues, if you could pull off the synthesis in a cell, it would need to be a better idea than simply synth more ATP or hemoglobin or whatever else... Need to find a bio app where CFCs are more beneficial than anything else a cell can synth. CFCs are expensive to make so you need a good reason. Much as superficially silicon based brains "seem" more sensible than neuron based brains but its so hard to make a self reproducing factory the size of a typical mammal womb that its not happening any time soon.

To some extent thats why halon is such a good fire extinguisher around humans. Terrestrial biochemistry has almost no idea how to interact with it, so it pretty much doesn't. CFC suffocation is a zillion times more likely than CFC poisoning. I was told but am too lazy to verify that if you get CFCs into your blood your kidneys get somewhat confused.

Re:Much more than that (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105765)

Oh man, talk to a chemist, they are inert, which makes things biologically complicated and the precursors are beyond nasty.

Perhaps I'm not up to speed on chemistry, but that's only true for the industrial processes that we use. The only ways we can fix nitrogen are currently pretty biologially unfriendly at the moment.

Biological tissue has severe issues dealing with fluorine ions, which is too bad.

True, but some organisms have evolved to deal with it. For instance monofluoroacetate can be produced biologically.

The point is that life on other planets may be quite different from our own. It will probably be based on carbon, since nothing else is nearly so flexible, but I don't see any reason why the chemistry should be anything close.

Plenty of vessels and orifices would benefit by a native layer of teflon.

Quite possibly, though the ability to synthesize some fluorine containing chemicals doesn't indicate the ability to synthesize them all. Also, don't forget that the parts have to be repairable and also have to have wound up there by evoloutionary chance as well.

Very many things end up down a sub-optimal branch from which they cannot escape.

Re:Much more than that (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105265)

What makes you think their robots won't fart CFCs?

Re:Much more than that (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104721)

What makes you think that they will discover something significantly different from CFCs as an inert propellant?

The simplest reason: They have significantly different materials to work with, affected by a different degree of planetary gravity (if that's relevant to what they're building), because they're on a different planet.

Re:Much more than that (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105525)

They have significantly different materials to work with

You mean that instead of fluorine, chlorine, and carbon, they have unobtanium, duranium and mithril?

Re:Much more than that (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105807)

*Golf Clap*

Re:Much more than that (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104809)

No "virtually" about it.

There are a limited number of ways to solve a problem given these constraints. Regarding the GP - this can be used for a lot more than hairspray.

Generally, if we look at enough of our industrial output, there should be some overlap with any arbitrary sentient species.

What is more of a concern... 500+ light years away, another alien civilization is looking at Earth, and not detecting squat, as we look at them, and don't detect squat. By the time evidence of civilization from either planet reaches the other... both races have wiped themselves out.

Re:Much more than that (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105345)

No "virtually" about it.

I believe that certain extreme environments *could* change the kinematics of chemical reactions. Take very strong magnetic fields, for example. These tend to deform the electron shells, and since these dictate chemical reactions, I'd be surprised if these were unaffected.

But, granted, extreme environments are probably not conducive to the emergence of life in the first place.

Re:Much more than that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105421)

and the way life manifests itself might be totally different from what we see here on Earth.

Harumph. Physics and chemistry work virtually the same way everywhere. What makes you think that they will discover something significantly different from CFCs as an inert propellant?

Haha. Yeah, you base that purely on a race that has only been to the tiny moon that is right next door on a giant bottle rocket. Beyond that all we have done is look at pictures and make assumptions based 100% on nothing. Or lets look at the fact that physics was believed to be a certain way till aristotle said he could move the world which then defied the laws of physics. But he explained how it's possible with a lever. Now, levers are included in Physical laws and studies today so if one man could change what people think of physics with something he had no way of actually proving then exactly how real and fool proof is physics?

Look at planet WASP-18b that defies physics for being so close to its sun that it should not be able to exist. Again this is based on our physics, yet it still exists. Or the fact that our own moon is too big to exist considering the size of our earth and it has dust on that we say is over a billion years older than the moons rock. See, we only know what we are told by popular opinion and that changes constantly.

Hell there are thousands of things on this earth that existed and we never knew about for thousands and thousands of years, right here on our own planet. So who is to say we know exactly how an entire freaking universe works without a shred of doubt by just looking through a keyhole and guessing at everything?

Most claims in physics and science anymore are just BS created by someone to gain noteriaty or some grant money. Anyone can "explain" anything they want if they try hard enough.

Re:Much more than that (1)

Stratus311 (894962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105635)

I couldn't agree with this more. Physics is mostly based on what we know here, on Earth.

Re:Much more than that (3, Insightful)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105835)

Exactly! All this science stuff is just humbug malarkey spread by all e college people who like to flaunt their learning as they drive past in their Suburus. And the only thing worse than an college person are those dirty worker types, all ignorant and stupid and stuff. Nope, the only people you can trust are those that wear nice suits, drive nice shoes, and wear nice cars. the sorta people you find running Wall Street. Their the last, best hope for hoomanity!

Re:Much more than that (5, Funny)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104539)

I mean, aliens don't need hairspray

Chewbacca begs to differ.

Re:Much more than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105087)

Chewbacca is not amused. :-\

Re:Much more than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105219)

Let the wookie win.

Re:Much more than that (2)

Abreu (173023) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105349)

Also, wasn't Alf's home planet destroyed in an incident involving hair dryers? Hairspray doesn't sound far-fetched...

Re:Much more than that (5, Funny)

Fr05t (69968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104615)

One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol.

Where are these wonderful places, and how soon can I get there?!!?

Re:Much more than that (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105275)

The first place can be found at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, the second seems to describe Ireland.

I _kid_, I _kid_ :-)

Re:Much more than that (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105633)

One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol.

Where are these wonderful places, and how soon can I get there?!!?

The Orion Nebula [wikipedia.org] has alcohol [harvard.edu] . It will take over a thousand years to get there, assuming you're a photon (are you?). Sugar is closer, less than half as far. [dailymail.co.uk]

Re:Much more than that (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104765)

true, but for intelligent life you need a body and appendages. you need hands and fingers to manipulate your environment like humans use hands to make tools. other animals use flora to make nests and dams but the fact that they can't use their hands and fingers like us limits them.

in order to get to the high tech part of life you need body parts to manipulate your environment in low tech ways to make the tools and machines to allow you to progress in technology

just like in Star Trek where all the space faring races have body parts that allow them to manipulate objects

Re:Much more than that (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105069)

true, but for intelligent life you need a body and appendages.

Tell that to the dolphins.

Re:Much more than that (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105293)

I don't know about that - I could imagine a blobular form of life that forms grasping body parts as needed via internal pressure from its outer layer. Kind of like how bacteria engulf their food.

Re:Much more than that (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105199)

One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol..

Somewhere there is an astronomer with his telescope the wrong way around trying to work out the orbital trajectories of the remnants of his lunch.

Re:Much more than that (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105475)

You seem to miss the point entirely. CFCs are good for more than hair spray. An alien civilization might use them for terraforming (or Xanthaforming) new homes.

The point is to look for signs of chemicals that don't occur naturally. Although they're sure to have some false positives, since something that doesn't occur naturally here may occur naturally there.

Re:Much more than that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105685)

Although they're sure to have some false positives, since something that doesn't occur naturally here may occur naturally there.

And that would still be very interesting to find and investigate and would probably have a huge impact on our understanding of life and/or chemistry.

Re:Much more than that (2)

dinfinity (2300094) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105813)

An alien civilization might use them for terraforming (or Xanthaforming) new homes.

My question is: Why would they terraform at all?
Any civilization capable of meaningfully terraforming a planet is bound to be capable of not having to live on a planet or not having to care whether there is oxygen and atmospheric pressure on it.

Re:Much more than that (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105511)

Certainly intelligent aliens may have no need for or not make CFCs.

But CFCs are not something that occur in nature by any process we know, and thus if we see them in abundance where they should not be, that's a sign something very interesting is happening there, caused by something that is worth investigating. Maybe it's aliens, maybe it's a new natural phenomenon.

Re:Much more than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105551)

One planet is almost entirely sugar, and there's some sort of nebula that is basically alcohol.

Quick, someone call Nestle and InBev. We might get off this rock yet.

Woah, 400 trillion pints [fermentarium.com] only 10,000 ly away. Looks like warp drive is a must. To go there in 20 years round-trip, it'd take a speed of 1000c (just under Warp 8 in Star Trek terms).

The sugar planet is much more reasonable - 400 ly away.
20c would get us there (Warp 3 for a 20-year round trip).

Re:Much more than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105679)

Not everyone uses hair spray. Why not methane? If so, then Saturn's moon Titan is a leading candidate. Maybe that's why the aliens moved from there.

Either a hair spray... (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104455)

...or it's just that the species has more than fifty arms and they invented the aerosol deodorant before the wheel.

Re:Either a hair spray... (4, Funny)

Exitar (809068) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104525)

And yet The Coming of The Great White Handkerchief could have left no traces of them for us to find.

CFC=mark of unintelligence (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105033)

CFC's on this world are a bi-product of power via the oil-driven oligarchic systems we have here on Earth. Depending on the distance in light years, we would be able to surmise possible the date of their demise as we can here on our own world. The more persistently we'd observe them the more we'd be able to gauge the rate of change in CFC's and extrapolate whether something's being done about it. Detailed observations could even yield how uniform the spread is, if we could estimate atmospheric pressure which we probably could if it's not too far away. We would also be able to determine that there is a good possibility (more or less proportional to the % of CC in their atmosphere) just how corrupt they are. I'd wager that any "civilisation" with an advanced level of CFC emissions is quite likely to also be stupid enough to be flooded with microwaves, and maybe even gamma rays. The natural course of action would be to conclude that they're hostile, as we are.

So, not a bad idea to look for those signatures while your at it.

Ironically, a decrease in CFC's or a decrease in rate of increase, wouldn't necessarily mean they're "better than us". On the contrary, it might indicate that the oligarchs there succeeded in shutting down free enterprise (even though they caused it to balloon in the first place) so they could consolidate power for themselves in a vicious and cynical authoritarian system.

Really, any significant amount of CFC's and I'd have to assume they're as dull uninspiring as we are (at the top level at least)..

So they could be toxic, poor unfortunate wretches, or authoritarian psychotic homicidal maniacs - take your pick. ..or you never know they might be alright. It's not that inconceivable good people could have won it there. They're (we're?) not quite completely beaten yet..BUT, really I'd have to assume the former if I found a sufficient level of technology to deem CFC output long obsolete ,even though they're still there. (as it is on our world).

The Truth! [youtube.com]

What if someone analyzed earth 400yrs ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104473)

hmmn.. if intelligent aliens would have analyzed Earth's atmosphere 400yrs ago, as proposed, they would have dismissed it saying no life exists in our solar system.

Re:What if someone analyzed earth 400yrs ago? (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104557)

hmmn.. if intelligent aliens would have analyzed Earth's atmosphere 400yrs ago, as proposed, they would have dismissed it saying no life exists in our solar system.

In some ways that's easier because there is no requirement to only look once. They'd see all kinds of interesting atmospheric changes over a couple centuries, not just CFCs. Weathermen studying climate on distant planets will eventually be a growth industry.

You could have fun trying to list atmospheric changes over time. Hmm I'd say first you see lots of particulates from cruddy fire, like london smog in 1800. Then you'd see a lot of sulfur compounds. Then you'd see strange radioisotopes (probably too low concentration to detect remotely, but...). Then CFCs burst on the scene, accumulate for awhile, then stop accumulating. Meanwhile CO2, methane, and O2 ratios start getting weird, for awhile. Drought in developed ag land leads to dust bowls, so the more developed ag land you have, the worse air quality is during droughts. You could probably make environmental planning theory guesses about forest fire management over time based on how fast they burn out. Another good one would be blooming deserts, it takes industrialized civilization to do it quickly, however temporarily.

Re:What if someone analyzed earth 400yrs ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104579)

Your logic is off. If they analyzed our atmosphere 400 years ago as you suggest, they would simply have found no evidence of life based on this one metric. That is not the same as saying that no life exists.

-- MyLongNickName

Re:What if someone analyzed earth 400yrs ago? (3, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104587)

If they analyze CFC content in earth atmosphere 30 years ago would conclude that here may still exist life, but that surely isn't intelligent enough.

Re:What if someone analyzed earth 400yrs ago? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104981)

Well even more to the point. There is the time we Made CFC's and the time we found out it was bad so we stopped using it, a 50-100 year gap. It may take a few hundred years for the chemical to degrade. But you may have a gap of a few hundred years in a planets billions year lifespan, to find evidence of intelligent life.

Not a good idea.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104479)

Hairspray was a really bad movie and I think alien civilizations would be
greatly offended by it and probably Annihilate us and sparing us no quarter.

natural elements? (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104529)

CFCs can be easily recognized in planetary atmospheres because their atmospheric 'fingerprint' (i.e. chemical spectra) is very different from natural elements, and are a tell-tale sign that life on the surface has advanced industrial capabilities.

Are these CFCs made from exotic kinds of matter? Are we looking for advanced civilizations that have been able to synthesize new forms of chlorine, fluorine, carbon, etc., that are different than those that arise from stellar nucleosynthesis? No? In that case, we should be looking for spectra different from naturally occurring molecules, not elements.

Re:natural elements? (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105283)

.... atmospheric 'fingerprint' (i.e. chemical spectra) is very different from natural elements

Are these CFCs made from exotic kinds of matter?

Yes. This is another "talk to a chemist". Ur doing it wrong, when halogens accumulate in your ozone layer. There seems to be no way to get them there, in extreme bulk, other than CFC release on the surface, or maybe some kind of insane doomsday weapon, both of which indicate extreme industrialization and a certain lack of ecological concern.

A standard /. automotive analogy is car sized lumps of unoxidized iron with certain precise and consistent fractions of dissolved carbon found on top of strips of heavy petroleum fractions mixed with gravel is just too weird geologically and biochemically to be anything but the product of intelligent life. You just don't find those elements laying around in that physical configuration.

This shit is getting stupid. (-1, Troll)

zenlessyank (748553) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104531)

Every week it is some other theory that someone has pulled out of their ass. There are no aliens you stupid fucks. Especially a more advanced batch. They would have already discovered us. Can we quit wasting our national resources and money and time on this ridiculous idea. Lets see how many factories and living facilities we can make with the Space Program and Alien finding programs funds. Fuck off Evolutionists, you can not get something from nothing. It is basic Physics. FUCK YOU SATAN FOR DECEIVING OUR STUPID POPULATION.

Re:This shit is getting stupid. (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104697)

No matter if they discovered us. They won't visit us, so far our science knows, they can't, no matter how advanced they are. They could send a signal, but need to be relatively close to both being able to detect us and send a signal with any kind of hope that we detect and understand it (and considering how much people like you is asking for basically banning space investigation, i'd say that the window of opportunity for that is closing).

Anyway, that "useless" space program had a lot of side effects pretty important for us down here, you are using at least one of them right now. Maybe we won't colonize the solar system and start chatting with alien entities anywhere soon, but just trying to make it possible will change our lives for better.

Re:This shit is getting stupid. (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104713)

This money that we spend on searching aliens is of course a waste. The same can be said about almost anything except food and medicine all the rest is not really needed for survival of our species. This is one thing. The other is - once we stop spending money on such wasteful things like this (or other) program we waste it another way by sending troops somewhere or some such silly thing. But in general you are right - searching for aliens is futile.

1980's (3, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104535)

Well I guess we are alone in the universe. If no aliens found us in the 80's it's not looking good.

Re:1980's (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104651)

The chances are that we are *not* alone in the universe. Seriously.

However, the chances also state that us ever finding someone else within the existence of our species is very small.

And the chances that we can communicate with them before they die out is smaller still.

And the chances that anyone of our species will ever meet anyone of theirs, "in person", are even smaller still.

Simple physics still has to be overcome - you can't move faster than the speed of light, and by the time we detect something interesting, it's probably too late to communicate with it, and by the time we *do* communicate with it and verify what's happened, the time to GET to it means it's probably too late to ever actually meet them. Unless a planet literally NEXT DOOR to us in the galaxy exhibits signs of complex life, it's barely worth even trying to communicate.

And, as pointed out, the greatest chance of something happening is that we are in fact contacted by someone else. As yet, that's not happened but we are literally, what, a few hundred years into the capability of detecting things like that and the average span of life itself is some billions of years.

The chances of two nearby lifeforms being at the same or greater evolutionary point as each other, around the same time, within a reasonable distance, both looking for each other, and then happening by a billion-to-one chance to actually discover a foreign message... it's just too small to worry much about.

And, actually, the biggest chance is that any civilisation capable of communicating to us at any point in its history had a similar exponential curve in technological innovation at the point they got interested and actually now use technology MILLIONS of years advanced of our own (so the world's best supercomputer looks like a particularly curiously-shaped fossil to them). By the time we catch up, they will be MILLIONS of years ahead again and if not actually zipping between dimensions and creating their own universes, then at least looking for "life" by other definitions and in places that we can't even IMAGINE to look, let alone have the technology to do so.

Seriously, what if the best communication method to use at the moment is some quantum effect? Quantum mechanics is less than 100 years old, really. So it would be like expecting Plato to detect a code hidden in entangled photon emissions to communicate with someone even a few hundred years (or, say, one politician less in terms of global education) ahead of us.

Intelligent life does not mess up their biosphere (0)

RichMan (8097) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104567)

Intelligent life would not mess up the biosphere on which the depend for life.
Only unintelligent life does that.

Re:Intelligent life does not mess up their biosphe (1)

BluPhenix316 (2656403) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104619)

Intelligence isn't something that happens over night. They may not mess up their biosphere on the night we glance at it but that doesn't mean they didn't before.

Re:Intelligent life does not mess up their biosphe (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104667)

So what they're looking for is evidence of an impulsive, short-sighted species like us.

It will probably be associated with evidence that the species no longer exists.

Re:Intelligent life does not mess up their biosphe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104681)

this is silly - each life form so far changed the env in which it lived. It usually grew as big as it could and if it was successful it left traces i.e. changes big enough to be considered damaging by environmentalists of the time. Your statement is really pushing a spirit and will where it does not belong i.e. into nature. Och never mind

Re:Intelligent life does not mess up their biosphe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105461)

No true Scotsman would do it, anyway.

The problem with CFC (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104595)

The problem with CFC is that it's duration is an insignificant blip at cosmic scales. We've used it a little, we're phasing it out because it ruins a rather important layer of the atmosphere.

Our planet will continue to exist for about 5 billion years after the point where we reasonably reached a point that some aliens could contact at all without coming all the way here. (For most of our time on the planet we couldn't receive radio and didn't have telescopes.) Out of that, we've been abusing CFC heavily for maybe 50 years.

Let's say that t would take a while to get weaned off them, and for the upper atmosphere to gradually clear of them. Like maybe 500 years instead of 50. But it's still 500 years out of 5 billions.

That's a chance of of 1 in ten millions that if a civilization is there, you'll detect it by CFCs.

Re:The problem with CFC (1)

qvatch (576224) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104669)

not only that, but it isn't something that you keep using, so even if civilization continues, CFC's probably won't (at high levels). The consequences of high atmospheric CFC's are enough to push them out of use. It'll be like high powered omnidirectional TV and radio signals. Those stopped too, yet we continue.

Re:The problem with CFC (4, Informative)

Hans Adler (2446464) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104725)

I think you missed the point about detecting CFCs. It's not about unintended terraforming of someone's home planet. It's about terraforming *another* planet that initially is a bit too cold for the civilisation in question. In human terms we are speaking about creating factories on Mars that pump CFCs into its atmosphere so as to create a more habitable (for us) climate there. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Mars#Using_fluorine_compounds [wikipedia.org]

Re:The problem with CFC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105167)

The problem with CFC is that it's duration is an insignificant blip at cosmic scales. We've used it a little, we're phasing it out because it ruins a rather important layer of the atmosphere.

It's already phased out in developed countries. Strange that hasn't been mentioned yet.

Re:The problem with CFC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105355)

Also, if it's "more advanced" they might have found a way/use for CFCs to break down and tranform or whatever.
Seems like a longshot...I mean our own pollution might be fuel for some other organism

Re:The problem with CFC (3, Informative)

Mark Claire (2782779) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105561)

I'm one of the scientists affiliated with this project. It's very true that SETI in general terms is a "needle in a haystack" sort of search. So one way to look at this is that we are suggesting more "needles" to look for. So far, we are searching for radio waves and optical pulses. Looking for technosignature molecules in a planetary atmosphere (if it actually works, which is what we are trying to figure out with our proposal), is a third needle. I also totally agree with your points about looking for "inadvertent" CFC use by a young and dumb civilization like ourselves. As Hans Adler pointed out, we on the science team are thinking of this more as a search for terraformed worlds. For instance, if we were going to colonize Mars and try and live on the surface in the next century or so, we would likely need to warm up the atmosphere, and CFC's would be a good starting place (and possibly detectable over interstellar space)

I'd pick streetlighting (4, Interesting)

art6217 (757847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104621)

gigawatts of radio waves put into space: check
at a wavelength interesting to astronomers: check
low--frequency modulation, common phase: check (think Fourier analysis over months of data to filter out unmodulated light of a nearby star)
characteristic spectral fingerprint of artificial light: check
not limited to a civilisation's "radio window": check

Re:I'd pick streetlighting (1)

Cenan (1892902) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104935)

Good point, though that only works for planets with a day/night cycle and aliens depending on sight during night.

Re:I'd pick streetlighting (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105133)

Good point, though that only works for planets with a day/night cycle and aliens depending on sight during night.

And life that relies on sight at all. Life was on Earth a very long time without being sensitive to EM radiation. The majority of life on Earth still doesn't, to any significant effect. And there are comparatively intelligent creatures that rely predominantly on echolocation.

Re:I'd pick streetlighting (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104949)

And light pollution measures and energy saving says that the streetlighting we've had for a mere fraction of a galactic second (i.e. a couple of hundred years) won't be here in that same fraction again.

Hell, as it is, we try to reduce the amount of light that goes somewhere unnecessary (e.g. the sky!) or that is produced and doesn't do anything. There are already countries and cities with lighting that's dynamic based on the cars rolling over it (which means the signal is even HARDER to find, even if you knew what you were looking for).

And in terms of the stretch of a civilisation, lighting visible even from orbit, let alone the other side of the galaxy, is literally a tiny flicker that you'll only catch if you're constantly listening to EXACTLY that, in EXACTLY the right place for a few billion years.

Hell, it's hard enough to see all of Earth's artificial lighting from orbit if there is cloud cover, let alone from somewhere like where Voyager currently is, and as you got further out the inverse square law solves the problem nicely to give you a probability of anyone detecting it tending rather swiftly towards zero.

If you want to detect a civilisation, about the only sensible thing to do is ignore the planets, look at the stars. Because sources of energy that huge, that well light-up, that stable, that predictable and, with suitable technology, even harvestable (I believe it's called a Dyson sphere) are likely to be something that won't stop being a commodity for a long time and activity on them will be inherently visible (even if that's by one-day disappearing entirely).

Think to yourself. I plonk you down into the universe at an unknown point and at an unknown time since the Big Bang. I give you a billion-year-long-life (sound a lot? It's not). How do you find someone who's had the same done to them? The chances are you're not even going to be able to see each other, would never be at the right stages at the right times to communicate with each other before moving onto the "next most advanced / obvious method of communication", and even if you do by some chance talk be too far away or your communication too "out of date" to do anything useful with it.

Until you can quite literally bend space and visit other places, it's all a bit pointless to be looking because of simple physical laws. And by the time you *can* do that, it's easier to just plonk a sensor on every star system with your space bending techniques than it would be to ever listen out for them all.

We are quite literally talking about how to detect a particular mayfly of interest on an entire planet of activity. And by the time we do it, that mayfly has evolved to build its own space program and buggered off deeper into the galaxy anyway.

Re:I'd pick streetlighting (2)

Ihlosi (895663) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105127)

gigawatts of radio waves put into space: check at a wavelength interesting to astronomers: check low--frequency modulation, common phase: check (think Fourier analysis over months of data to filter out unmodulated light of a nearby star) characteristic spectral fingerprint of artificial light: check not limited to a civilisation's "radio window": check

You're assuming that Westinghouse won on the aliens planet.

Inverse square law destroy your argument (1)

aepervius (535155) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105369)

The intensity of nearly all signal we put out outside diminush so rapidely as to be non differentiable from galactic noise, within a few AU, maybe 1 LY at most. The only signal which has reached a few dozen LY was the one sent (when was it ? 70 ies ?) from a radio antena a very strong pulse directed at a place far away, and it was 2 times a one minute or two signal. The rest ? Street light ? radio ? TV ? All noise beyond 1 light year.

Re:Inverse square law destroy your argument (1)

art6217 (757847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105631)

Have you ever did any involved mathematical analysis of detecting a slowly drifting 50Hz signal in a background stronger by hundreds of dB? I did not. This is why I would not say "all noise". I just do not know that. Do you?

Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (1)

lsulfate (1667537) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104633)

...and that's good enough for me. He points out that the Milky Way is only 100,000 ly wide. Therefore, if there were alien life out there with advanced civilizations, they would find travelling such a small distance a piece of cake and would have discovered us by now. But they haven't. And Tegmark says if the whole galaxy we live in has no life, it's highly unlikely there's life any elsewhere, either -- even if the universe is infinite, it's likely we're the only living creatures in it.

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104761)

This isn't a new argument: Enrico Fermi came up with it in 1950. It basically boils down to "If aliens exist, where are they?"

Read all about it:
Fermi Paradox [wikipedia.org]

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104783)

...and that's good enough for me. He points out that the Milky Way is only 100,000 ly wide. Therefore, if there were alien life out there with advanced civilizations, they would find travelling such a small distance a piece of cake and would have discovered us by now. But they haven't. And Tegmark says if the whole galaxy we live in has no life, it's highly unlikely there's life any elsewhere, either -- even if the universe is infinite, it's likely we're the only living creatures in it.

Except there is intelligent life in the Milky Way. US. In 500 or 1000 years we'll be zipping all over the place. Maybe there's only 1 planet with life per galaxy (on average). I'm not disagreeing that there's no life, just saying that its poor reasoning.

Unless, of course, we are the first. (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104807)

And future civilizations will refer to us as the ancients and that they should learn from our mistakes.

"Don't be a third rocker!"

"Tiles? They must have been retards."

"Bacon? Mmmmmm"

Logical fail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104819)

Really?

100,000 light years is a small distance? We humans have had radio for only 130 years - give or take. And assuming all radio waves escaped out into space, that would mean just the near 130 light year radius around us may have heard something. And there's the time for a signal to get back. And optical telescopes only have a limited range - even if you were to imagine a super duper alien tech telescope that can look at individual planets from across the galaxy.

And he's assuming that all life has interstellar travel ability - apparently faster than light travel.

If he really said that, then it is a logical fail. To extrapolate the last century and make statement about the whole galaxy is incorrect.

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (1)

art6217 (757847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105017)

Do you think that searching for various traits of a planet, for which no known explanation exists, becomes useless just because there is no life on the planet?

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105227)

There are at least two other plausible explanations for the Fermi paradox: 1) interstellar travel is really hard. 2) it is hard for technologically-advanced civilizations to last long. We have no evidence on 2, and the best evidence we have on 1 is in the affirmative.

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105441)

3) Intelligence means they want to communicate with the savages. Think back to earths colonial era, how many average joes in England wanted to talk to or hang out with who they considered savages? Once you grow out of the cultural toddler era of religion, and grow out of the slavery and colonialism era, there is no intense demand to visit, meet, or talk to the savages, is there? So we'll have rich tourists and anthropologists visiting and watching us, both of who want to keep a low profile so they can study us and keep it real.

4) Why would the aliens communicate using our tech? Why EM radiation? If you can modulate gravity or have a really great sensitive high bandwidth neutrino detector, why use crappy old fashioned EM waves? Just because its the best we could invent in the 1800s doesn't mean it'll always be the best. Its quite possible we currently sitting on a trunk line for intergalactic cable TV using gravitons and/or neutrinos and don't even have the tech (yet) to tell. This is assuming a future telecom tech is something we have even heard about or can currently imagine. Some string theory thing which will be invented in 2163 might be the basis of the intergalactic "wifi" internet and we can't even imagine it yet.

5) Expansion and exploration is taken as granted by an expansion oriented industrial planet, for obvious reasons. I'm not sure it would be by a post singularity civilization. Once you've got your quantum computers and dyson sphere, do you need to conqueror a galaxy? The number of homebodies and hermits vastly exceeds the number of explorers and that's missing from the equation.

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (1)

deadweight (681827) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105229)

TOTAL FAIL We are pretty smart - we made atom bombs and robots and all kinds of toys. So far faster-than-light travel totally eludes us. There literally could be 10,000 planets with 10,000 Einsteins per planet in our hood and no one is going anywhere.

Re:Max Tegmark at MIT says no aliens exist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105469)

I suspect he said more than you mention, because what you said doesn't make sense. The aliens would have found us because 100,000 ly is small. But, because there is no life in this small place, there is none in the much bigger place. That's not an argument.

so we should (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104637)

shoot ricki lake and john travolta into space to look for others of their kind? i'm ok with that.

This reminded me of... (1)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104671)

This movie [imdb.com] .

Desperate Times... (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104691)

I honestly can't tell if they're wanting attention or are actually trying every avenue to find life. Hairspray? While I'm all for trying to find life on other planets, wouldn't it be far better to improve our space travel capabilities as well as creating some sort of Intergalactic Network? I mean, we know how to make ozone, so wouldn't it be a good move to get comets, land them on Mars, then use the oxygen and water inside of them to partially terraform the planet?

I really feel sorry for the people working at SETI, they must be digging at the bottom of the barrel. It's true what they say, Nobody cares about achievements, they'd rather see something blow up. Keep searching, guys!

Are we ready for contact? (1)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104699)

Our society is still too disorganized and prone to impulsive, selfish acts for us to contact an alien civilization.

If we don't immediately make war on them, we'll move in, set up a gift shop and a law firm, then start piping them our TV and selling them whatever junk food has taken over for the Twinkie (RIP).

If you were an alien civilization, and your first contact from outside came from the U.S. Congress and/or McDonald's, or maybe you were exposed to Justin Bieber or dubstep, you might just pull up the welcome mat, throw out technology and go live in caves.

Why not look for nuke teasting? (0)

Rooked_One (591287) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104771)

I mean... we only set off "one" before hiroshima, however we as a collective earth, decided a couple of thousand, plus some, was needed

Well - If I were an alien, I would know to steer clear of that third rock.

Time-Lapse of every known nuke. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLCF7vPanrY [youtube.com]

Re:Why not look for nuke teasting? (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105105)

Because nuke testing has only been around less than a hundred years. In universal scales, that's barely worth bothering with. It's literally a fleeting spark. The Sun is 4.6bn years old alone. Even from the Sun, it would have been a long wait to see some activity on earth that you could detect by looking for nukes (if they even have a signature that will travel across the galaxy which seems unlikely given that thousands of them have gone off across the globe in the past and we barely notice *here*, let alone light-years away), and the spectacle would be inherently short-lived (given that we either will switch to another weapon in the next 100 years or blow ourselves up anyway, which nearly happened in the Cold War, let alone modern times).

And then you have to have ANOTHER civilisation somewhere out there, in a SIMILARLY advanced state also detonating nukes and thereby thinking of looking for other's nuke detonations, and they have to be in the same part of space or, critically, roughly the same time as us to notice us - even if they do nothing but stare permanently in the perfect direction to see us and have no obstacles.

If you made a time-lapse on a similar scale (that video is one second = one month) for the entire galaxy since its birth as a galaxy (so you're probably looking at one second = a million years to even get close to something that was about the same length), we'd barely be a tiny colour change, on a tiny single pixel, a blip at the very, very, very, very end of the very last frame of the very last second of the time-lapse and barely even register on the data whatsoever. And that's just a galaxy, of which there are 170 billion by even the best estimate.

And you're expecting a civilisation similarly "blippy" to just happen to be looking at us for the time of their time and see our blip, in an entire universe.

translation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42104799)

So what you're saying basically is that Earth is a giant red pulsar on a CFC radar.

Probably not an indicator of hairspray (1)

guttentag (313541) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104961)

The prospect of finding an alien civilization that uses hairspray is not very good, given that Little Green Men rarely have hair in Hollywood or Roswell. However, CFCs are less likely to be an indicator of hairspray than plastic foam, circuit board manufacture [nytimes.com] , Star Trek-esque hypospray propellent, refrigerators or air conditioning [nytimes.com] . The NY Times just ran an article about how we're still venting CFCs from home central air units in the U.S., over 20 years after the big marketing push to eliminate them.

Hair Mousse not Hair Spray (3, Funny)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42104997)

Didn't the Centuari Republic give Earth jump gate technology in exchange for our advanced hair mousse formulas?

I thought the hairdressers (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105027)

went on the B-Ark with the telephone sanitizers etc

Genius (1)

mayberry42 (1604077) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105073)

I would never have associated 80s hair metal bands with advanced civilization....

Silly (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105089)

We're already phasing out the use of CFCs and will likely not produce any detectable amounts in the near future. Don't they think aliens would learn the same lesson? Giving us, at most, a 100yr window to catch their CFC use? Why do people have this incredibly close minded view of alien life that makes them think that not only will they be like us, with arms and legs, be based on water but also be stuck in the same time period as us as well?

I suspect that we'll eventually find life on nearly all of the planets and even some of the asteroids in our own solar system. Maybe even intelligent life that's trapped under heavy atmosphere that really has had no technological way to explore space. Imagine an intelligent creature floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter or Saturn. They'd have almost no material to build tools out of, much less spacecraft or telescopes. And MOST planets have atmospheres like theirs.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105711)

Yes life else where could be vastly different but seeing as we have no idea how to detect something we don't know exists we have to start somewhere. Or you can point at any star in the sky, shrug your shoulders, say "maybe", and call it day.

Cut to Bones (1)

paiute (550198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105177)

"Damn it, Jim - I'm a doctor, not an air conditioner repairman!"

doing the moonwalk (1)

merxete (1965396) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105201)

Aliens using hairspray? What's next, they also do the moonwalk?

Thats assuming. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105247)

That whoever these aliens are that they are exactly like us. And thats the problem with humans and searching for aliens we all assume since we have convinced ourselves we are the center of the universe and the most highly intelligent life from which all other life stems that all alien life will respond to radio waves and our math. So we assume everything else about them is exactly like us as well.

But of course thats the beautiful thing about science, you really dont have to prove shit. We havent evolved much from a couple thousand years ago when all you needed was an idea and if it sounded good people paid attention to you. And if you need to prove something all you need to do is come up with some mathematical equation that is impossible to replicate in real life and other scientists will agree with you, or you just need some show man ship and really make it sound like you know what you are talking about by comparing things and have a good speech writer.

Elvis lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105315)

Finally we will be able to locate Elvis

Detecting terraforming more interesting than cfcs (1)

AmeerCB (1222468) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105347)

From TFA:

But what about more advanced life? Could we find tell-tale signs that a planetary system had been modified or terraformed in order to make it more habitable for intelligent alien species? For instance, when humans colonize Mars, we will need to raise global planetary temperatures significantly in order to live on the surface without suits.

This seems a lot more interesting to me. As another poster mentioned, would cfc use constitute enough of a civilization's existence to make it a viable means of detecting them? But looking for a planet that is warm enough to have liquid water and is outside the goldilocks zone of its solar system seems like an interesting idea.

Re:Detecting terraforming more interesting than cf (2)

Mark Claire (2782779) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105611)

I'm one of the scientists involved in the project. We see this primarily as a search for terraformed worlds, rather than looking for inadvertent technological byproducts. We've started a kickstarter-like drive to do the fundamental research needed to find out if an actively terraformed world would be detectable over astronomical distances. Details are here: http://www.petridish.org/projects/do-aliens-use-hairspray [petridish.org] -Mark

Haha damn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105387)

If the anti-environmentalists had clinged onto this 'we're attracting aliens!' theory 20 years ago, the hole in the ozone layer would be totally gone.

Hopefully not the 2007 movie version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42105425)

If aliens saw a cross-dressing John Travolta, they'd probably decide our species is not worthy of survival and come wipe us out. So hopefully they'll detect the 1988 movie or a Broadway version instead.

CFCs aren't naturally occurring? (2, Informative)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about a year and a half ago | (#42105443)

Hrm...funny how you can measure them out of volcanoes:

http://cfc.geologist-1011.net/ [geologist-1011.net]

"CFCs are not Volcanic" - Oh Really?

"This statement is one that I keep seeing on websites and blogs, and ties in with the assertions repeated by Warrick & Farmer (1990), Grimston (1992), Hendeles et al. (2007), Colice (2007), Colice (2008), and Green & Stewart (2008, p. 18) to the effect that CFCs are not natural in the environment. If one chooses to measure the gases emerging from volcanic vents instead of taking a politician's word for it, one discovers that volcanoes produce a variety of halocarbons, including CFCs. This fact, along with other natural sources of CFCs including sponges, other marine animals, bacteria (both marine & terrestrial), fungi (both marine & terrestrial), plants (both marine & terrestrial), lichen, insects, is so well documented that it is the subject of ongoing textbook publication (Gribble, 2003; Jordan, 2003). Stoiber et al. (1971) first measured and documented CFCs venting from Santiaguito in Guatamala. Since, there have been many studies corroborating the volcanic emission of CFCs (Isidorov et al, 1990; Isidorov et al., 1993; Jordon et al., 2000; Schwandner et al., 2000; Schwandner et al., 2002; Schwandner et al., 2004; Frische et al., 2006). Although some authors attempt to correlate volcanogenic CFCs to atmospheric variations, the confirmation of soil diffusion decay with distance from the vent (Schwandner et al., 2004) still stands in stark contradiction of Frische's hypothesis."

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