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NASA (1, Insightful)

gurona.macosx (2975487) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209723)

Why doesn't NASA try to find alien life? Finding alien life could lead to huge technological advances.

Re:NASA (1)

gurona.windows (2975489) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209725)

I changed computers.. but these technological advances could also mean huge economic boost for the U.S. Now brits are wanting that advantage.

Re:NASA (0, Troll)

gurona.phone2 (2975495) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209753)

Not to mention the sexual pleasure. Think intergalactic sex. Would that be legal in countries where it's illegal to have sex with animals? Then only sweds could do that.

Re:NASA (1)

vikingpower (768921) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209821)

That is a theme oft occurring in sci-fi: sex with Aliens. "Aaaaaaaaaahhhh... that weekend on Arcturus ! Gosh - you can do ANYTHING with the 27 holes of an Arcturian ! "

Re:NASA (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209911)

Gosh - you can do ANYTHING with the 27 holes of an Arcturian ! "

Play an extended course of golf?

Re:NASA (1)

vikingpower (768921) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209997)

Ex-tended, prolly yes.

Re:NASA ( Sounds like a duck to me ) (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210155)

Re:NASA ( Sounds like a duck to me ) (1)

vikingpower (768921) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210383)

If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and fucks like a duck, it might still be an alien.

Re:NASA (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210265)

I've seen the idea played like that, as well as being subverted (Aliens appear attractive, but have wildly incompatible reproductive anatomy), and in one case the subversion subverted (Alien disables shape-changing cloak technology and is revealed as a mass of tentacles; human character shrugs and goes ahead anyway).

It's a field rich for comic potential. There's a Babylon Five episode where a human diplomat is required to mate with a representative of an alien culture to seal a peace agreement, but finds him to be distasteful. Simply rejecting the mateing and explaining that her people reject sex as a political ritual would be a major offense. She deals with it be realising he has no idea how human anatomy works and thus couldn't actually tell sex from a silly dance... which is exactly what she does. As it's a comic B-plot, there is no consideration of what happens when he eventually finds out.

Plus the many, many stories to pull the 'man has sex with hot space babe, man gets pregnant' idea. Hyperdrive had some amusing scenes of the crew watching a manditory warning tape telling in graphic detail why sex with aliens is a bad idea.

Re:NASA (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212253)

Only faintly connected to your interest in Arcturan sponge-bagging (a variant on tea-bagging? I'd better Rule34 that.), but ...

Gosh - you can do ANYTHING with the 27 holes of an Arcturian ! "
--
Those giraffes you sold me - they won't mate. You sold me queer giraffes. I want my money back.

... you did, of course, check that the giraffes were of the same species? There are more giraffe species than most humans are aware [wikipedia.org] , but giraffes are better at telling giraffes apart than humans are at telling giraffes apart. Your giraffes may be perfectly straight, and your dealer, not being a giraffe-molesting perv, may not have noticed the packing error.

Re:NASA (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209875)

Not to mention the sexual pleasure. Think intergalactic sex. Would that be legal in countries where it's illegal to have sex with animals? Then only sweds could do that.

Fortunately, most countries on this planet are not intergalactic, and you can probably assume that the intergalactic countries will be more enlightened and inclusive than backwaters like Earth.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211409)

The best thing about it is you don't need to care about contraception and and there'd be no sexual diseases.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44209797)

they already found it and are keeping it secret.

Re:NASA (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209827)

Why doesn't NASA try to find alien life? Finding alien life could lead to huge technological advances.

Finding alien *intelligence* could lead to even huger technological advances. Merely finding alien life (for example, on Europa), at least in short term, would most likely lead only to sensational first pages in newspapers. Or a trespassing lawsuit and restraining order.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44209883)

Exactly, the brits already found alien life...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Beckham [wikipedia.org]

now the hunt for intelligent life.

Re:NASA (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210611)

Baby Spice was cuter.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211489)

But not an alien or dumb as a bag of potatoes.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44209857)

Why? Other than some hippie dream, it is not clear to me why it would change that much.

Re:NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210151)

Why do Pantheists immediately jump to the conclusion that the drake equation is a proof and rather that the less than zero chance of finding alien life translates into superior technological beings.
Literal bible thumpers have more cohesive arguments than you gits.

I expect we will make much more progress once we isolate the stupid gene. I suspect it is hidden between the fat gene and the lazy gene.

Re:NASA (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210281)

The only way to detect non-intelligent alien life would by via the spectrum of their planet showing lines characteristic of chemicals unlikely to be formed by non-biological processes. Very hard to pick up - it's hard enough to just detect extrasolar planets.

Intelligent life, if it exists, might be easier to find. It might find us first. Even easier if it wants to be found and can build a signalling beacon of some sort.

Re:NASA (1)

Sentrion (964745) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211867)

... Even easier if it wants to be found and can build a signalling beacon of some sort.

Such intelligent life couldn't be that intelligent then, given our history of plundering the resources of 'New Worlds' when we discover them. Not to mention that we kill, subdue, or drive out the native population to make room for our colonies, whether the natives bring us Thanksgiving goodies or not.

Re:NASA (1)

mark-t (151149) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210361)

Probably because NASA may actually have a clue as to just how big the scale of interstellar distances really is, and knows that it's technologically futile to even bother trying with the technology that we have so far.

Re: NASA (1)

IrquiM (471313) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210461)

Nah, I think it is more related to Britain having scientists involved when deciding which science to stick their finger in, while US science is ultimately decided by congress and senate. Which means Brits get to do the cool stuff.

Re: NASA (1)

mark-t (151149) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210523)

Uhmm... sure. If you consider doing stuff that won't actually amount to anything cool. I'd call it something more like self-delusion, personally.

I'm not saying that finding alien life is going to be forever impossible, I'm only saying that we just don't have the refined enough or advanced enough technology to have even an honest glimmer of hope in achieving it right now. Even the most powerful radio signals that we can send are indiscernible from the background noise of the galaxy itself long before the signal even reaches the nearest star.

Re: NASA (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210951)

I'm only saying that we just don't have the refined enough or advanced enough technology to have even an honest glimmer of hope in achieving it right now.

We could easily detect a level I or II civilization if we knew where to look. We'd see (as the Brits hope to) their megastructures (e.g. Dyson sphere) around other planets and possibly detect their propulsion systems as they expand to other star systems. We could do this with the Kepler scope now.

A level II civilization would have a difficult time hiding. And a level I civilization that wanted to be found could send out a pretty powerful beacon. Not sure why you're talking about our puny level 0 civilization's radio broadcasts. We aren't going to find our cousins. We're going to find our uncles and aunts.

Re: NASA (1)

mark-t (151149) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211163)

You know that those higher civilization levels are from science fiction, right?

Re: NASA (1)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211417)

Funnily enough, so were the satellite, mobile phone, trips to the moon, voyages to the bottom of the sea etc.

Now if the OP had referred to "Type" rather than level, he would have been referencing the Kardashev scale which is a genuine metric...the fact that it might we have evidence of only a single civilization to measure using that metric is immaterial.

Re: NASA (1)

mark-t (151149) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211901)

And each of those things took time for the technology to develop before they became possible.

My only point is that with the technology that we have today, we couldn't hope to detect anything extraterrestrial because even if something were operating at a higher type level, we wouldn't know what to be looking for, and would miss it even if we were looking right at it.

Even assuming continual technological advance, we simply won't have the ability to find intelligent life much beyond our own solar system for at least another couple of centuries unless they came to us.

Re: NASA (1)

gtall (79522) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211959)

Yeah, like ringing up the aliens for a little chat:

Alien 1: Hi there, I'm an alien, what are you.

(8 years later) EarthGuy 1: I'm an EarthGuy....errr....what do you watch on TV.

(8 years later) Alien 2: Umm...Alien 1 got bored and is out star-surfing, he says to take a message and he'll get back to you.

(8 years later) EarthGuy 2: Hey, how come Alien 1 never got back to EarthGuy 1 (where the hell did EarthGuy 1 get to)?

Re: NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212555)

America is too afraid to find alien life incase it is more advanced and then the poor USA will be little brother again.

Re:NASA (1)

tompaulco (629533) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213365)

Why doesn't NASA try to find alien life? Finding alien life could lead to huge technological advances.

Because that is INS's job. NASA's job, if anything, would be to find native life on other planets. Which would be a waste of money because 1) There probably isn't any and 2) If there is, it will be too far away for us to do anything with.

Why spend so much time/effort/money (4, Funny)

hack slash (1064002) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209775)

When they could just watch The Jeremy Kyle Show and find conclusive proof that aliens do exist.

Re:Why spend so much time/effort/money (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210197)

When they could just watch The Jeremy Kyle Show and find conclusive proof that aliens do exist.

They tried that and then decided that the only option was to find a different race of aliens to flee to.

Re:Why spend so much time/effort/money (1)

c0lo (1497653) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213473)

Are you sure the aliens aren't actually breeding inside GCHQ?

When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs ??? (2, Funny)

dryriver (1010635) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209893)

As I am typing this, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are hanging out at UFO-related sites. Some believe firmly in the existence of UFOs. Others are more sceptical but fascinated nevertheless. There are millions of people who would LOVE to find out "what the truth on UFOs/ETs is". ------- Except that no government with the necessary facts/knowledge ever comes forward and says "Yes, there genuinely are UFOs visiting earth" or "Sorry to disappoint, but none of the UFO sightings on record have anything to do with genuine UFOs/ETs". ------- It doesn't matter that the UK now wants to "hunt for other life in the universe". As long as nobody steps forward and gives people the straight dope on UFOs/ETs, a tech project like this is pointless. ---- I sometimes wonder: How can it be THIS DIFFICULT for a government to address ordinary people and give them REAL FACTS on UFOs? A simple YES or NO answer would suffice - are there real UFOs? YES or NO? ------ My 2 Cents

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (4, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209953)

The question has been answered many times by several governments, NO there is no credible evidence of alien UFOs. You just don't want to hear the answer, instead listening to wingnuts.

UNSOLVED (2)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211035)

I used to read up extensively on the subject, and am still not settled with a conclusion. If otherwise sane and reliable pilots and cops are hallucinating metallic objects hovering in front of their faces in broad daylight due to the "power of media suggestion", then we AT LEAST have a giant unsolved psychological mystery.

Whether the mystery is "up there", or in our heads, it's still an unsolved mystery.

Governments will generally not acknowledge a mystery because it invites questions and attention that they don't know how to deal with. "No, now get off my lawn" is the easier response.

Re:UNSOLVED (1)

iggymanz (596061) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211347)

mankind makes many flying things, there is ball lightning, lenticular clouds and reflection from layers of air at different temperature....the likely cause of UFO is not other worlds with aliens, just man and nature.

as to reliable cops: in the very large U.S. I live next to, many cops are dope dealers/users

Humans Want To Believe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211971)

People want to believe in something. Anything. They want to devote themselves to it in the hope that it in turn will devote itself back.

When you talk with UFO nuts, and listen to the things they say and the way they say those things, it becomes obvious that the UFO culture is just another form of religion, with the same faith-based sense of longing, and the same willful ignorance.

For them, aliens and Men In Black fill the same need others have for gods and demons, good and evil, and all the rest.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211813)

The straight dope is ...

If you believe in UFOs, then you are the dope.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

stackOVFL (1791898) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212011)

Yes, trust the gov and what they tell us. I remember not so long back when asked the gov said, well of course we're not spying on U.S. citizens, really would we lie???

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213403)

I agree the question has been answered many times by several governments - but the answer, in several ocasions is: there are UFO, and ther eare humanoid-non homo sapiens being piloting some of them. It just depends on which persons of which governments you look at.

You can search for "disclosure project' and watch some of their videos - and decide for yourself which side is lying - and wetehr "terhe are no aliens" is the truth, or just the most comfortable position on the game. ( http://www.disclosureproject.org/ [disclosureproject.org] )

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210011)

A simple YES or NO answer would suffice - are there real UFOs? YES or NO?

The answer is NO. This question has already been answered thousands of times, but people refuse to accept the answer.

You want the truth? Here's the truth. No aliens have visited the earth, and they never will. Not ever.

The idea of aliens coming to earth has been the subject of countless novels, movies and televison shows. Even though those stories are entirely fictional, they have greatly influenced the way we think about the idea of someday encountering beings from another world. Unfortunately, all of these stories illustrate just how small our thinking is on this subject, and we should be thinking bigger. Big enough to consider that if there really are any aliens with the ability to come visit us, they almost certainly would not care to.

Stephen Hawking once said that aliens visiting us would be similar to Christopher Columbus first landing on North America (not good for the inhabitants). His idea being that they would come for our resources, not with any particular purpose of friendship. Whether or not he is right is irrelevant because I don't think the aliens are coming. Ever.

Sci-fi stories can ignore the bits that aren't very interesting. Movie aliens rarely get sick or worry about eating. Movies don't mention artificial gravity much because given our limited view, we pretty much expect gravity to just work and shooting a movie without it would be a pain. So, screw it, all movie aliens have invented artificial gravity. After all, lasers, phasers, and pew-pew energy-blasters are much more fun to think about.

In the real world, however, science tends to advance in all directions because advances in one field often accelerate many others (much like the invention of the computer accelerated all other fields of human science).

If Stephen Hawking is right, then he is saying a race of aliens has, at a minimum, perfected faster-than-light travel (or perfected a way to travel for thousands of years at sub-light), conquered the long term biological effects of space radiation, and mastered extreme long distance space navigation, just so they can come to earth and steal our water.

So why *WOULD* aliens come to earth?

Do they really want our water (or minerals or whatever)? That implies an economic model in their decision. By definition, they must need and value those resources and coming here to get them must be their most economical choice. Getting them somewhere closer to home or manufacturing them must be more "expensive" (in some sense of the word) than the cost of traveling all the way here, gathering our resources and flying them home.

While not impossible, that seems unlikely - both technologically and economically. Even we have (expensively) already mastered alchemy. We have the tech to create matter from energy. Imagine that tech in a few hundred years, or whenever it is you think we'll be able to travel several light years for a mining expedition. What would be cheaper and better, forging the plutonium at home or sending a fleet of galactic warships (with thousands or soldiers and miners) to some far off planet?

Currently, we're not even able to get to Proxima Centauri (the closest star to us besides the sun) much less a place where we think there's an actual planet. Getting us to Proxima Centauri in less than a few hundred years would require technolgy that is orders of magnitude beyond what we have now. If getting humans to another star system is a 100 on some "technology ability scale", then we're currently at about 2, which is not far ahead of poodles - who are probably at 1.

What about the idea that aliens might come to Earth to colonize the planet (and maybe vaporize us in the process)? You could argue that terraforming (or maybe they would call it xenoforming) could be a technology more advanced than FTL travel. With that assumption, you could imagine an alien race that can travel across the galaxy but not alter planets to suit their biological needs. Coming to colonize Earth could make sense. But this ignores the fact that several other requisite technologies would probably make their need to colonize obsolete.

Before they had FTL travel, they likely spent many decades traveling at less that light speed and so chances are their ships are quite comfortable. In fact probably more like sailing biodomes than ships - someplace they could live indefinitely. Assuming their other scientists were hard at work while their engineers were busy perfecting FTL, stuff like air and food have long been technologied away.

The only thing something like Earth could give them is a place to stand on. Xenoforming a planet might be out of their reach, but creating ships to live in is, by definition, well within their reach. The home-iness of living on an alien planet probably is questionable. It won't be as hospitable as their own ships.

So why else might they want to come here? Maybe they want to trade with us. Yeah, right. If you've gotten this far it's obvious we have little that would interest them. What would we offer them? Pottery? A really good recipe for pizza? They certainly won't be interested in our childish technology.

Well, maybe they want to study us? Maybe. But, if they were on a mission to study life forms, we probably would not be the first planet they have visited. Chances are, they've seen other life forms already. Remember, in order to make FTL ships, pew-pew lasers and artificial gravity you're going to need math, science and computers that are far more advanced than ours. We might be interesting but not all that interesting.

So they use their super-advanced version of the Hubble telescope to see our solar system. They see earth in the "goldilocks zone" for life. They know its land and atmospheric composition. They see its oceans and know the planet's temperature variations.

Even today, if we saw such a solar system, we'd have a pretty good idea that life could be there. If our math, science and knowledge of other life forms was 1000 times more advanced, how accurately could we predict what those life forms would be like? And does it even matter? In other words, with enough data they already know we're here. Just like we know there was once water on Mars or the composition of the atmosphere on Venus.

The question of why aliens might "want to come here" is fundamentally flawed because we are forming that question from our current (tiny) viewpoint. The word "want" might not even apply to someone 1000 times smarter than us.

If we discovered a fish-like creature on Europa today it would be fascinating for us to study it. If however, we were 1000 times smarter and had spent the last 1000 years finding fish-like creatures across the galaxy, and could predict the existence of such creatures from light-years away, it probably wouldn't be all that interesting to go study another one.

The bottom line is that if an alien race is capable of getting here, all the other technology they've developed in the meantime would make the trip unnecessary, and more than likely, simply meaningless. We're just not as advanced or as important as we like to think. In the end, there's no compelling reason to think they'd be interested in meeting us.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210251)

sudo mod 6 logic

Unfortunately the uneducated masses have little interest in 'actual' alien concepts.

I'd also point out that DNA is essentially the only thing they could possibly want that we have.

And some concepts *are* required as per the laws of physics to pertain to life forms.

If an organism achieves the complexity and is lucky enough to be in an environment where intelligence is fostered, it will eventually, granting consciousnesses, observe that it needs to take in energy, or resources, to continue to survive.

So aliens will probably "want" things, assuming they evolved according to our laws of physics.

But resources? no. slaves? lolno.

Another unique self replicating molecule to add to your computation banks?
bingo.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211015)

Your argument requires the implication that DNA cannot be designed. Even if this were the case, surely the could more easily find what they need by running models and simulations through evolutionary algorithms. There's nothing particularly interesting about Earth DNA.

I'm willing to accept their is *some* information they want from the solar system, but they wouldn't even need to come here to get it. At best, they'd send a probe.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211391)

If you consider the Earth as a giant planetary scale simulation for DNA evolution, then you'd entertain the possibility that building a machine to run the model simulations might be computationally expensive enough for them to actually hop around planets to get what they'd need.

If they're here, they don't want us to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213111)

If zoo hypothesis is the case, the aliens themselves don't want us none-the-wiser either. It makes it hard to watch and learn about monkey behavior in the monkey environment if all the subjects of observation are startled and now going apeshit. (And humans being social primates are no exception to that rule.) For as long as we're stuck in Sol's gravity well, were just another bunch of animals and not the peers of any potential space-faring species. It doesn't rule out interaction, but for purposes of observation and following a scientific process, it's kept to a minimum.

And if you take a chance in considering the stories about abductees and some sightings to not be made up, then it sounds very much like being on the wrong end of a mark and recapture study done by some biologists or naturalists performing the duties of some wildlife assay program. We do the same to other animals on this planet, so with logical reasoning anybody else with more tech than us in the galaxy would have few qualms about doing it to us.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

the gnat (153162) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210355)

If however, we were 1000 times smarter and had spent the last 1000 years finding fish-like creatures across the galaxy, and could predict the existence of such creatures from light-years away, it probably wouldn't be all that interesting to go study another one.

I'm not sure about that; human scientists never get tired of biodiversity, of finding some strange and novel biochemical mechanism in newly discovered microbes from hellish (terrestrial) environments. And anthropologists still study remote stone-age tribes in places like the Amazon rain forest or Papua New Guinea, partly just out of intrinsic curiosity, but also because of what we can learn about human society in general from observing different paths of development. If we assume (not unreasonably) that intelligent, socialized life is relatively rare in the galaxy, then if a race becomes advanced enough to make interstellar travel economically viable, surely many generations of alien PhD students would be eager to study humans and write theses on alien mating rituals.

The bottom line is that if an alien race is capable of getting here, all the other technology they've developed in the meantime would make the trip unnecessary, and more than likely, simply meaningless.

I generally agree with most of your rant, but I think you've failed to take one factor into account: pure desperation. We have no incentive to rush into interstellar travel because Earth is such a remarkably habitable environment, and we'd need to engage in truly heroic levels of pollution to fuck that up. At our current level of technology, attempting to leave the planet would require converting the entire global economy to a spacecraft development program, with all of the disruption and coercion that implies. But what if an alien race with roughly terrestrial biology, of approximately the same technology level (or maybe a few centuries more advanced) and population, discovers that its sun is going to burn out or blow up, or some other planetary catastrophe destroys conventional agriculture and makes the surface nearly uninhabitable? And what if there are no nearby planets which could be terraformed? In that case, they'd suddenly have plenty of motivation to seek out another habitable planet, while lacking any of the other technology that might make this irrelevant. Perhaps it is still easier to support several billion humanoids in orbiting colonies than to transport them in hibernation to another planet, but I'm not convinced.

The good news is that if they're motivated by desperation, their level of technology probably isn't so far advanced that we couldn't kick their asses if and when they try to invade. So I'm sleeping soundly (for now).

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210945)

Nice essay.
You make a few leaps of logic, but the overall direction is mostly logical.
I have a completely different, and similarly "logical leap" filled argument on never meeting other Aliens as well.

But before I copy paste it here, I wanted to address one of your points.

"Getting us to Proxima Centauri in less than a few hundred years would require technology that is orders of magnitude beyond what we have now."
I am not sure I agree. Within 10-15 lightyears even their are life-habitable planets. Right now we have the probe Voyager that travels at something like 15% of the speed of light.
Really, given enough money and mostly today's tech I think it is plausible to imagine shipping off some sensor equipment on a 80 year journey to our best guess of a Earth-like planet. It would probably only have a 50% chance of succeeding at best, as it would necessarily have to be 100% automated, as input lag would be 20-30 years. And just getting a probe to the general area of the closest star would be very doable, given unlimited resources. Really, all you need to do is launch it pretty fast in the right direction and have a power source or a battery that lasts a century.

A thought experiment against Alien life, as depicted in Star Trek and popular belief.

Some people dream about colonizing the stars, some people draw up formulas calculating the possible billions of life filled planets, some people warn of future alien invasions.

For the purposes of this experiment, the ability to travel past the speed of light, or even just close to it is unnecessary.

I am here to tell you that these ideas are self contradictory.
The oldest solar system (potentially life bearing planets) in our incredibly small neighbourhood is calculated as being about 13 billion year old. That leaves about 10 billion years of progress above and beyond Earth. That means that they were almost certainly driving around using petroleum based fuels, and launching themselves into space similarly, 10 billion years ago.

Even if the only other life in the universe was from a single planet on the far side of the Andromeda Galaxy, or any other galaxy even 100 times further away, if it was even slightly like the culture shown in film, TV, or how we imagine ourselves, it would have already colonised Earth, Billions of years ago. (note: In a billion years even conventional human manned spacecraft could make it to another Galaxy. Space is actually quite small compared to the vastness of time)

Ignoring the incredibly small chance that our situation is special in some way.
That leaves us with few possibilities.

Life in general, or Human-like life specifically, necessarily destroys itself in short order.
Human-like life necessarily changes to become non Human-like in incredibly short order.
Colonizing planets is impossible.

The reason why we have not, and never will, discover any other alien life that we relate to is that it flashes into existence and vanishes in a blank of the cosmic eye. This is not just my opinion, this has 10 billion years of evidence to back it up. This would be like seeing a vast range of old rock that contains no fossils, and the explanation for this was that no fish or bacteria ever swam over that way in the billions of years that they could of done so.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox#Explaining_the_paradox_hypothetically [wikipedia.org]

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (2)

tysonedwards (969693) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211519)

You are wrong by several orders of magnitude.
Right now we have the probe Voyager that travels at something like 0.00015% of the speed of light.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211659)

You are right, I do not know where I got my info.
But you also seem off.
By my calculations I get .006% = (17.26 / 299792.458) km/s. Which is like an order of magnitude different than yours.

Re: When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212271)

They would observe only, any contact would be highly unethical...alien tech in the hands of man...lol half a billion years of unique evolution would be obliterated in a day if religious extremists got a hold of an alien flashlight

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (2)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211179)

If we discovered a fish-like creature on Europa today it would be fascinating for us to study it. If however, we were 1000 times smarter and had spent the last 1000 years finding fish-like creatures across the galaxy, and could predict the existence of such creatures from light-years away, it probably wouldn't be all that interesting to go study another one.

You are assuming that unique civilizations are common. They might not be, as the Fermi Paradox suggests. The "study hypothesis" is still quite valid.

In fact, the study hypothesis fits with the UFO observations: usually stealth studies, but every now and then flubbing their stealth because they consider 99.9% reliable stealth "good enough" for their purposes without excess expenditures of their resources.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211629)

What you are saying is really just pointless speculation. There is no more reason to think aliens would not want to visit us than there is that they want to. Aliens who have the ability to do so could come to earth for a thousands of reasons, from religious ones over just having fun, scaring local inhabitants, trading goods with us (e.g. they could just happen to really like paintings of Belgian seasides), curiosity, etc. We simply don't know and it's pointless speculating about motives for trying or not trying. (Notice, however, that we're exploring the deep sea with special, extremely expensive ships although we're 1000 times smarter than the fish living there. So at least we do such things.)

Worse, though, your speculations are highly implausible. A space-traveling species need not be 1000 times more advanced than us. Just look at our own technological and scientific development over the past 300 years or so and you'll find that they might be no more than the equivalent of (our own) 100 years of development ahead of us in order to have the ability to visit earth. Moreover, you're mixing up intelligence with culture. Scientific advance doesn't imply an increase in intelligence - perhaps it's possible to enhance intelligence with genetic modifications, but there could be a miriad of reasons why a space-travelling species might not want to do that. There is no reason to think that a aliens capable of visiting us had to be more intelligent than we are. For all we know, they could even be dumber than us and just a little bit ahead in terms of scientific discoveries. Columbus and his crews were also not inherently more intelligent than the Indian natives they first met. Aliens could also very well be interested in meeting other species that evolved traits of 'intelligence' (including complex cultures, creativity, etc.) and seek out systems that look promising. Or not. They could be like us or very different, more or less intelligent than us, find us highly interesting or not at all or something in between, come for fun, science, establishing an unimportant forward base in some intergalactic war, or something else. They could be more or less aggressive than humans.

It's just not very likely that they'd pick earth, because we're in a relatively remote part of the Milky Way and it's quite possible, though we don't know for sure yet, that there could be tens of thousands or even millions of habitable planets with intelligent life on them. But even that would depend on their priorities, which we don't know.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

Smauler (915644) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212809)

Getting us to Proxima Centauri in less than a few hundred years would require technolgy that is orders of magnitude beyond what we have now.

Getting to the moon requires technology orders of magnitude beyond what humanity had 500 years ago. 500 years is a blink of an eye in galactic terms.

We already have now ideas about how it would be possible to travel to other star systems... given enough impetus, we could start a project now. The likelihood of success would be near zero, it'd take hundreds or thousands of years, but we know it could be possible. 500 years ago, no one even had a clue how to get to the moon.

500 years is insignificant in terms of the timescale of the universe, galaxy, solar system, and even humanity.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213407)

Nice, extended and laborious comment. A pity it is as disconnected from reality as it could get.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210715)

I think it is pretty clear that none of these people care about any kindof truth or evidence. Many people, governments, organizations the world over have conducted experiments, given full disclosure, and performed thought experiences, and they are not interested at all in anything other that saying that Napoleon was abducted by aliens, or the US is involved in secret wars with subsurface dwelling Aliens.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

gtall (79522) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211985)

Oh yeah, explain Madonna then. Surely she is evidence of alien life.

Re:When will we get the STRAIGHT DOPE on ETs/UFOs (1)

tompaulco (629533) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213381)

It is not a simple YES or NO answer. It is BOTH. YES, there are UFOs, as in Unidentified Flying Objects and NO, these UFOs are not extraterrestrial life forms coming to visit us. They are merely airplanes, helicopters, atmospheric effects, shadows, and other natural and manmade phenomena that the observer at the time is unable to identify.

Wrong usage of resources (4, Insightful)

DF5JT (589002) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209895)

If the British used all the available computing and storage power of its secret data snorkeling, they might actually put the equipment to a more promising use than illegally spying on the rest of Europe.

Not a good idea (1)

srwood (99488) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209915)

History is dominated with stories of more advanced civilizations destroying less advanced civilizations.

Re:Not a good idea (2)

iggymanz (596061) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209943)

I look at history and see many cases of more advanced ones annexing less advanced civilizations, so the end result is a mixture of both

Re:Not a good idea (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210009)

History is dominated with stories of moderately advanced civilizations with overly positive self-image destroying less advanced civilizations.

Here, FTFY.

Re:Not a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210163)

It would be hard to say what would happen. In the first place, it there were extraterrestrial life that made itself known to us (via radio or whatever) - the likelihood that they would even be something we would recognize as life would be low. If we did recognize them as life, they wouldn't look anything like us. If somehow they were actually able to come to earth - well, odds are they would be so advanced as to see us as lower animals. Basically what we would call "food". (That is if they were even based on similar amino acids / carbon - a big stretch; however, if they were, they would eat us just like we eat chicken). Now, if we could establish communications with them - let's say they were from a very close star - 4 light years away. We would get to say something every 4 years and then they could answer and we'd get it 8 years after we sent it. Either side of that communications channel could lose funding, interest, etc. before they said much more than, "How's it hanging?".

Re:Not a good idea (3, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210723)

odds are they would be so advanced as to see us as lower animals. Basically what we would call "food"

You actually think that *we* will develop advanced interstellar travel (which is incredibly demanding in terms of energy) before being able to synthesize any compound or foodstuff in essentially limitless quantities? And if you don't, why do you think that the aliens would be so stupid?

Re:Not a good idea (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211057)

Honestly I think there are more examples of less advanced barbarians destroying more advanced civilizations, while claiming be more advanced and doing the world and the opposing side a favour.

Look no closer than Londonistan (0)

sethstorm (512897) | 1 year,23 days | (#44209961)

If they want to see evidence of an "alien invasion", one might look to the people that are coming from outside the UK - especially Africa and the Middle East.

It's not politically correct, but it is the truth.

Re:Look no closer than Londonistan (2)

Sesostris III (730910) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210193)

Agreed. Bloody Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings , Normans, et al. They should all bloody well go back to where they came from and leave the UK for us Beaker People, that's what I say!

(/sarcasm - in case anyone took this seriously!)

Re:Look no closer than Londonistan (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211713)

Sarcasm Noted, but you do realise the damn Beaker People were bloody Immigrants as well...

Re:Look no closer than Londonistan (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210375)

If they want to see evidence of an "alien invasion", one might look to the people that are coming from outside the UK - especially Africa and the Middle East.

It's not politically correct, but it is the truth.

If all those folks from Africa and the Middle East were arriving in flying saucers and spaceships, then it would be interesting and nobody would care if it was politically correct or not.

A benefit to avoiding conclusive proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210057)

One has to wonder how much panic and disruption to existing institutions, religions, power structures, and other damage conclusive proof of alien life might cause. Wouldn't the status-quo override any compelling proof?

Geographical weighting? (a bit trollish) (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210073)

So, what parts of the UK are believed to have the highest probability of harboring those ETs?

THERE IS MONEY WELL SPENT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210099)

After all who in Blighty needs, oh, dental work ??

Hahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210109)

There's the joke about the British being proud of their accomplishment of being the first nation to land a man on the surface of the Earth.

Re: Hahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210651)

Please tell us your joke.

Should we transmit? (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210139)

There are now six systems with of known exoplanets within 10 light years. It's quite feasible to send messages in their direction on a regular basis. Should this be done?

Re:Should we transmit? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210325)

Not enough. If intelligent life exists, it must be rare or it'd have been found already. We'll need to do more than just beam a radio signal to a few planets. We'd need to build one really big transmitter and start systematically beaming to every star that even might harbor civilisation.

Something simple. 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 in unary. Easily understood, and the meaning is obvious: 'We are here, please reply.'

Re:Should we transmit? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211037)

Everyone thinks it is like Star Trek.
Given the age of the universe any other human-like life is either billions of years older than ours, or it will be billions of years until they exist.
If there was an intelligent species that had any interest in finding/communicating with other life-forms even within a 200 ly distance they would have sent a probe, or colonization ship to Earth billions of years ago, or every 10 thousand years for the last billion years. If their was anything out there interested in talking to us, or conquering us for that mater, it would already have happened, or the ship is currently in transit (Though I would of supposed that they would of put some nearly indestructible message somewhere were life would find it if they were trying to find intelligent life).

Either way, doing either of your ideas is ridiculous.

Re: Should we transmit? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213741)

What if the aliens turn out to be niggers? Yeah, they'd be more or less human, but what are the chances a planet full of niggers would ever invent radio, let alone space flight? The UK may be waiting a long, long time to get a response to their message.

Re:Should we transmit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211119)

Yeah, bullshit. "It'd have been found already" is a useless answer as human beings don't have the means to transmit far and fast enough for that statement to have any iota of truth.

Human knowledge is not the bastion of truth and all there is in the universe.

Re:Should we transmit? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213397)

Yeah, bullshit. "It'd have been found already" is a useless answer as human beings don't have the means to transmit far and fast enough for that statement to have any iota of truth.

Human knowledge is not the bastion of truth and all there is in the universe.

Yup, once we get past that issue with the speed of light, we should really start making some progress.

Re:Should we transmit? (2)

arobatino (46791) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210781)

If there are advanced civilizations there, they've already intercepted our radio and TV signals. In fact, by monitoring the changes in our atmosphere, they could have detected our presence centuries ago, and been able to estimate when we would start transmitting, before we even knew what electromagnetic waves were. This is true even assuming they're not capable of interstellar travel.

Re:Should we transmit? (1)

abies (607076) | 1 year,23 days | (#44211995)

On contrary - even with good technology, it is very hard to detect human activity from far away. We were quite 'noisy' for 50-100 years, but thats not the case anymore. Switching from big radio antennas for radio radiating in all directions to low-power satellites broadcasting downwards and fiberoptic cables is making us more and more silent. And for detecting changes in atmosphere - despite of what climate-change aware people are claiming, man-made changes are nothing compared to what planet was going through in more exciting times.

If there is an alien civilisation outside of, let's say 100-200 lightyears radios, chances of getting background activity from us are quite low. On the other hand, if they are that far, then even if they pick up our signal and send something back, there is a good chance we will be technologically extinct by then. By 'technological extinction' I mean things like getting into bad war/supervolcano explosion and surviving as million-population caveman level, getting into pro-life mood and surviving as 50-billion society with no erg spare to waste on things like SETI, using up all easily accesible fuel without investing into long-term replacement, etc.

Re:Should we transmit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212673)

Erm if they are watching, they know we're here.

Re:Should we transmit? (1)

magpie (3270) | 1 year,23 days | (#44212693)

Do you really think any advanced civ out there hasn't picked up that we are about? We have been broadcasting our existence for a about a century (or more). Anyone looking knows we are here for about 100 light years about. Should we broadcast....we have been for decades. That genie is well and truly out the bottle. Tis too late to worry about it.

Re:Should we transmit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212937)

You need to learn more basic science.
Our broadcasts are in a 100+ light year sphere.
Thats not even the next block over.

I'd rather them... (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210271)

...build a real Hogwarts and spend time/money on researching wizards/witchery until Dumbledore emerges.

In Space Spies can hear you scream. and record it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44210329)

The UK has recorded all of Earth's communications now they want to listen in on E.T.

Intelligent Life???? (1)

3seas (184403) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210639)

Anytime this subject matter of alien life is posted to slashdot it results in a majority of posts expressing a lack of intelligence.
So for those who could use some educating - http://www.citizenhearing.org/ [citizenhearing.org]
This does however cause me to wonder what they are really looking for.

Meaningless Effort (1)

ATestR (1060586) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210859)

The headline as presented is about as worthless as the UK project.

First, is there non-terrestrial life? Almost certainly, given the number of planets that we are seeing just in the nearby stars in our own galaxy.

Second, is any of this life intelligent? I would speculate that somewhere, there is what could be termed intelligent life, just on a statistical basis.

Third, can we contact that intelligent life in any way? This I have grave doubts about, since even in the best case, it lies many light years distance from our solar system, and the amount of effort required to transmit a detectable signal is huge... even if you know exactly what direction to point your signaling device.

Is the project worth doing? Perhaps, but only for entertainment value, and perhaps to generate some spinoff tech that can be used for something useful.

UK helping NSA? (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210959)

So NSA wants to spy on ET also.

"ET phoned home at 11:34.47am and talked to Phlooog for 17.387 minutes."

Aliens (1)

mynameiskhan (2689067) | 1 year,23 days | (#44210975)

Aliens? Like from other parts of Europe and Asia? I am sorry, living the US, I must be confused.

Once again (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44211997)

Once again, the godless scientist will throw away millions and billions of tax payer dollars on the completely worthless pursuit of trying to prove that there is no God. The scripture tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. And upon earth and earth alone, He created man. But then you don;t believe that or even care about it, that is until you end up in hell wondering how stupid you had been.

Re:Once again (1)

tompaulco (629533) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213409)

Once again, the godless scientist will throw away millions and billions of tax payer dollars on the completely worthless pursuit of trying to prove that there is no God. The scripture tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. And upon earth and earth alone, He created man. But then you don;t believe that or even care about it, that is until you end up in hell wondering how stupid you had been.

And nowhere in scripture does it say that God didn't create other creatures on other planets, although it does have some passages which might be interpreted as referring to extraterrestrial life, but more likely to other life on other continents, or even just to other peoples in neighboring regions, or even just referring to Gentiles. IE. John 10:16

You know where this is going... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212317)

If aliens are out there, the United Kingdom is determined to find them... ...not to mention import them, naturalize them, put them on the dole and give them the best council houses, and sic the police on any native Brits who might object.

Re: UK Steps Up the Search For Alien Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44212329)

Google has already found it. Just look at today's doodle. (Roswell being 66 years old, that is.)

Please don't (1)

X10 (186866) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213071)

We should hope aliens never find us. Because, they're certainly not less developed than we are, or how would they find us or we them? Then, the chance that they are exactly in the same stage of development as we are is next to zero. Most probably, they are a million years ahead of us, and we would be to them what cockroaches are to us. Please don't let them find us.

Re:Please don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44213315)

I'd guess that most peoples revulsion to cockroaches has little to do with an estimation of their evolutionary development. I mean, I quite like ladybirds (ladybugs) and I would never dream of killing one but I doubt they're any more intelligent than 'roaches.

Instead, pls work on Dr. Who latency to US (1)

Charles Jo (2946783) | 1 year,23 days | (#44213831)

Not sure why we have to wait months in the US.
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