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Should SETI Be Looking For Lasers Instead?

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the mutant-sharks-come-free dept.

Space 694

colonist writes "Frank Drake, creator of SETI's famous equation, says the detection of extraterrestrial radio signals won't work, because Earth's own radio signal will only be around for 100 years. More and more of Earth's communications use cable and satellites, with no radio-frequency leakage to space. Instead, we should be looking for intentional signals in the form of high-powered lasers that could 'outshine the sun by a factor of 10,000'. Meanwhile, Paul Davies writes that we should be conducting SETI in our DNA. In turns out that an alien message designed to last millenia should be 'inside a large number of self-replicating, self-repairing microscopic machines programmed to multiply and adapt to changing conditions', otherwise known as living cells. Are we the message?"

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694 comments

Optical SETI (5, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927414)


Optical (ie: laser detection) SETI has been up and running for a while now (see Optical SETI overview [seti.org] for example). Drake ought to declare an interest though, since he's one of the investigators on the project.

It's a reasonable argument, but it's far harder to set up optical "listening" posts than radio ones. It cost me about 1000 uk pounds (WHY is the pound symbol banned from /. ?) to set up a SETI listening post [gornall.net], including all the costs from dish/low-noise-amplifier through receiver and PC. Setting up an optical one is waaay more expensive. Optics in general are far more expensive than radio components, and large-scale ones are extortionate :-(

The counter argument of course is that to detect laser light, the remote civilisation have to be pointing their laser at us, whereas with radio it doesn't matter since it's not a directed beam. Against that you have to offset the time-period over which transmissions of either kind could be made...

The chances of getting a radio contact may be a few orders of magnitude lower than getting an optical contact, but since the chances of me setting up an optical SETI station are precisely 0, the chances of getting 'the' signal with radio is infinitely greater than with optics, at least for me :-)

Simon

Re:Optical SETI (4, Interesting)

selderrr (523988) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927458)

a very stupid question from a non-engineer : is it not possible to have non-directed optical signals ? Some sort of 'ambiet laser'. I understand that you'd have to go low voltage in order not to burn everything around you, but aren't pulsar stars some sort of ambient light beacon ? ? And how about we set up SETI to search for radioactivity residue slung into space ??

Re:Optical SETI (5, Insightful)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927487)

A diffuse source contradicts with LASER, but yes, it's possible. But in order for it to be detected over ambient light it would have to be something huge and noticeable like a pulsar - I'd hate to see their electricity bill, these aliens of yours ;)

Re:Optical SETI (4, Informative)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927510)

very stupid question from a non-engineer : is it not possible to have non-directed optical signals ? Some sort of 'ambiet laser'

Um, yes. Just take a look at your closest lightbulb. There's your omnidirectional light source right there. One might actually consider variable stars as messages from outer space...

In the interests of mentioning something real that actually exists, take a look at 802.11 over IR [wi-fiplanet.com]

Lasers are used for point-to-point links because there is usually an intended recipient. All of the energy goes to that single, intended direction. However, there shouldn't be anything to stop creating ambient monocromatic light source..

Re:Optical SETI (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927511)

AFAIK, if it's ambient.. it's not a laser.. a laser is a focused stream of light. Correct me if I'm wrong though, IANAS ;-)

Re:Optical SETI (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927567)

A laser is a L.A.S.E.R., which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. This means that the laser light is an amplification of a smaller light source. Because of the amplification, the laser light waves are synchronous to each other, because they are the amplification of the same light wave. This type of light is called coherent. And because the light waves are synchronous, they can't be diffuse, which would be a contradiction in itself.

If laser light travels, it loses this coherency, so the laser light gets more and more diffuse (the coherency gets slowly down, so the diffuse part increases). Optically this means that the light beam diameter gets wider and wider with the distance from the source. If the starting laser beam is very strongly bundled and has a very small diameter (thus a high energy density), this widening effect gets stronger. Less strong bundled lasers with lower energy density don't widen that much, so most long distance laser experiments (like measuring the distance to the Moon by shooting a laser beam there and take the time until the reflection can be measured) use quite large diameters, which you wouldn't call "laser" at all, because they don't spur the needle fine light :)

Re:Optical SETI (1)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927554)

is it not possible to have non-directed optical signals
The obvious thing would be to move the directed optical signal to widen the field.

Re:Optical SETI (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927460)

£

Re:Optical SETI (5, Funny)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927530)

I'm not really sure I want to be looking to make contact with aliens who are pointing FRICKEN LASERS at us.

Re:Optical SETI (4, Informative)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927578)

WHY is the pound symbol banned from /. ?

I believe the answer would be because Slashdot only supports the lower 128 bits/characters of ASCII because the upper or extended 128 bits/characters are not standardized. Or rather, there are too many standards - hundreds of them - used by different people and countries to represent various different characters. Perhaps Slashdot should support the most common of them, ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1), in which the code for the UK pound symbol is 163... but Unicode will probably be supported before that happens. In short, Slashdot sucks a bit. :-)

As an AC showed in reply to this thread, you can display the UK pound symbol using its HTML equivalent '£' - producing £.

Message from aliens in our DNA finally found! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927418)

The message only contained two words:

FIRST POST!

What a horrible message. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927419)

Are we the message?

I guess that's akin to leaving a flaming bag of poo on the doorstep.

Bingo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927421)

Are we the message?

Give yourself 5 points.

Re:Bingo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927433)

If I could mod you "Snort!" I would.

Are we the message? (5, Interesting)

EachLennyAPenny (731871) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927425)

Is a message allowed to read itself?

Re:Are we the message? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927451)

The medium is the message, and the medium is space, which is why we're not hearing anything.

Hey, it's a good thing the Drake equation isn't a crock of shit, huh? Thoroughly validated, and lots and lots of use!

Re:Are we the message? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927503)

no that violates the DMCA

Re:Are we the message? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927584)

Jim, this message will destroy itself in 150 years...

message of means? (5, Funny)

Tjebbe (36955) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927427)

Maybe we should consider the possibility that we are part of a device to perform some calculation to find the answer to a certain big question.

If they outshine Sol by 10,000x... (3, Funny)

toomin (793701) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927429)

Then we hardly need a whole lot of computers to see them!

Re:If they outshine Sol by 10,000x... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927489)

Intensity drops by r^3. When you're talking about r in light years, cube root(1e4 x small) = 21 x cube root(small) = small. You need all the help you can get.

Re:If they outshine Sol by 10,000x... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927559)

"Do not look at the alien civilization with your remaining eye."

We should decode viruses too (1, Interesting)

Scorillo47 (752445) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927430)

Somewhere I read that some flu viruses might be of alien form. Indeed, they seem to be the ideal organisms built for space travel. So why don't we search for alien messages in their DNA too?

Re:We should decode viruses too (2, Insightful)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927441)

viruses and non-eukaryotes have to be too efficient with their DNA. Anything not needed will get discarded

Re:We should decode viruses too (1)

Scorillo47 (752445) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927485)

Well, probably there is still some room for some message, like "Alien XXX please fix your software" or something like this :-)

Some advanced viruses such as bacteriophages of the family Leviviridae, can reach almost 300 Kbp (kilobase pairs) which should be enough to store some additional data.

Re:We should decode viruses too (2, Informative)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927557)

viruses and non-eukaryotes have to be too efficient with their DNA. Anything not needed will get discarded

I disagree. [dnafiles.org]

To quote the above linked source

"In reassortment, two separate viral strains, sometimes from different host species, infect the same cell and swap whole segments of one or two genes. This is how the 1957 and 1968 strains may have originated. The 1957 strain, which killed 70,000 in the United States, carries three gene segments from ducks and five from humans. The later version, which took a U.S. toll of 34,000, mixes two duck segments with six human ones."

Human and Duck DNA in one strain of the Flu virus doesn't sound very efficient to me.

LK

Re:We should decode viruses too (1)

jayminer (692836) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927505)

Some viruses (retroviruses/retrovirii) even don't have DNAs, they have have single strand RNA (ssRNA). These viruses inject the enzyme reverse transcriptase along with the RNA.

Virus DNA is transcribed and translated to make capsid proteins and reverse transcriptase later.

Maybe this is the alien code we're looking for, just something different of a genetic code, emulating human DNA behavior, strange.

Re:We should decode viruses too (2, Interesting)

zoefff (61970) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927509)

Pay attention: irony ahead.


We don't need to search there.

Quoted from the article: The cargo would be designed to infect, without harm, any DNA-based life it encountered.


There, they KNOW that we are a DNA-based life form, universally sprung from a watery solution, the salty sea. Like we all know, that harmless DNA can be engineered quite easily. That's why I don't understand that all the rocks from the moon (and mars) are in quarantine

Regarding RF Leakage to Space (5, Insightful)

Effugas (2378) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927434)

We dump pretty enormous amounts of energy at RADAR wavelengths, 24/7, across the night sky. That'll stop approximately when we have no fear of hostile aircraft showing up at our borders.

You know, never.

--Dan

Re:Regarding RF Leakage to Space (1)

earthman (12244) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927446)

Even if there would be no fear of hostile aircraft, radar would be used to track civilian aircraft, birds, etc.

Re:Regarding RF Leakage to Space (1)

torpor (458) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927476)


No, that'll stop when laser-based detection systems, capable of tracking gnats across your grandma's ass, are fielded, globally.

In other words, around 2015.

Re:Regarding RF Leakage to Space (2, Informative)

Effugas (2378) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927495)

Then it's just a matter of frequency, not coverage. Remember, at the end of the day, light is just another wavelength of EMF, just like RADAR. And I doubt we'd go to a global laser system, if only because the higher the frequency, the worse the penetration -- the whole thing about seeing clouds is because they block and scatter optical frequencies. (They also scatter radar, but less, and in a correctable fashion -- see SAR, synthetic aperature radar).

But if we did, we'd really have to pump the power up, and since we're illuminating the sky, we'd have to pump far more energy out into the wild blue yonder than for the equivalent space in low frequency RADAR bands.

--Dan

Re:Regarding RF Leakage to Space (5, Insightful)

Inexile2002 (540368) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927516)

What a letdown to discover alien RF signals and find out their message was "ping". It would be undeniably cool to discover them, but if all we discovered was RADAR signals there would be no message to decypher.

Re:Regarding RF Leakage to Space (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927541)

We dump pretty enormous amounts of energy at RADAR wavelengths
Would this energy still be detectable from far (lightyears) off? Conversely, would we ever be able to detect RF signals from alien planetside radar or satellite uplinks? I don't think so, and that's not what we're looking for. From the article blurb: "...intentional signals in the form of high-powered lasers" (Emphasis mine).

If you're trying to say "hi" to beings on another planet, lasers are a much better option than radio... you'd need a pretty big transmitter to get through to the other side. Lasers are directional and thus more effient. (The downside is that you'll have to poke it at different stars in turn, if you don't know which star your pals' planet is orbiting). So it stands to reason that aliens would also use lasers rather than radio to try and contact us.

Satellites? (5, Insightful)

earthman (12244) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927435)

And exactly since when do satellite uplink transmissions stop at the satellite? The uplink is a radio wave, albeit a directed one. It might still be possible to pick up an alien uplink signal.

Apparently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927439)

Paul Davies reads [fark.com] Fark too.

We are the message. (2, Funny)

torpor (458) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927444)

Oh sure, yeah, right. DNA is the frickin' solution to everything, isn't it?

Next thing you know, all those conspiracy nutters who say we are "Children of the Gods" will be being appointed to national agencies ... sheesh.

Look, if someone knows something about space aliens, then OUT WITH IT!! Why the American people have put up with Area 51 for so long without any sort of culpability being required of their government, I do not know. Of the people and for the people, my ass.

Of the Grey Overlords, and For the Grey Overlords. Lets just call it a spade.

DNA, no way! (1)

WhatsAProGingrass (726851) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927447)

That would be kind of dumb to put a message in living cells. We've been around not nearly as long as other things like "Rocks". Life as we know it is very fragile and in my opinion not a good message carrier.

Nuclear Powered lasers sounds pretty cool. To send out beacons my ass, they want a better missle defense system.

Re:DNA, no way! (1)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927565)

That would be kind of dumb to put a message in living cells. We've been around not nearly as long as other things like "Rocks". Life as we know it is very fragile and in my opinion not a good message carrier

Oh, but it is! Because if the message was simply to have different kinds of races, then nothing we have done so far has changed that.

I'm no DNA specialist, but i imagine there are certain dna strings in a human body that is equal for all humans (like all humans have 2 arms, 2 legs and a head). That string never changed, so the 'message' stays intact over the centuries. Very good carrier if you ask me.

Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (0)

jkrise (535370) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927455)

Considering we're struggling to even send unmanned spacecraft to Saturn, how can we succeed in making sense from random radio signals? Secondly, considering light takes 25 years to reach the Earth from the nearest star, how will the knowledge help us?

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (1)

zoefff (61970) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927475)

purely philofosically: We are not ALONE.
I mean the diversion from the earth being the centre of the universe had some impact. People got killed for the idea alone.
Better to have a good neighbour than a friend that's far away. ;)

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927514)

If we're not alone, we need to know about it. Instead of fighting ourselves, we can arm to meet the aliens, instead. The encouragement in investment and decrease in wasted expenses like war will help society.

Of course, if you believe Contact, then they're all friendly and there to confuse us into not knowing if there is someone there or not. And you that you still need to be careful of cult wackos.

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927533)

How are we in danger from creatures light years away from us? What kind of weapons can help us defend ourselves? Even if we had a laser gun pointing to these aliens, it'd take years to reach the target!

-

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927566)

Asimov's contention in the later Foundation series was that there was a zeroth law:

A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

As a net result of this formulation, the robot allowed the individuals to be subordinated by a larger world -- in essence, assimilated by a Borg. The rationale for this was that, together, the worlds stood a greater chance of survival than apart. Since they already knew there was other life, that potential threat was a reality. If it took a few centuries or millenia to surface, it was still a threat.

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927517)

What planet are you on?

The nearest star to ours, Alpha Centauri, is only 4 light years away.

Where did you pull 25 from ?

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927538)

I pulled it from my mistaken memory, perhaps. Still doesn't make a huge difference to my point. Which is, we are not in danger from enemies who are light years away. And there's very little we could do in defence, even if we were. A pointless exercise, in my opinion.

-

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (4, Insightful)

Inexile2002 (540368) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927535)

Sorry buddy. There are a couple of dozen, possibly even hundreds of stars within 25 light years. Alpha Centuari is something like 4.1 lightyears away. So, sun excepted, it takes a hair over 4 years for light from the nearest star to reach us.

Second. What does the difficulty of getting to Saturn have to do with making sense of radio signals?

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927549)

Assuming we found life existed in a planet 4 light years away - how long would it take to send a chocolate over there? A few thousands of years I guess - does it matter really?

-

Re:Light takes 25 years from nearest star.. (5, Informative)

ColdGrits (204506) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927536)

"considering light takes 25 years to reach the Earth from the nearest star"

Erm, are you SURE about that?

Ignoring the real nearest star, Sol, the next nearest star is Proxima Centauri [nasa.gov] which is 4.22 light-years away... i.e. its light only takes 4.22 years to get here, not the 25 you claim.

There are 25 known stars within 13 lightyears [nasa.gov]. Their light won't take 25 years to get to us either.

Seriously. You wanna check your random information before presenting it as a fact!

Duh? (1)

ikewillis (586793) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927461)

Is EM not the most likely medium for wide-beam transmission? Lasers are completely ridiculous... it's a tight beam transmission taken to an extreme. We have no idea how other civilizations could be reaching out... perhaps they're using gravity waves, or perhaps they've discovered some sort of faster-than-light system of communications which they have been signaling other races with but we are too ignorant to perceive. In all likelyhood EM is the best way of reaching out to other civilizations, and while we may not be talking yet to any siginicant degree I can't argue with listening...

Dumb Idea (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927465)

Yes, we are the intelligent design of an alien lifeform. Find out more information at http://www.rael.org/ [rael.org].

An experiment (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927466)

Albeit, there's a lot of non-coding DNA in Eukaryotic cells, but I wonder how many generations a random mutation would endure in that region unchanged. Those regions probably have a purpose re: the conformation of the DNA, among other things.

While using SETI on our genetic code might be helpful in identifying patterns and so forth, the notion that another creature would talk to us that way seems a little far fetched.

In Soviet Centauri (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927478)

messages encode YOU!

Better than finding out that DNA in ascii gives you the Goatse guy... or a GNAA troll.

This reminds me of a saying... (4, Insightful)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927479)

"When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail"

Next thing you know, we will look for SETI in the burn pattern of a tortilla...or maybe in the reflection from a store window...

Is anyone getting my point here?

"For centuries, mankind has searched for evidence of God, in the skies, in the stars, in animals and in himself." Now do a search and replace s/God/aliens/ and ask if this is really any more a sensible statement. Not to mention, if we do find aliens, are we their peers, or are they our gods?

Final thought of the day...from what I can understand, our solar system is rather young compared to other galaxies out there. And apparently there are hundreds of planets capable of supporting life (our life, that's not even counting life that forms in some environment we consider hostile). Well if that's the case, and life/evolution is as easy as the theories make it sound (all it takes is heat and time)...then why isn't the universe like something out of Star TRek with hundreds of alien species flittering about, dropping in to violate the prime directive, establish moonbases, and so forth? Think about it.

- JoeShmoe
.

Re:This reminds me of a saying... (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927537)

Next thing you know, we will look for SETI in the burn pattern of a tortilla...or maybe in the reflection from a store window...
The Roman Catholic Church is waaaaay ahead of you there...

Re:This reminds me of a saying... (1)

Slinky Saves the Wor (759676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927556)

Well if that's the case, and life/evolution is as easy as the theories make it sound (all it takes is heat and time)...then why isn't the universe like something out of Star TRek with hundreds of alien species flittering about, dropping in to violate the prime directive, establish moonbases, and so forth? Think about it.

There's only one logical conclusion: we are the first ones, the first race to appear.

Do we live up to that idea?

Re:This reminds me of a saying... (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927581)

why isn't the universe like something out of Star TRek with hundreds of alien species flittering about, dropping in to violate the prime directive, establish moonbases, and so forth?
Perhaps because faster-than-light travel (for the nitpickers: by that I also mean things like hyperspace, wormholes and teleportation) is impossible or not practical, and that most sentient races prefer to stay in their own solar system for that reason.

My DNA says. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927481)

No user serviceable DNA inside, please consult your local Genesis Device reseller of warrantee issues.

(Hair Color Gene)

Blond Hair Outside! Can't Divide!

(Appendix Formation Gene)

-- Depreciated Code, ##GOD

(Eye Color Gene)

-- Unchecked Buffer but who cares? ##JOE

So now we are looking for... (4, Funny)

hool5400 (257022) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927486)

Aliens with frickin' laser beams on their heads?

Because that would rock.

Are We the Message ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927488)

In turns out that an alien message designed to last millenia should be 'inside a large number of self-replicating, self-repairing microscopic machines programmed to multiply and adapt to changing conditions', otherwise known as living cells. Are we the message?"

Nice idea. But, IMHO, it is not the 'Magic Encrypted Formula' hardcoded into whatever finally rendering the even more magical 42. What about the hypotheses that the system that the instances based on that DNA create is covering (for sure alternative, because supposedly on the level targeted there is no single 'true' one) messages?

CC.

SETI on DNA (2, Funny)

trifakir (792534) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927500)

CCAA MADE INCH INAA AAGT CAGT TCCT CGCT

That is to fool the lameness filter. It counts the capitals or something like this.

Noooooo! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927502)

All my years of hard work at Seti@home for nothing? Oh, well, back to Doom3, much better use of my spare cycles anyway.

A different mode of life. (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927504)

I have always thought that there could be a different mode of life out there. That is, one that flourishes on a different kind of gas other than oxygen or any other gases we know here. It could even be the environment that is different. Yet I see NASA and the SETI people looking for a life similar to ours. This is obviously waste! Remember that according to Godly people, nothing is impossible by him. So this kind of life could be possible too. How can a [small] man like me suggest new strategies to these NASA/SETI guys?

Re:A different mode of life. (1)

doshell (757915) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927569)

In order to look for an "alternative" form of life, you must first define it. Is it based on sylicium instead of carbon? Does it breathe nitrogen instead of oxygen? Does it need methane instead of water?

You must answer questions like these (don't mind my stupid examples) before you can actually look for said life forms. Otherwise you simply don't know what to look for. :)

Obviously, there is a big problem in deciding which alternative seems the most plausible.

Orson Scott Card (1)

toomin (793701) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927513)

In his Children of the Mind book, they find an alien civilization on a planet that communicated via DNA, and i thought that oidea was wonderfully original. For example, the aliens give their space craft a messege that resembles, very much so, a cocaine molucule. The crew had to work out whether they aliens were trying to say "hey, have some cocaine, join the party!", or whether they were drugging them and boarding the ship.

No - we should be looking at pi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927515)

Sheesh - you'd figure that the SETI guy would have read Contact

Why the hell didn't he say that eariler? (1)

hdd (772289) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927518)

so basiclly he is saying all the time, money and the processing power donated to seti at home project are for nothing?

Obligatory Futurama quote (0)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927519)

Monk #1: "He speaks out of love for his friend. Perhaps that love in his heart is God."
Monk #2: "Oh, how convenient, a theory about God that doesn't require looking through a telescope. Get back to work!"

Here... [gotfuturama.com]

I remember star trek (1)

fozzmeister (160968) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927520)

Where they didn't want to see us until we had warp engines. I'm no trekie but perhaps if the message exists it's in something that we can't do yet / don't even know about.

Re:I remember star trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927553)

Agreed.

Or put another way (and to borrow from a fairly prevalent theme in Stargate SG-1) humans are too 'young' to fully comprehend/accept the message and/or truth without destroying ourselves.

Think about it. We have a hard enough time dealing with different HUMANS -- so much that we go to war over it. Imagine how we'd react if we learned of the existence of aliens. We'd destroy ourselves -- insane religious cults will appear, conservative Judeo-Christian types (who believe we're the only ones in the universe for a number of reasons) would have their beliefs crushed, and governments would flip out at the thought of something beyond their control.

The human race as a whole isn't far along enough to fully comprehend such a message without destroying itself, and it'll be a real long time before we are.

I had an idea like this a while back. (3, Interesting)

Mr.Cookieface (595791) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927522)

One day when I was reading about some possible candidates of stars that were likely to develop earth like planets, I thought it would be cool to send the spark of life their way so that it could possibly spread throughout the universe. I was thinking about what kind of genetic capabilities we would have in 1000 years if we keep up the pace we're at right now.

I think we would probably be able to program organisms from scratch by that point, so what kind of organisms would you send to establish life on a distant planet? It would probably start off small, or virus like, but would need to be preprogrammed to evolve into something more complex. Since the evolution would be random, you really couldn't determine the outcome after billions of years.

Then it occurred to me that if we were going to go through all this trouble for a slight chance that these packets of life might just thrive and grow some brains, we would probably put some kind message in there. Then it occurred to me that we could possibly be the product of such a plan.

It is possible that the structure of the genetic code itself is an artificial creation of an advanced race. Maybe we should examine the fossil record to look for patterns in the earliest life on the planet. Maybe humans got an evolutionary speed pass to intelligence. Who knows? At any rate understanding the underlying structure of genetic programming would be necessary for understanding the rational behind choosing one structure over another. Just like programmers develop an understanding of the language they program in, perhaps we'll see some calculated order to it all.

Continue to use a "radio lighthouse" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927525)

Therefore it is important that we, even in the future when we do not need radio, have gigant radio transmitters on moon or in orbit around the sun, that sends out an omnidirectional radio signal. This because other civilizations will probably pass through some kind of "radio" based state if they survive long enough, and then be able to know that there exist life on other planets (even if we are dead by the time the signal reaches them). It is important that we help other civilizations that might exist notice us - since it can do a great deal of positive things - like uniting their civilization, etc. It is also important that we, in this radio signal, transmit all our knowledge and information about our technologies - so that other worlds that is just about to enter "radio-age" can quickly benefit from our knowledge and even if we are dead - they can "start where we left".

If we would use this radio signaling "lighthouse", other civilizations might also do that. The big positive thing with omnidirectional radio contra a laser - is that the radio signal will reach every star eventually. To ensure that the radio transmissions continue as long as possible (billions of years, or more), it should be made as an self-serving "space robot" circling our sun.

We should invest some of our energy and resources to make it possible for other civilizations to learn from us!

Take Freeman Dyson's advice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927526)

We should look for waste heat in the infrared spectrum. Primarily because it is highly unlikely that ET's, who are more than likely thousands to millions of years more advanced than us, are using such primitive technology as radios and light signals to communicate with each other. More than likely they are using FTL methods which are by their very nature unknown to us at this point and time given our primitive technological methods.

I say faster than light because it is probable that there are many civilizations in this Galaxy and if we assume that, then it is also probable that these beings will use the most efficient means of communication available and that means FTL communication if it is possible, and there are indications that is, even without violating causality. So from our perspective the Galaxy will look "silent" but from theirs it'll look like Coruscant x100.

Therefore, if we take Dyson's advice and have an Infrared SETI program we may find countless civilizations via their waste heat or at the very least we will have a far more efficient means of locating them.

That is a big laser (2, Funny)

jointm1k (591234) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927534)

Instead, we should be looking for intentional signals in the form of high-powered lasers that could 'outshine the sun by a factor of 10,000'.

If one such laser beam would hit the earth, I don't think it would be a message like 'hi there, we are cute nice aliens from outher space and we are going to give you world peace!'. NO this alien death ray would mean something like 'Sheez, what a bunch of morons you puny earth dwellers are. Die die die!!1'. I would not bother building a giant listening post for that message. :/

Extraterrestial message (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927540)

What would this message contain, and how would we confirm its validity? Let's see, maybe it would contain scientific truths about our world we could confirm. Perhaps stuff like the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, etc.), the shape of our planet, how our world was formed, etc. Then the real message would be a simple one. It would have instructions on how to live for a better, more harmonious, society. For the purposes of contact, the message would of course mention that these extraterrestials are out there, and willing to open the doors of communcation with all those that contact them, and that they will directly aid in benefiting our species.

Oh wait... What was that Bible thing about again?

damn mutation! (1)

darweidu (530107) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927542)

Except the message we get is "Please destroy slashdot.orh, it is destroSDFying the astro-productivity of our employIUZXCees" And we're left here wondering "slashdot.orh, wtf is that?"

I found the message! (2, Funny)

RALE007 (445837) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927560)

In turns out that an alien message designed to last millenia should be 'inside a large number of self-replicating, self-repairing microscopic machines programmed to multiply and adapt to changing conditions', otherwise known as living cells. Are we the message?"

I found the message! Encoded in my own DNA! It says you should each send $50 to:

PO Box 1922
Anchron, OH
30544

Swear to god. Obey the aliens.

Looking in the wrong places. (5, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927564)

I think we're really looking in all the wrong places. We're putting human assumptions on alien life.

We assume they would be using radio communication, or that they'd bother with a high-power laser. What if their communication is completely different. Like, something we haven't even considered to be a possibility yet, even in SciFi.. In a transmission media we don't even realize, we may be receiving communications from them, but we simply don't have the equipment to hear it.. We can't even decipher what any other creature on this planet is trying to communicate, why should we even be so egotistical to thing that not only would we know how to receive their communication, but have the vaugest idea of what they're saying.

I thought the idea of SETI was that we'd pick up an omni-directional broadcast, with some alien saying "here we are, can anyone hear me" A laser would be directional. It would have to be intended for Earth, and would need to be tracking many years ahead of where we are. We aren't broadcasting the same signal, why would they? There could be many planets near by with the same idea of listening, but if no one's talking, there's no communcation.

Maybe pulsars aren't just some celestial event, maybe they're beacons, and when we're ready to go to them, we'll find more information. But for now (and the next hundred+ years), we won't be going anywhere near them. Like, we haven't even managed to get a person to the next planet yet. There isn't enough "push" to develop to the next level. Imagine if every country spent their military budget on developing space travel. we'd alerady have a flag on Pluto, along with a bunch of empty beer cans from tourists.

But no, we waste our resources blowing each other up, or making sure we're on the virge of it every day. Remember the cold war? Ya, 40 years of "I'm going to kill you all", just for it to fall apart, and both sides realize that those people we were so scared of for so long aren't really that bad.

I grew up knowing the Soviet Union was the evil Red Army, who had so many weapons pointed at us because they hate us so much. Now, thanks to the fall of the Soviet Union, and the rise of the Internet, I now frequently talk to a Russian, and really, he's a nice guy. I've seen some beautiful pictures around where he lives, where not too long ago I would have believed was a frozen wasteland.

If only all of our governments would give up on this nonsense and cooperate in things, or better yet, ditch the whole "This is ours, you can't play with it" mentality, we'd make a lot more progress.

[rant mode off]

Marshall McCluhan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9927571)

the medium is the message.

10,000 times outshine the sun? Yeah right. (5, Informative)

hankwang (413283) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927572)

The sun radiates with about 2e25 watts per steradian. That's of course an incredible amount of light, so the idea is to use fewer watts within a very narrow angle. The claim is that one can achieve 2e29 W/sr that way.

The divergence of a laser beam is, assuming ideal optical components, mostly dependent on the diameter of the beam where it starts. You can take a big telescope and let the light pass through in the opposite direction, so let's say, a diameter of 4 meters. For visible light, that will generate a beam with a divergence of 1e-14 sr. So, to get to 2e29 W/sr, you need a laser with a power of no less than 2e15 watts. (Compare this to a mid-size electrical power plant at 1e9 watt...)

Yes, there exist lasers that can generate ultrashort pulses in the near-infrared, with such a high peak energy, say 100 femtoseconds (100 fs=1e-13 s) and 100 joules per pulse, so there you have our desired fluence.

Unfortunately, such lasers can only fire something like one shot per second. If you really want to appreciate the high peak power, you need a camera with a shutter time of 100 fs. Imagine looking at the sky with such an ultrafast camera. The chance that you actually manage to catch a flash from this laser is virtually zero, unless you have a way to know when the flash is going to come. Someone who is looking at a nearby star and expecting flashes is more likely to have an aperture time of 0,1 seconds or so in order to capture any photons at all. At 0,1 seconds aperture time, the laser is no longer 10,000 times more bright than the nearby star (that is, our sun), but rather 1e8 times weaker.

So, it is unlikely that this is going to word, assuming that someone is looking at us anyway.

Cable and Satellites (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 9 years ago | (#9927587)

A satellite signal has a footprint on the surface of the Earth, but some of that footprint may miss the Earth entirely, thus leaking signal into space.
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