Tag Archives: SETI

SETI boffin promises ET detection by 2032

Senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak‘s prediction that ET intelligences will be discovered within “two dozen years” seems to have the proviso “if we get the funding:

The prediction is based on a few qualifiers. The first is the assumption made by researchers within SITI that the power, range and speed of the Allen Telescope Array [ATA] with 42 radio camera dishes currently on line and a projected total of 350 dishes will evolve into new technologies capable of distances and speed unfathomable presently. Secondly, an obvious component is necessary funding for evolving technologies.

Hopefully the necessary improvements will be made:

ATA´s current capability is about 1,000 stars that can be viewed simultaneously. The next decade will allow researchers to view up to a million stars at once.

[from Physorg][image from Alun Salt on flickr]

Boffin reckons there could be 37, 964 advanced civilizations in the galaxy

Here we have a new treatment of the Drake Equation in this paper: A Numerical Testbed for Hypotheses of Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence. From the preamble:

This paper outlines a means for applying Monte Carlo Realisation techniques to investigate the parameter space of intelligent civilisations more rigorously, and to help assign errors to the resulting distributions of life and intelligence.

The Monte Carlo method, from what I can gather from Wikipedia, involves:

…a large and widely-used class of approaches. However, these approaches tend to follow a particular pattern:

  1. Define a domain of possible inputs.
  2. Generate inputs randomly from the domain, and perform a deterministic computation on them.
  3. Aggregate the results of the individual computations into the final result.

There’s a lot of complex maths in the paper, and author Duncan H. Forgan says that when it comes to biological parameters the figures are basically guesswork, given that there is only one known biosphere.

Forgan applies his methods to different theories concerning the likelihood of life, including Panspermia, the Rare Life Hypothesis (life is rare, but life is likely to become intelligent), and the Tortoise and Hare Hypothesis (we assume civilizations that develop rapidly are more likely to destroy themselves) with the following scores:

  • Rare life: 361 advanced civilizations
  • Tortoise and Hare: 31,573 advanced civilizations
  • Panspermia: 37, 964 advanced civilizations

Read the paper – if it demonstrates anything it is how much more there is to find out about our galaxy.

[via Slashdot][image from on flickr][image from Kevin on flickr]

The debate over "Active SETI"

Hubble Space Telescope view of NGC 3603 I’m back! Miss me?

Now that I’m no longer wearing my actor hat and performing eight shows a week of Beauty and the Beast, I’ll be posting regularly again. And what better way to start than with this fascinating article from SEED Magazine about the controversy in SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) circles over whether we should just be passively listening for alien civilizations, or actively announcing our presence.

Those opposed to “active” SETI point out that, in effect, we might just be putting up a big neon sign on the planet that says “Come And Get Us” (or possibly “Good Eats!”) if there’s something nasty out there listening. In fact, David Brin pointed out years ago (in this paper on Xenology: check out the section called “The Great Silence”) that one theory (that originated within science fiction) for why we don’t hear signals from other civilizations is that something hunts down and destroys anybody that start broadcasting.

Check out the article, and for more discussion of it, read this post at the blog that I picked up the link from, the always-interesting Centauri Dreams.

(Image: NASA.)

[tags]SETI, extraterrestrial life, astronomy[/tags]

Allen Telescope Array (ATA) Is Now Online

ata_small.jpgOn Thursday, October 11, in a remote northeast corner of California, technology innovator and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen officially “turned on” the Allen Telescope Array (ATA).” The telescope array is the first one ever designed from the ground up to efficiently scan targeted stars for alien signals. Within two decades, it will increase the number of stellar systems examined for artificial emissions by a thousand-fold.

Life on other planets

Nothing divides space geeks like the question of extraterrestrial life. SETI boffin Seth Shostak is an avowed believer, even though he concedes there’s no compelling evidence to support the assertion so far. George Dvorsky is very interested in the Fermi Paradox, too, but much more willing to pick holes in accepted philosophy.

We’re still looking, of course – but we could do with more telescopes in space to help us locate and image exoplanets, and we’re still not entirely certain of how the universe itself came to be.