Communication with Extraterrestrial Life

  • Thread starter caumaan
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  • #1
caumaan
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In the 1970's, we utilized the Arecibo Radio Antenna to broadcast a message to the depths of space in the hopes of comming into contact with life beyond this world.

In 2003, we did the same thing, sending a methematical code to convey our thoughts to the universe around us. I begin this thread by asking if we are wise to do this and whatever reason for your thoughts.

I myself, believe that there are extraterrestrials out there and tha one day we may come into contact with them. I don't have much of an opinion of weather or not they are benign. I thank you for your time.
 

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  • #2
selfAdjoint
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I think it's not paranoid at all to walk warily when you know nothing of the neighborhood. These deliberate broadcasts were in my view foolish, and not at all saved by the fact that our radio and TV chatter had been going out all those years.
 
  • #3
caumaan
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I think that the idea is that we have to convince our neighbors that we are normally in a different strata of social and technological development thatn "I Love Lucy", but I see your point. We do have a lot going out now.
 
  • #4
Nereid
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IIRC, by far the most powerful transmissions - in the radio spectrum - were (are?) military radars. In terms of directed beams, it may be that the doppler planet and asteroid radar (that suggested there's ice near one of Mercury's poles, for example, and that at least part of Titan's surface is covered with a liquid) have a stronger peak signal strength. Fortunately, or not, I Love Lucy isn't much above omnidirectional.
 
  • #5
FZ+
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"I don't think they would come 2 thousand light years just to declare war" Independence Day

Ok seriously, why would aliens not be benign. What do they stand to gain from attacking us, that they can't grab off any other of the billions of stars within their reach?

The most likely scenario is that the aliens just won't care.

Still, I do agree with some caution. But if aliens were malevonent, and determined enough to come such distances to get us, it is unlikely we would hide from them forever.
 
  • #6
Phobos
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And at least we can say that our opening move was a friendly gesture.

In 2003, we did the same thing, sending a methematical code to convey our thoughts to the universe around us.

This year? I thought the second transmitted message was a few years ago. Hmm...maybe I thinking of this one in 1999 (http://www.seti-inst.edu/science/enc-2001.html [Broken]) but I thought there was another.

FYI re: the first message: (from http://www.bigear.org/vol1no2/sagan.htm)
... transmitted to space by the Arecibo Observatory, which Cornell University runs for the National Science Foundation, in November 1974 at a ceremony marking the resurfacing of the Arecibo dish the largest radio/radar telescope on Earth. The signal was sent to a collection of stars called M13, a globular cluster comprising about a million separate suns, because it was overhead at the time of the ceremony. Since Ml 3 is 24,000 light years away, the message will take 24,000 years to arrive there. If anyone is listening, it will be 48,000 years before we receive a reply. The Arecibo message was clearly not intended as a serious attempt at interstellar communication, but rather as an indication of the remarkable advances in terrestrial radio technology. ...

also...
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap000123.html
 
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  • #7
Zeke
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well because of the big bang theroy i believe that if there is intellgent life we will not be able to communcate with them firstly because the transmisions that we send will not reach them for 40 years or more. secondly i think they will not be so much more advanced
 
  • #8
russ_watters
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Originally posted by FZ+
"I don't think they would come 2 thousand light years just to declare war" Independence Day.
Actually, I think it was 90 billion. In any case, I agree with your conclusions. I doubt it would relieve enough boredom to make it worth coming here to crush us.
 
  • #9
Doctor Luz
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I think the chance of finding an alien civilization is very low. More low if we think in a physical contact.

How long can a civilization live? what is the mean life of a civilization? Maybe now there are many civilizations in our galaxy, supposing the very few probability that tomorrow we receive a message (similar to those we sent out), that does not imply that the civilization is still alive.

Also, one civilization must be the first. I don't like the idea but why could not we the first?

I think the probability is against any kind of contact. However we should not loose the faith.
 
  • #10
gunblaze
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As there is a will there will be a hope! Try to be optimistic! By the way, If there aren't anything out there then why are the planets there for?
 
  • #11
Nereid
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gunblaxe: By the way, If there aren't anything out there then why are the planets there for?
... to provide a nice, comfortable home for all those bacteria which live in rocks!
 
  • #12
Sting
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Why do we think aliens are going to be friendly?

They may want to come and eat us!
 
  • #13
Phobos
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The messages we broadcasted also contained a footnote that humans taste very bitter.
 
  • #14
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by Phobos
The messages we broadcasted also contained a footnote that humans taste very bitter.

As I understand this question, unless we and the aliens have some common or coincidentally similar DNA, assuming aliens have DNA, we would not serve as a food source.

Since the odds of contact appear to be quite low, and since the odds of catastrophic results from any potential contact appear to be even lower, and since the odds of direct contact are astronomically low, and since the benefits from even radio contact with another civilization could be enormous, say for example if they sent us their knowledgebase, I tend to think the potential benefits vastly outweigh the potential risks.

Next, if ET is out there and can get here, that is assuming a level of technology perhaps a million years more advanced than ours, and considering that even we are imagining ways to discern regions of space, solar systems, and even planets that could support life, it seems reasonable to assume that in any event, we can't hide. If ET could be and desires to be a threat, he likely already is; which means we should all be dead or ET’s slaves by now.

Go for it!
 
  • #15
Nereid
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How advanced??

... assuming a level of technology perhaps a million years more advanced than ours
As I see it, there's a bit of contradiction in the whole ET thing. A million years is nothing in the life of 1 solar mass (and smaller) stars, let alone the universe. Yet, only ~one tenth of that time has passed since homo sapiens started leaving artifacts which show at least some people had developed abstract symbols; only 1% of that time since permanent settlements began; less than 0.1% of that time has elapsed since we realized the Earth is a mere planet; ...

What is the wildest speculation any of us can make about a technology which develops for another 300,000 generations?
 
  • #16
screwball
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Originally posted by caumaan
I think that the idea is that we have to convince our neighbors that we are normally in a different strata of social and technological development thatn "I Love Lucy", but I see your point. We do have a lot going out now.

im more afraid they would judge us by the fox news network than i love lucy reruns
 
  • #17
aeroegnr
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I guess I look at it this way:

If you were an alien, and you knew of a particular race of intelligent beings on a certain planet, would you help them? Probably not. Chances are, the aliens that see us probably got to an extremely advanced state of technology without external help, and managed not to kill themselves with it.

Would you want to, by establishing contact with someone who has no grasp of your technology, accidentally give them too much information, them never having proved themselves?

I'm pretty sure any race that evolved with external help would be looked down on by the intelligent civilizations of the universe.
 
  • #18
Ivan Seeking
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Here is some interesting, related information:

Communication With Extraterrestrial Intelligence:
http://www.nsa.gov/docs/efoia/released/ufo/ufo34.pdf
 
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  • #19
benzun_1999
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I firmly believe that Aliens exist

Because if there is a coincedence forming us there is definitely a coincidence forming an alien.

i also believe that aliens may exist in a different dimention that we don't know.
 
  • #20
Nereid
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Already seems, shall we say, quaint?

Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
Here is some interesting, related information:

Communication With Extraterrestrial Intelligence:
http://www.nsa.gov/docs/efoia/released/ufo/ufo34.pdf
Interesting article; do you know when it was written? Note the very short time-frames the author mentions (50 years, 200 years, ..). Now that there's a solution to Fermat's Last Theorem (took only a few hundred years to solve), what should we transmit?
 
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  • #21
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by Nereid
...do you know when it was written?

No. It seems to fall into the category of typical late 60s and early 70s government literature, however I found this while searching the NSA archives. You know as much about this document as I do.
 
  • #22
Ivan Seeking
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One question that I have always found amusing is what an alien TV program might be like. We tend to consider our TV signals going out, but [if this is ever even technically possible], imagine the high strangeness of watching a 3 million year old alien I love Lucy...well, you know what I mean...what ever aliens liked to watch...three million years ago.
 
  • #23
aeroegnr
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The more I think about this the more I think the answer is: There is no way that we can see evidence of extra-terrestial communication if the beings are more advanced than us.

First of all, think of the way that we communicate. We use radio transmissions, which send various wavelengths out in all directions. When you think about this, if you are just trying to communicate with one target, that is incredibly wasteful. Because waves are made up of quanta, each transmission on the radio potentially wastes mil/bil/tril/ions of quanta of energy.

Now, if the extra-terrestrials are advanced, they probably figured out that you can send out one quanta of energy at the minimum in a vacuum and still get your message through as long as you know exactly where to point your wave and the target is prepared to receive.

I certainly can't imagine an antenna or device for this being easy to produce or use, but could it be that far off?

Probably not. The gap between sending out wasteful television transmissions and quantized communication is probably only a few hundred years. In the vast realm of things, that drops the probability of finding a civilization at our current level VERY small, but doesn't affect a high probability of other intelligent beings out there.


Make sense to anyone else?
 
  • #24
Nereid
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So many assumptions, so little time

assume
- the aliens are advanced
- an (economic?) drive to maximise information transfer per unit of energy/photon
- use of photons (vs gravitons, neutrinos, selectrons, ...) as an information transport mechanism
- and more, more and more.

The invariant (invariable?) in conducting these kinds of discussions is ... what, exactly? Many of us reach to science, specifically physics and its implementation in technology. Yet it's easy to show this is less stable than economics - there've been too many science/physics/technology advances in the last ~400 years for you to have much confidence in its predictive capability beyond ~50 years. On the other hand, we might be able to show that economics is a constant, possibly over as much as 10,000 years (how well we understand the economic invariants is a different question!).

But then, why should aliens organise themselves into the social states that homo sap. has? Why not something more like orangutangs? or bees? or cyanobacteria?

And even if we convinced ourselves we're on the right track here - at least in principle - what gives us confidence that we can extrapolate 100, 1,000, 10,000, ... times?
 
  • #25
Innexplicable
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Forget belief, let's talk probability. According to theory there are at least 10000 planets with semi inttelligent-intelligent beings in our universe, but also according to that theory we will never meet any of them. As for contacting them, if they are up to 90 light years away they should be hearing from us now, and SETI has been on for the past 50 years. So it's safe to say that no intelligent beings have been broadcasting up to 50 light years away in the past 50 years.

As for how advanced they may be: This is up to question, but it is safe to say that if they find us...lets just say we shouldn't start a war.
 
  • #26
Nereid
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Innexplicable wrote: According to theory there are at least 10000 planets with semi inttelligent-intelligent beings in our universe, but also according to that theory we will never meet any of them.
Which theory are you referring to? Could you please give us a reference?
 
  • #27
Rog
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Originally posted by Innexplicable
. According to theory there are at least 10000 planets with semi inttelligent-intelligent beings in our universe, but also according to that theory we will never meet any of them.


I think this should be our galaxy not the universe for 10,000 possible intelligent life forms. Anyway I believe that each broadcast from a civilisation is like an expanding donut. i.e. from when radio technology is discovered to the eventual destruction of the civilisation which produced it. Or on the more hopeful side the discovery of that civilisation of more efficient ways to comminucate than radiowaves, which we are not capable of detecting yet. This ring may therefore only be approximately 200yrs wide.

The chances of us being in the right bit of the "donut" of any broadcasting inteligence are by consequence slim but not impposible.
 
  • #28
Phobos
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Originally posted by Innexplicable
... and SETI has been on for the past 50 years. So it's safe to say that no intelligent beings have been broadcasting up to 50 light years away in the past 50 years. .

That's far from a safe assumption. SETI only hears a small fraction of all possible "channels" at anyone time and it scans relatively quickly across the sky. Initial scans (e.g., by Drake) just looked at a couple channels for a few stars. More recent scans have a "million channel array" to search through. They're currently working on a "billion channel array" (not sure the status of this offhand). They're also just starting up "optical SETI" to look for laser pulses rather than listening for radio signals. But even all that is not a 100% sampling of all possible signal locations. We may just be missing it. More details about this in Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot. Plenty of info to check on on the internet too.
 
  • #29
Nereid
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Communication with aliens

Is there anything from our experience on Earth that gives us some clues about communication with aliens? Here are some wild ideas:

There are aliens living here on Earth, right alongside us, and in full view (more or less). They can spell, wield tools, count, and show deceit and outright cunning*.

Yet we have not learned to communicate with them. Instead we have eaten them, enslaved them, hunted them, and generally quite misunderstood them. Despite this, they haven't embarked on a resistance campaign, nor sought revenge on homo sap.

All these aliens are sexual beings, and inherit many physical and some behavioural traits through DNA; others through interactions with their environment while young, including social learning from others of their species.

The closest of these aliens are separated from us by mere millions of years of evolution; others perhaps one trip around the galaxy by sol; certainly less than two.

Oh dear, if only they had developed mathematics or weapons!

*orangutans, crows, parrots, dolphins and chimps, respectively.
 
  • #30
cragwolf
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Originally posted by Nereid
Is there anything from our experience on Earth that gives us some clues about communication with aliens?

Thanks Nereid: a very intelligent post.

There are aliens living here on Earth, right alongside us, and in full view (more or less). They can spell, wield tools, count, and show deceit and outright cunning*.

Well, I would like to see them spell antidisestablishmentarianism, build a car, count to 1,296, play chess ... well, you get my drift. These animals are simply not as intelligent as us. The idea that ET communication optimists have is that if the aliens are at least as intelligent as us, then mutual understanding will be possible. And if they're orders of magnitude more intelligent than us, no problem, they'll work it all out, and our job will be as easy as sitting back and listening to your favourite piece of music! Intelligence is viewed by these starry-eyed dreamers as a sort of translation key. Personally, I think the idea is bollocks.

Yet we have not learned to communicate with them. Instead we have eaten them, enslaved them, hunted them, and generally quite misunderstood them./

Good point, but you could make your point just as well, if not better, by using the example of the clash of different cultures, such as that which occurred between the Europeans and the Amerindians. It took a long while for these two cultures to understand each other. Yet, in addition to the fact that they belong to the same species(!), they also share a large number of cultural reference points: love, myth, religion, astrology, war, etc etc. And we expect to be able to communicate with a lifeform from another planet, with a different biology, an intelligence utterly incommensurable to our own, and a culture we wouldn't even recognise as a culture. Ha!

Oh dear, if only they had developed mathematics or weapons!

Another good point. Technology has the possibility to speed up our development. It has the potential to be orders of magnitude faster than natural selection. Even if, pre-technology, or early-technology, aliens and humans might be able to achieve some sort of understanding, technology would ultimately magnify our respective differences. They'd go off in one direction, and we'd go off in another (*), and the day we met would be a muddle of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misconstruction, misjudgement ... every "mis" under the sun (except maybe misletoe)!

I think people are reading too much of Sagan and not enough of Lem. A good antidote to Contact is His Master's Voice, or alternatively, Fiasco.

(*) This reminds me of the road we took: gossip gadgets and internet porn; and the road we forsook: space colonisation and more leisure time. Cultures can always regress, I suppose.
 
  • #31
Nereid
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Lem?

Thanks for the comments cragwolf.

I didn't talk about the role (and nature) of language in this thread (too many ideas, not enough time), and I see that zoobyshoe made some excellent points that relate to this in a different thread.
cragwolf wrote: Good point, but you could make your point just as well, if not better, by using the example of the clash of different cultures, such as that which occurred between the Europeans and the Amerindians. It took a long while for these two cultures to understand each other. Yet, in addition to the fact that they belong to the same species(!), they also share a large number of cultural reference points: love, myth, religion, astrology, war, etc etc. And we expect to be able to communicate with a lifeform from another planet, with a different biology, an intelligence utterly incommensurable to our own, and a culture we wouldn't even recognise as a culture.
IMHO, this is both too easy and too difficult to explain. Many people seem to believe that such intra-species mis* was a temporary phenomenon, now well on the way to being overcome. Those who take the point may feel irritated that's it's being repeated; those who don't, well, they don't get it. Before we start to speculate too much about what other intelligent life might be like, and how we might communicate with them, I thought it would be interesting to see what communicating with life we *do* know about could teach us.

The 'mathematics and weapons' comment was also partly a metaphor. Much is made of our ability to communicate using maths; many (almost all?) tracts on 'meeting' ET make at least some reference to conflict involving weapons (if only to deny such a thing would even happen). What if ET's mode of communication is something else entirely?

I'm not familiar with Lem - Lem who? (or who Lem?)
 
  • #32
cragwolf
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Originally posted by Nereid
I'm not familiar with Lem - Lem who? (or who Lem?)

Stanislaw Lem, science fiction writer, philosopher. The link below is a very good introduction to his work:

http://www.themodernword.com/scriptorium/lem.html [Broken]
 
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  • #33
Nereid
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First Contact

Sometime within the last century or so, first contact was made between the New Guinea highlands society/culture/set of communities and the West. AFAIK, this is perhaps the best documented 'first contact' between an Industrial Age group (society?) and a 'Stone Age' one, though there may have been others (e.g. remote Amazon Basin tribes, desert Australian Aboriginies). As such it represents about the closest thing we have to data on what happens when two intelligent groups meet for the first time.

Can anyone give a concise summary of what happened?

The value of this event for a discussion about communication and contact with ET is, IMHO, rather limited. Firstly, it would be very difficult to 'normalise' it. Not only is there just one data point, but how do you adjust for 'state of technological and social development'? If 1 million years is an uncomfortably short period of time for considerations of such states, how could we speculate about what first contact between a 'Stone Age' and a 'PJAOFHN' Age society would be like (the latter based on technology first introduced 100,000 years from now)?

On the other hand, looking for factors constant across first contacts throughout recorded history may be interesting. Ditto trends,
 
  • #34
Merlin
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the drake equation

The Drake equation, yes I do believe that it describes, the probability of Earth like planets in a system. I'm too lazy to look it up, just type it in and you should get many hits.

I feel we aren't alone. "They" are coming back. "They" create universes and life (but not souls). And what's more, "they" have left calling cards, for a reason. And no, I can't prove it, which dovetails with the fact that science can't prove its mainstream theories, like the big bang, and many, many others.

I don't, however think this predestiney/determisism gives us the right to use the God excuse to stop searching for TOE, etc. Science will need religion, and religions need science.

The religious element shouldn't be like a well known church that stifled science for 1000 years, or more. And science shouldn't be like the industrial/millitary complex that lies and deceives,and attempts to crush non mainstream Ideas! ( I love the implications of the word Idea)...ahhh well...

bah humbug ...
Merlin.
 
  • #35
Nereid
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Ah what is science? Mentat, where are you?

I feel we aren't alone. "They" are coming back. "They" create universes and life (but not souls). And what's more, "they" have left calling cards, for a reason. And no, I can't prove it,
What data/evidence etc is there which makes you feel this way?
And science shouldn't be like the industrial/millitary complex that lies and deceives,and attempts to crush non mainstream Ideas!
what are non-mainstream ideas if not either ideas which have been shown to be contrary to solid observations/experiments, or ideas that aren't sufficiently well-formed yet that they're not capable of being tested? At least, in physics, astronomy, ... etc.
 

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