Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Hope SETI finds nothing

  1. Apr 28, 2008 #1
    I got sucked into reading this wild essay by an Oxford professor regarding the significance of finding life in space whether primitive or intelligent.

    If you get sucked in too, and read six pages, would you agree with his startling conclusion or remain skeptical.

    Here's the essay: http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/20569/page1/
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2008 #2

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My take on this: it is just a discussion of the Drake Equation -
    see Carl Sagan's discussion:

    I do not buy the 'Great Filter' assumption - the idea that because we can't perceive any advanced technological intelligence near enough to make their presence known, there must be one step in the Drake Equation that has a failure rate approaching 1.0

    During 0.1% of the time humans have existed (assuming the species is 100k years old)
    we have been generating signals that somebody out there could see and recognize. This is about 100 years. So, 50 light years out, some civilization is enjoying the 'Beverly Hillbillies'

    Plus, outside of some arbitrary radius, our current ability to perceive those alien signals drops to zero - pretend it is 2000 light years. Therefore, we could not "see" our own signals if we had another human outpost 2800 light years away. Rather, I think our Great Filter is the method we have for detecting intelligence - looking for radio signals - which is the problem, rather than life everywhere consistently finding an insurmountable barrier to survival. Not that there is any other available method....

    Anyway, all of this is complete conjecture, with no supporting evidence, Roswell notwithstanding.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Apr 29, 2008 #3
    It's good to see Carl Sagan on this issue.

    The idea is if we find basic microbes on Mars, Europe, Titan or elsewhere, that would mean that life can arise much more easily in the universe, and hence the probability for intelligent life to arise somewhere in space goes up automatically. If that is so, and we haven't detected any signs of intelligent life, then the "great filter" has something in store for us. It's a sound idea, but it's founded on a premise that our technology would be able to detect a signal.

    You are probably right, after 2000 lyr's, an RF signal would blend with the background thus rendering this hypothesis null.
  5. Apr 29, 2008 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Does this mean we have doubts about finding intelligent life in Europe? :tongue2:
  6. Apr 29, 2008 #5

    ahh, I forgot to add "Union."
  7. Apr 29, 2008 #6
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook