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News Sending information in space: an invitation to catastrophe?

  1. Feb 16, 2015 #1
    This has been on my mind for some time now. I recently read this article and it really got me thinking:
    http://www.ctvnews.ca/mobile/sci-tech/scientists-debate-sending-out-signals-for-alien-life-1.2235312

    The Voyagers will soon drift into the far reaches of interstellar space, and NASA has installed all forms of information on them, ranging from the location of our planet to human culture snippets. Thousands of radio signals have already been sent into the far reaches of distant star systems, and the SETI projects continue to do so even today.
    Is this not a HUGE gamble that we are taking? Everyone (I daresay even half the population) does not agree with sending information of our existence out there. Yes, perhaps it's a faster way of coming into contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life, but who knows what is waiting out there for us? Is the curiosity really worth it? We could potential be erased off the planet if miscommunication occurs or if the first intelligent E.T. to come in contact with us turn out to be barbaric in nature. I really don't think we have the resources to be prepared for dealing with a situation of this magnitude if things go awry, considering how engrossed we are in dealing with conflicts among us over a variety of (seemingly trivial in comparison to a space war) issues. What do you all have to say about this(and the article)?
    Note: The intention of creating this thread is to have a healthy, constructive talk.
     
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  3. Feb 16, 2015 #2

    Bystander

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    To ease your mind somewhat, consider the Drake Equation (google it for quicker, more complete versions than I've got from the top of my head), then consider the probability of two "civilizations" overlapping in time within reach of one another (we've been radiating for a bit over a century, and are currently transitioning to cable, optical and electrical, and tight beams). The "Hey, Ma, look at me!" phase of broadcasting to the entire neighborhood is probably winding down. Two, consider the signal to noise ratios of even the megawatt shouting from whichever radio station it was in the midwest in the mid-20th century at a distance of 100 ly or so, and things may be a bit less worrisome to you.
     
  4. Feb 16, 2015 #3
    But aren't SETI projects sending out electromagnetic radiation in such a way that it loses the minimum amount of information over long range travel so that some E.T. life forms eventually pick it up? Yes, there appears to be no E.T.L. in our immediate vicinity, but isn't it presumptuous for us humans to be so sure that any E.T. that might exist do not possess the technology or the means to amaze us in a way that we can't think of? Now I'm not making the preposterous claim of FTL tech, but surely we cannot comprehend what some E.T. might have in their arsenal to enable them to pick up and restore weakened signals,traverse a few thousand light years and drop by mother Earth to give a pleasant little greeting. There are too many unknown variables involved for us to be so sure that what we are doing is harmless. For all we know, the science with which we are so well-acquainted today might be dramatically different from what could become of it in the coming future - history has taught us better than to be so certain about such matters. At least we should do what is in our hands and stop sending Earth tourism brochures all across the Milky Way.
     
  5. Feb 16, 2015 #4

    Bandersnatch

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    I'm pretty sure a species so technologically advanced to be able to push aside all the hurdles of space travel can find a habitable and inhabited planet without having to wait for a Voyager to bump into their windscreen.
     
  6. Feb 16, 2015 #5
    Very true, but conversely speaking, if a species intelligent enough to understand our messages and reach out to us were to exist (that is the kind of species we have in mind when we send all those intentional electromagnetic radiation transmission and hope to come in contact with them), then would they really need us to tell them of our existence? Why send all that information in the first place? If we are hoping for E.T. to reach back to us after receiving the transmission, it should be obvious that such E.T. would be capable of discerning much more about us without receiving information from us. Nevertheless, all that I'm saying is that even if it makes a tiny bit of difference, we should do what we can to avoid a meeting in the first place, simply because we don't know whom we might contact. (By not sending illustrations that describe our position in the solar system onboard a spacecraft that is destined to drift through space for starters!)
     
  7. Feb 16, 2015 #6

    Bandersnatch

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    My impression (so, a guess) about the SETI program's rationale always was that they're aiming for a civilisation pretty much on the same level as ours - can communicate, can't visit.
     
  8. Feb 16, 2015 #7

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  9. Feb 16, 2015 #8
    I believe that is an overly optimistic evaluation- the transmission is not very selective after all. We might wish to get in touch with such a civilization, but the truth is that we really can't control who picks up these signals.
     
  10. Feb 16, 2015 #9
  11. Feb 16, 2015 #10

    Bandersnatch

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    No, I mean those are the only ones that will care whether we send signals or not - those who can't communicate will remain deaf, those who can visit don't need our measly radio transmissions and randomly drifting pieces of junk to find out there's a habitable planet - we can almost do it ourselves.
     
  12. Feb 16, 2015 #11

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    Works for me. Thumbnail summary: we've been broadcasting for a century in analog mode; the transition to digital broadcast is well underway, and once the Luddites in the U.S.A. finish converting, the only thing going out will be unintelligible noise without the appropriate clocks and signal processing equipment. Vice versa for SETI ever picking up anything from "out there." There is no universal "t nought" for development of civilizations, which reduces the probability of "their" analog broadcast century overlapping with ours to near zero, and the probability of "their" analog search for our analog broadcast century likewise to near zero. Shout and scream as we will, the neighbors ain't a gonna hear us.
     
  13. Feb 16, 2015 #12
    But aren't you ignoring the possibility that a civilization intelligent enough to reach us simply hasn't noticed us yet? I think this case is probable enough to at least deserve some consideration. For example (might sound a little stupid, but you'll get the idea), we are capable of searching for and exploring the habitat of a new organism in places where it is unlikely we would have looked before had we not known that the newly discovered organism was spotted nearby (or if we stumbled across suitable evidence in that area). If E.T. who haven't searched up this corner of the universe simply because they found it unlikely to find any life here come across a spacecraft with all these wonderful visual instructions, I can assure you that they would be deeply intrigued and set up a search for us, which could have very big implications for the human race. Sometimes, we miss details, but we pick them up if someone comes around waving and pointing towards them. Shouldn't the same apply for E.T. as well?
     
  14. Feb 16, 2015 #13

    phinds

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    You started off talking about the Voyager. I'd give the odds of the Voyager ever being discovered by anyone as approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 but that's probably optimistic.
     
  15. Feb 16, 2015 #14
    The Voyager really isn't the center of my discussion - it's actually the transmission of signals from the Earth that can be picked up by intelligent E.T., informing them of our presence, and the potential danger this can have on our very existence.
     
  16. Feb 23, 2015 #15
    If there are E.Ts capable of traveling 1000's of light years to reach us , they will find us whether or not we want them to. We ourselves have found a lot of exoplanets (both habitable and not) ,a civilization ( within a radius of few 1000 light years from us)capable of physically reaching exoplanets will/would have figured out that earth is a possible life supporting planet even without our help , perhaps long before we even started sending out radio waves.

    They will probably be Type II or III civilization , barbarian ETs cannot reach Type II or III because it takes a lot of political, cultural, scientific and technological development. This means they managed to avoid their extinction by preventing wars amongst themselves and they know how to resolve disputes without nuking each other and think more
    responsibly ( http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale)
    Even if they take the trouble of coming all the way here, they might look at us and study us like we do with chimps etc. Do we see chimps or other wild animals as potential competition to us ? Once they have a look at Iraq ,Syria and Ukraine etc , they will know how primitive we are and that we may not make it to Type I on the Kardashev scale before going extinct.

    A civilization with this kind of technology will probably not find it logical to come all the way here to blow up our planet , what are going to gain from it ? Any resource available on this planet is definitely available in larger quantities elsewhere .
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015
  17. Feb 23, 2015 #16

    DaveC426913

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    It is not in human nature to decide that there could be monsters on that far shore, so let's not go there.

    Either we decide we want to live and prosper and grow, "and we takes our chances" - or we crawl back under our rock and hide. In the broad picture, Humankind has always chosen the former. Hopefully, we always will.

    All kibitzing about rationales aside, that's really what it comes down to.
     
  18. Mar 2, 2015 #17
    I did not follow all of the discussion points but this somehow makes me think about the novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
     
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