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What is new with SETI?

  1. Sep 19, 2009 #1
    What is new with SETI?

    What is new with SETI? The last I heard was that the SETI@Home project is now bundled with some other program to
    crunch numbers for a number of other endevors. And The Planetary Society is taking over now (is that right) and
    they is talk about looking for lazers instead of radio waves. So, what is going on and what have you heard?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2009 #2
    Allen Telescope Array is up an running in Hat Creek, California.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Sep 19, 2009 #3
    What I would really like to know is this. Do people involved in these projects still have the confidence that we
    are going to get a radio signal from ETI in our life time or has everyone given into the idea that Enrico Fermi
    had a point?

    There was a Discovery Channel special a few months ago that discussed what the world would be like if and when
    human beings cease to live on Earth. One of the many parts of the television special I found interesting was when, at the
    end of the special, they talked about what evidence would remain that human beings had ever existed. There was only
    three. There were The Pyramids, there was The Great Wall, and their was Mt. Rushmore. They made a special point
    in saying that we currently now know that our television and radio (same thing, I know) broadcasts that has gone out
    into space in an ever expanding sphere will have degraded. Someone, I guess, decided to sit down and do the math
    and has found out that the our radio broadcast signals degrade after traveling along the surface of the ever expanding
    sphere in less than one light year radius and any evidence that would distinguish a radio signal from noise is lost.

    Bad news travels slowly and every once in a while I see blogs from astronomers that mention what ET from where
    is currently listening to what radio signal.

    The point is this. Unless ET deliberately points a transmitter directly at us and blasts us with an intense signal,
    we are not going to be hearing from anyone, I would guess.

    So the question I have is this. Are the SETI folks still holding out for an ETI signal or have they decided it
    probably won't happen? There once was a time when Frank Drake of the Drake Equation would say we would get a hit
    in 5 to 10 years. Is that optimism gone?

    In 1997 there was a workshop to determine what to do for the next 20 years with SETI and the results of the work shop was this
    40 telescope array. So the Allen Radio Telescope Array is a new thing.


    One voice in this video seems to say very carefully and cautiously that he wants to "find objects not seen
    before". So he is resorting to admitting that we will not find what we thought we would be he is suggesting
    we might find something that we did not expect. Hope never dies, I guess.

    "Looking for New Phenomenon and that is ideal" That also sounds like a change in focus and goals. Professor Geoffrey Bower
    at UC Berkeley says this. It is interesting because this is where SETI@Home was born and I met one of the software
    engineers who worked on this project when I was working at FireTalk Communications and he said that the idea
    was to get the software system up and running rather than actually getting a hit. I have to wonder if this
    telescope array is not really intended as its primary goal to get a ETI signal but rather something else.

    Another thing about this video is this. Do they not know about what the Discovery program talked about?
    I have to wonder. Do they expect a direct intentional radio signal?

    I also have to wonder if they just want to keep their job. The goal is not to get an ETI signal. The goal
    is to keep working and changing their equipment in order to impress people and keep their hopes up.

    They seem to be careful to say that they are getting "hopeful images" or "interesting phenomena". They seem
    careful not suggest that they really expect an ETI signal. I have to wonder.

    They want to find new and interesting information but I think they have given hope of finding the "Holy Grail".

    Paul Allen funded this project. He is a rich Microsoft guy. Not a real scientist or statistician. I imagine
    he has never heard of Fermi's Paradox. I wonder what he would think if I asked him about it.

    Garret Keating who works at the Allen Telescope Array says that they are looking for "transients" (I assume
    that these are near earth objects) and "SuperNova" and then -- as if in an after-thought, he
    mentions SETI signals.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  5. Sep 21, 2009 #4
  6. Sep 21, 2009 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    This is a quarterbrain thinking. Centers of large cities will be recognizable as man made (or unnatural) for much longer. There are no natural processes that can get such a combination of materials in one place. It will be obvious for eons that some of the hills (let's call one of them "Manhattan Rubble") were accumulated by form of life that thought about itself as 'sapient'.

    Not to mention places like channels, artficial islands, huge open cast mines, not to mention things like deposits which will keep trace of us contaminating environement (this will be probably the longest living trace of our presence) and so on. Many of these will be reshaped by the nature, but their initially artficial character will be obvious.

    We can find dinosaurs footsteps, but we will leave only Mt. Rushmore? Give me a break :wink:
  7. Sep 22, 2009 #6


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    Homework Helper

    How about nuclear waste? Considering that scientists discovered a site where nuclear fission occurred spontaneously over two billion years ago, nuclear waste will probably be our longest-lasting legacy should humanity ever disappear.
  8. Sep 22, 2009 #7
    I think they must have meant evidence from a passing glance. I mean, detailed intense study would reveal everything anyway.

    The program focused on what would be washed away; What degrades over time; and so on.

    Like, for example, concrete today is substandard compared to its original design. Metal structures rust, crack and fall.

    And they were not just talking about a few hundred years.

    They also took into account that we would be replaced by dogs, cats and cattle that would be distructive in scattering the evidence of our existance as well.
  9. Sep 22, 2009 #8
    No idea.

    Maybe fission ain't like fusion.

    Maybe once the waist leaks and spreads throughout the environment, it would not matter.

    But, those are just guesses.
  10. Sep 22, 2009 #9


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    Science Advisor

    I think you are misunderstanding the point of the ATA. It is a facility with a broad range of science goals (as is the case with all astronomical telescopes). It would be silly to build a pure SETI facility anyway, because you get so much other information efffectively 'for free' when doing a SETI type search. In the case of the ATA, the reverse is true, i.e. the specs are built largely around 'conventional' astronomy and astro-physical goals and the SETI stuff basically comes 'for free' by running all the data through SETI signal searching algorithms in addition to whatever other purpose it is being taken for.

    Similiar systems exist elsewhere on radio telescopes, where the data are routinely run through SETI algorithms alongside the other science.

    The ATA is doing some SETI specific surveys, in terms of pointing at targets based on the percieved chance of getting a little green signal, but this has never been the sole driver of the ATA.
  11. Sep 22, 2009 #10


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    It would be nice if we could do more for SETI (i.e. in terms of volunteer research) instead of just lending over HD space and bandwidth.
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