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Will SETI Pick Up an ET Signal in Your Lifetime?

  1. Apr 19, 2009 #1
    In the recent past, I've leaned towards no. The reason being that space is a 4-dimensional haystack. Even if a region in that 4D space contains advanced extra terrestrials and we scan it, the extra terrestrials would not necessarily be using EM waves for communications. If extra terrestrials were using EM waves, we would not necessarily recognize a signal if we were looking at it. Wireless EM communication is very much in it's infancy here on Earth. It will likely look very different in 10,000 years, if it is not superseded by some other technology. I'm not even positive that human civilization will exist for another 10,000 years.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2009 #2
    This should probably have been posted in the philosophy forum.
     
  4. Apr 19, 2009 #3

    russ_watters

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    Staff: Mentor

    Not quite sure where to put it - maybe astronomy, but anyway...

    No, I tend to doubt it will. We have found that our communications EM energy output has peaked and will tend to decrease as we switch to digital comms. As a result, there is an upper limit for the energy we could expect to be transmitted from another world, a limit that is low enough to make detection very difficult. And if one existed close by, we likely would have already found them.
     
  5. Apr 19, 2009 #4
    It's improbable we will catch the blink of an eye within which EM communication is likely to exist in a civilization's development. And whatever there is will become increasingly undecipherable from background noise.

    On the other hand, wouldn't an advanced civilization intentionally broadcast some high energy "basic format" signal with the hope that there may be a civilization out there that will receive it, and eventually return a response? Stray communication doesn't have to be caught by accident, an attempt at contact is likely to become an explicit pursuit.

    The real problem is we have no statistical information about the density of life in the universe. The instantaneous conditions for it's initialization may have been so ridiculously unlikely that we realistically should have never existed, and could possibly be the only ones within the observable universe.

    We have nothing to judge by, but with subjective approximation I'm going to say "unlikely" to the question as you intended it, however I will say "potentially" to the question as I see it. The ambiguity here being the word "lifetime". The word represents a period of time from which an individual is born to which an individual dies, not an actual, comparable unit of time. My lifetime coefficient is dramatically higher than yours, which results in an otherwise unlikely event being a realistic possibility.
     
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