Author Topic: General SETI Thread  (Read 7948 times)

Offline TakeOff

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Are you implying anyone who works in SETI is crazy, because if you are that’s pretty indefensible?
Seth Shostak certainly uses the crazy alien hunter as part of his public persona. That's how most people perceive SETI, Seth strikes the right string in the public mind. I think that without him SETI would quickly dwindle. And they haven't found anything, so it is a natural joke to everyone. A project like this has to be handled with a sense of humor.

Offline Star One

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Here’s a new related SETI article from Jason Wright.

Quote
One of the reasons SETI is hard is that we don’t know exactly what we are looking for, and part of that difficulty is that we still aren’t sure of who we are.  It seems counter-intuitive, but in order to be good at looking for aliens, we have to become experts at understanding ourselves.

http://sites.psu.edu/astrowright/2017/08/17/doing-seti-better/

Offline TakeOff

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Here’s a new related SETI article from Jason Wright.

Quote
One of the reasons SETI is hard is that we don’t know exactly what we are looking for, and part of that difficulty is that we still aren’t sure of who we are.  It seems counter-intuitive, but in order to be good at looking for aliens, we have to become experts at understanding ourselves.

http://sites.psu.edu/astrowright/2017/08/17/doing-seti-better/
That article is itself an example of "cultural myopia"!
The idea of intelligence and civilization is overdone. It is a self-glorifying geocentric perspective. No one has even the faintest idea as to what subjective consciousness is. Science can never even try to start to address the question because consciousness is an immeasurable non-objective existence. Yet our intelligence seems to build upon it, and hence our technology and civilization. We are so intelligent that we have no idea of what intelligence is! So what other non-objective non-measurable phenomena are out there, forming matter and energy like we do??

I do agree that looking for copies of ourselves is a practical approach, but the article totally fails with its claim to get out of this myopic perspective of searching for ourselves out there. Looking at ourselves in the mirrors of the space telescopes. The analogs with historic colonization on Earth can have a meaning for human colonization for space, since we are the same and repeat. But it can have no similarities with what completely different kinds of phenomena are doing. Europeans went to America to grow potatoes and tobacco. What has that got to do with anything else? I think that American history focus has taken over too much of the public thinking about these things.
« Last Edit: 10/08/2017 06:20 AM by TakeOff »

Online RotoSequence

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I think that American history focus has taken over too much of the public thinking about these things.

Obsessing over "how awful American history is" has effectively become the dominant cultural movement in public universities in America. A myopic view isn't a surprise; the objective study of cultures has basically disappeared in the process.

In any case, it's irrelevant. We can look for optimal structures in nature and reasonably extrapolate that the same laws of physics will produce similar optimal results elsewhere, and the rules of telescope optics care not for culture or philosophy, no matter what planet they're built on.
« Last Edit: 10/08/2017 10:30 AM by RotoSequence »

Somewhere around the late 1960's Arthur C. Clarke predicted there was a 99% chance that we would contact intelligent ETs by the year 2000.  Ambitious predictions are often wrong.

Offline Bynaus

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I skimmed it but missed a compelling argument for why he thinks we will find something. Is it because by 2035 we will have thoroughly explored the LaGrange points and the Moon? I'm dubious of that timeline.

The way I understand it is that if the "10000 to 1 million broadcasting societies in the galaxy" estimates are right, by 2035 we will have surveyed enough near-by stars at sufficient sensitivity to have found the first broadcasting society (with high statistical likelyhood). That seems to be a fair claim.

Of course, these estimates might well be (and are very likely to be, in my opinion) way too high. Then, we won't have found ETIs by 2035, even if they exist (contrary to the claim of the headline of the article).

Offline QuantumG

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I usually don't have an opinion on this kind of thing, but it really does seem like the problem of SETI is scale (with a little bit of algorithm thrown in, I guess) and the way to solve problems of scale is *not* the academic approach. Until we figure out a way to make profit from searching for extraterrestrial signals then we'll never find them. Okay, maybe never is too harsh, without profit we won't find them until the non-related economy of relevant technology reaches a point where the required scale is in the noise. i.e., if some other industry causes the abundance of (almost certainly space) radio telescopes you reach such a level that searching for extraterrestrial signals is just a side activity then we may have a chance of finding them. Otherwise we're just searching for a needle in a haystack with grad student labor... literally.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline Star One

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Relevant to this thread.

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds

Quote
Might ET be buried under too much ice to phone Earth? That’s what planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has concluded may be delaying our contact with alien civilizations. Most extraterrestrial creatures are likely deep inside their home planets, in subsurface oceans crusted over in frozen water ice, according to a new proposal at this year's American Astronomy Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Provo, Utah. The hypothesis could explain the lack of signals from other technologically advanced civilizations, a conundrum known as the Fermi paradox.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/why-haven-t-we-had-alien-contact-blame-icy-ocean-worlds

Offline Dao Angkan

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It would be difficult for technological civilisations to evolve without fire.

Offline redliox

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It would be difficult for technological civilisations to evolve without fire.

Perhaps, but it could depend on the planet.  We have insects that build their homes instinctively and there are chemical fires (phosphorous I think) that can burn underwater without oxygen.  A planet rich in quartz or other minerals that refract and focus light could spur development of optics and perhaps primitive lasers.  The ways technology begins could be a varied as the way live evolves.

Relevant to this thread.

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds

Quote
Might ET be buried under too much ice to phone Earth? That’s what planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has concluded may be delaying our contact with alien civilizations. Most extraterrestrial creatures are likely deep inside their home planets, in subsurface oceans crusted over in frozen water ice, according to a new proposal at this year's American Astronomy Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Provo, Utah. The hypothesis could explain the lack of signals from other technologically advanced civilizations, a conundrum known as the Fermi paradox.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/why-haven-t-we-had-alien-contact-blame-icy-ocean-worlds

Another example of how civilization might develop differently from us.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
-Tigatron

Offline topo334

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How about the beings of xxauoin XXXXII, who worship the Jolly Green Giant and use a very large prime number as a key for decoding their frosty lore!

Offline Phil Stooke

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"Europeans went to America to grow potatoes and tobacco. "

Yikes, nobody picked up on this?  What about stealing gold?  Escaping persecution?   Establishing penal colonies?  Converting heathens?  There are lots of reasons people went to America and every one of them might find a parallel in alien visits to Earth, though none of them would look very good from our point of view. 

And that leads to another suggestion about why we don't detect broadcasts - the aliens are afraid of what might happen if they announce their presence, so they are lurking and listening.

Offline TakeOff

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"Europeans went to America to grow potatoes and tobacco. "

Yikes, nobody picked up on this?  What about stealing gold?  Escaping persecution?   Establishing penal colonies?  Converting heathens?  There are lots of reasons people went to America and every one of them might find a parallel in alien visits to Earth, though none of them would look very good from our point of view. 

And that leads to another suggestion about why we don't detect broadcasts - the aliens are afraid of what might happen if they announce their presence, so they are lurking and listening.
The natives were of no use. All of them just died from decease. Potatoes and tobacco was what was profitable. And later cotton slavery. If aliens don't smoke tobacco we have no reference as to what motivates them to move around in space. What motivation do virus have to help your immune system against other virus? Do you think that virus are "lurking and listening"? Do you imagine that they care about our existence at all? And most virus DNA is identical with sequences of our DNA. They are our identical twins. Alien life will be far different.

This whole subject suffers from Disneyfication as in talking cute cartoon animals. We can never have any kind of communication or relationship with any non-human being. We never have had even with the genetically almost identical life we have here on Earth, like grass or ants. Alien life is an astrophysical phenomena, not anything we can use our common sense to relate to. Even playing chess with a computer we ourselves have made is hopeless. Even AI cannot be dealt with by common sense. Common sense is only common among us.
« Last Edit: 10/20/2017 02:35 AM by TakeOff »

Offline CuddlyRocket

It would be difficult for technological civilisations to evolve without fire.

We don't know that. We know how we did it, and we used fire because we had fire. We haven't given much thought to the contra-factual!

Offline Bynaus

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If there was a 30 km thick ice ceiling over Earth - don't you think we would have punched through that centuries ago? Yeah, so do I. That explains nothing.

Offline Star One

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It would be difficult for technological civilisations to evolve without fire.

Perhaps, but it could depend on the planet.  We have insects that build their homes instinctively and there are chemical fires (phosphorous I think) that can burn underwater without oxygen.  A planet rich in quartz or other minerals that refract and focus light could spur development of optics and perhaps primitive lasers.  The ways technology begins could be a varied as the way live evolves.

Relevant to this thread.

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds

Quote
Might ET be buried under too much ice to phone Earth? That’s what planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has concluded may be delaying our contact with alien civilizations. Most extraterrestrial creatures are likely deep inside their home planets, in subsurface oceans crusted over in frozen water ice, according to a new proposal at this year's American Astronomy Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Provo, Utah. The hypothesis could explain the lack of signals from other technologically advanced civilizations, a conundrum known as the Fermi paradox.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/why-haven-t-we-had-alien-contact-blame-icy-ocean-worlds

Another example of how civilization might develop differently from us.

As a side point I was slightly surprised this came from Alan Stern as I didn’t have him down as someone interested in this area of enquiry.

Online KelvinZero

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I think you could still develop tool using intelligence without fire. Consider the octopus. You could also discover politics, probably a huge driver of intelligence. There would still be reasons to develop, agriculture, fortresses and weapons from materials such as bone.

Once you have a civilisation like that you have the scale for scientists. I think they would discover gasses, perhaps from volcanic vents or decaying organic matter. These could provide buoyancy to lift stones great distances. I think once you have competing nations and scientists everything gets figured out eventually.

After that, I think life under ice is a lot closer to becoming a space fairing species than us, if on a low gravity world like europa or Ceres. They could master space industrialisation without even leaving their planet or moon. Vehicles on the surface would allow fast travel. There would also likely be unique resources more available there.

For me, the more significant question is how much energy such an environment could provide, while not being so energetic as to lose all this ice and water to space. I heard somewhere is that Europa is not expected to have the energy to sustain more than very simple life.

Offline Dao Angkan

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I think you could still develop tool using intelligence without fire. Consider the octopus. You could also discover politics, probably a huge driver of intelligence. There would still be reasons to develop, agriculture, fortresses and weapons from materials such as bone.

Once you have a civilisation like that you have the scale for scientists. I think they would discover gasses, perhaps from volcanic vents or decaying organic matter. These could provide buoyancy to lift stones great distances. I think once you have competing nations and scientists everything gets figured out eventually.

After that, I think life under ice is a lot closer to becoming a space fairing species than us, if on a low gravity world like europa or Ceres. They could master space industrialisation without even leaving their planet or moon. Vehicles on the surface would allow fast travel. There would also likely be unique resources more available there.

For me, the more significant question is how much energy such an environment could provide, while not being so energetic as to lose all this ice and water to space. I heard somewhere is that Europa is not expected to have the energy to sustain more than very simple life.

I posted my brief response late last night, and was planning on elaborating after work today, but you've pretty much covered much of what I intended to say, even down to octopuses! Anyway, I'll expand on that a little bit.

The octopus shows us that underwater species can evolve intelligence and dexterity, and indeed evolve to use tools. I could certainly see such a creature evolving to human level intelligence and a neolithic level of technology. The extra difficulty that I see is the leap from a neolithic to a metallurgic civilisation. The human lineage used fire for various evolutionary benefits for over a million years before metallurgy was discovered, presumably as a by-product of the benefits that humans had evolved to control fire (heat treatment of flints). In an environment where fire isn't natural, then I think it's an extra filter of difficulty for evolution to head in that direction ... how would such a species discover metallurgy?

We can imagine various less likely scenarios, and as the universe is so vast, some of those may well have occurred, but it seems to me that it would be far more likelier to occur in an environment where fire occurs naturally.

As for basic microbial life? If it is ubiquitous where we find liquid water, then we can test that in our own solar system, but we can't really detect extra-solar biomarkers in sub-surface oceans, even if they outnumber surface oceans by whatever magnitude you care to choose.

Until we have more evidence, then I can see the appeal in the argument that microbial life may be far more common in sub-surface ocean ice worlds (as they are probably more common than temperate terrestrial worlds), but it doesn't answer the Fermi paradox. As already mentioned, if they are technologically advanced, then boring through a few kms of ice would be trivial, and as also already mentioned, most ice worlds have low gravity, so compared to us, space travel should be trivial too.

The Fermi paradox simply proposes that a single inter-stellar civilisation could populate the entire milky way in only a few million years, so in astronomical timescales they should be here already. Stay at home ice world civilisations doesn't solve the paradox, as Earth-like civilisations should already be here.
« Last Edit: 10/20/2017 07:52 PM by Dao Angkan »

Offline eric z

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 I would respectfully disagree that politics is a driver of intelligence! :D

Offline Dao Angkan

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It would be difficult for technological civilisations to evolve without fire.

Perhaps, but it could depend on the planet.  We have insects that build their homes instinctively and there are chemical fires (phosphorous I think) that can burn underwater without oxygen.  A planet rich in quartz or other minerals that refract and focus light could spur development of optics and perhaps primitive lasers.  The ways technology begins could be a varied as the way live evolves.

Relevant to this thread.

Why haven’t we had alien contact? Blame icy ocean worlds

Quote
Might ET be buried under too much ice to phone Earth? That’s what planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has concluded may be delaying our contact with alien civilizations. Most extraterrestrial creatures are likely deep inside their home planets, in subsurface oceans crusted over in frozen water ice, according to a new proposal at this year's American Astronomy Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Provo, Utah. The hypothesis could explain the lack of signals from other technologically advanced civilizations, a conundrum known as the Fermi paradox.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/why-haven-t-we-had-alien-contact-blame-icy-ocean-worlds

Another example of how civilization might develop differently from us.

As a side point I was slightly surprised this came from Alan Stern as I didn’t have him down as someone interested in this area of enquiry.

His expertise is ice worlds. Sub-surface liquid oceans are potential habitats for life. Ice worlds are probably more common than temperate terrestrial worlds. I don't think his analysis went any further than this.

Still, he has always personally responded to my questions about New Horizons in the past (admittedly quite a few years past), so I'm sure you'd get a response if you politely ask him about his opinion on this.
« Last Edit: 10/20/2017 08:14 PM by Dao Angkan »

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