SETI: When is enough enough?

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SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Oct 17, 2018 5:59 pm

SETI has been banging away for decades, burning through millions of dollars, with increasing capacity for processing signals, yet there's nothing to show for it.
Isn't it about time to call it quits?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Poodle » Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:07 pm

The day after SETI packs in, a signal will arrive from the star system which would have been next on their list.
It's someone's Law, I think.
Alternatively, they've been sending by modulating the cosmic background noise but we've been filtering it out.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:14 pm

Funding for SETI Institute programs comes from a variety of sources. Contrary to popular belief, and their Form 990, no government funds are allocated for its SETI searches– these are financed entirely by private contributions. Other astrobiology research at the SETI Institute may be funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, or other grants and donations. TeamSETI is the SETI Institute’s worldwide membership and support organization.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SETI_Inst ... supporters

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:03 pm

If you've run the SETI screensaver for all these years, do you get at least a Thank You card?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:13 pm

I consider it unlikely that S.E.T.I. will achieve its goal. That is because I tend to support the rare Earth hypothesis. However, I have been wrong before and I support the research effort.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:02 pm

SETI can only detect civilizations advanced enough to be transmitting detectable signals. It won't detect any preindustrial life.

High O2 content in the atmosphere would be much easier to measure, and could possibly detect life at the microbe stage if there was enough of it to alter the atmosphere sufficiently.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:27 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:02 pm
SETI can only detect civilizations advanced enough to be transmitting detectable signals. It won't detect any preindustrial life.

High O2 content in the atmosphere would be much easier to measure, and could possibly detect life at the microbe stage if there was enough of it to alter the atmosphere sufficiently.
Kepler does a good job of identifying planets which may be inhabitable by creatures similar to ourselves, but it remains for future generations of spacecraft to be able to detect atmospheric gases.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:30 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:13 pm
I consider it unlikely that S.E.T.I. will achieve its goal. That is because I tend to support the rare Earth hypothesis. However, I have been wrong before and I support the research effort.
Even a rare earth could number in the thousands or millions.
I doubt we're rare for a variety of reasons:
Extremophiles can adapt to almost any environment.
We are discovering hundreds of earth-like planets with Kepler.
The universe is older than our solar system, and life has had more time to develop.
Our understanding for what i takes for life to develop is extremely limited.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:33 pm

I think SETI is searching for it's needle in the wrong haystack. Civilizations aren't likely to use long-range radio communication for very long, before they advance to better forms of communication than broadcasting.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:45 pm

landrew wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:27 pm
OlegTheBatty wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:02 pm
SETI can only detect civilizations advanced enough to be transmitting detectable signals. It won't detect any preindustrial life.

High O2 content in the atmosphere would be much easier to measure, and could possibly detect life at the microbe stage if there was enough of it to alter the atmosphere sufficiently.
Kepler does a good job of identifying planets which may be inhabitable by creatures similar to ourselves, but it remains for future generations of spacecraft to be able to detect atmospheric gases.
It's a tough call, and there is a wide margin of error, but spectrocopy can detect O2 because stars don't often have high levels, and a high O2 means it comes from the planet's atmosphere.

While there are few mechanisms for high atmospheric O2, life is not the only one.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:49 pm

Oxygen is the second most common element in the 'verse.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:04 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:49 pm
Oxygen is the second most common element in the 'verse.
O2 isn't. Most of it is in compounds like water, calcium carbonate and so on.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:22 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:04 pm
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:49 pm
Oxygen is the second most common element in the 'verse.
O2 isn't. Most of it is in compounds like water, calcium carbonate and so on.
I didn't say "free element".
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Io » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:46 pm

I think there's probably little use in listening for radio signals as 'signs of life' since we've only been using them for a short while and their use is already decreasing. If that's representative of most intelligent life (and I realise the we have no idea about that) it seems unlikely that we'll detect the alien equivalent of the Archers. That said, does it really do any harm? (SETI, that is, not the Archers. We all - all we who have had the misfortune of encountering the Archers - are aware of the utter evil it has unleashed.)

The rest of SETI's ops (whatever they might be) are probably worthwhile given that they're not costing anyone who isn't willing to pay.
We might not see distant signs of life even if we look really hard, but if we don't look at all we definitely won't.

Basically, it's harmless. Why not leave it alone?

Also, when I read this topic title I read it as "STI: When is enough enough". Combined with the opener of "banging away for decades" it gave me a moment's confusion as to why it was in the "Science, Technology, and Mathematics" subforum. I guess enough would be enough when your medical bill exceeds your hooker bill?

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:19 pm

Before Stephen Hawking died, he warned about announcing our presence in a universe, where it may not have been safe to do so. It proved to be an unpopular idea and it's amazing how quickly opinions turned against him. I tended to side with him, based on how hostile organisms can be against each other. But on the other hand, if the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis holds any water, any advanced civilization would already be aware of us and keeping their distance.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:43 pm

The Fermi Paradox still holds true.

Some years ago there was an article in Scientific American by a couple of NASA scientists, who said that an advanced ion drive design could propel an interstellar craft at up to 0.2 C (one fifth of light speed). I did a calculation. Assuming a population growth of a doubling every 100 years (slow by human standards) and space craft blatting around the galaxy at 0.2 C, then the galaxy would be occupied to the point of overpopulation in little more than a million years. Since 10% of our galaxy is more than 8,000 millions years old, and if intelligent life were reasonably common, some expansionist species would have occupied Earth before mammals could evolve.

So, as Fermi said : "Where are they ?"

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Wed Oct 17, 2018 10:59 pm

The Fermi paradox is stupid. The Universe is too large to say there are no aliens just because they're not HERE.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Oct 18, 2018 1:02 am

Gawd

The Fermi Paradox does not say there are no aliens. It implies very few in our own galaxy. The wider universe is something else. If an alien civilisation exists in the Anxromeda galaxy and is expansionist with starships going at 0.2 C, it would take them 10 million years to get here. Kinda unlikely.

However, inside our own galaxy, it is very different. The average distance between star systems is 4 light years. At 0.2 C, that trip could be done in 20 plus years. Suddenly achievable, and not too difficult.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Thu Oct 18, 2018 2:48 am

The Fermi Paradox assumes that ETs would be at our doorstep, hands outstretched, wanting to introduce themselves. If they truly were intelligent, perhaps they understand how destructive it would be to contact us, therefore they leave us alone like we do with nesting birds in a sanctuary.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:28 pm

landrew wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 2:48 am
The Fermi Paradox assumes that ETs would be at our doorstep, hands outstretched, wanting to introduce themselves. If they truly were intelligent, perhaps they understand how destructive it would be to contact us, therefore they leave us alone like we do with nesting birds in a sanctuary fire ants.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:31 pm

I believe Charles Stross in "Accelerando" has the best explanation for the Fermi paradox.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:52 pm

I can't find my copy, wise us up, please.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:21 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:52 pm
I can't find my copy, wise us up, please.
In Stross's story, advanced civilizations become computer-uploads who turn their solar system into a Matrioshka Brain to run on.

But there would be no reason for such uploads to leave the system, since distance means lag-time to the other uploaded minds, leaving anyone too far away stranded in the dark ages - compared to the rest of society.
They would also have no use for contacting less advanced civilizations, and would fear getting in touch with older Matrioshka Brains because of the risk of being hacked.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:40 pm

Then where are the tweeners, the civilizations that don't yet have the technology for matrioshkas but can build interstellar craft?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:53 pm

All kinds of reasons for them not to be HERE!

Distance, it's a big universe.
Time, they could have come and gone before this planet cooled.
Interest, lack of. The last time they were here the stromatolites didn't impress them. They'll check again in eight hundred thousand years or so.
Kindness. Imagine the inferiority complex the ordinary joe will have when they do land. Heaven's Gate megaplied. They might not want that, and are willing to wait until we mature.
Disgust. They could be watching our TV signals right now. "Why the {!#%@} would we go there?"
Patience. When we leave the solar system for the first time we might be met by folks who consider that "coming of age."
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:56 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:40 pm
Then where are the tweeners, the civilizations that don't yet have the technology for matrioshkas but can build interstellar craft?
possible flaw in the theory.
Though it does explain why advanced civilizations would go "dark".

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:14 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 7:53 pm
All kinds of reasons for them not to be HERE!

Distance, it's a big universe.
Time, they could have come and gone before this planet cooled.
Interest, lack of. The last time they were here the stromatolites didn't impress them. They'll check again in eight hundred thousand years or so.
Kindness. Imagine the inferiority complex the ordinary joe will have when they do land. Heaven's Gate megaplied. They might not want that, and are willing to wait until we mature.
Disgust. They could be watching our TV signals right now. "Why the {!#%@} would we go there?"
Patience. When we leave the solar system for the first time we might be met by folks who consider that "coming of age."
The existence of humans cover such a tiny percentage of the age of the earth, the Fermi Paradox is really about why are they not here NOW, not where are they.

There are other reasons why they might not be here, or ever were. It is also possible that they are here and know how not to be detected.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:02 pm

"The existence of humans cover such a tiny percentage of the age of the earth, the Fermi Paradox is really about why are they not here NOW, not where are they."

And it's still stupid.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:24 pm

It seems a bit odd to think that intelligent life must exist somewhere else in the universe, but they are simply too far away to have visited us. Is it not likely that ET might have developed space travel beyond chemical rockets? I think it's more likely that they know about us, but they're keeping their distance by choice.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:38 pm

Why would FTL have to be possible?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:29 am

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:38 pm
Why would FTL have to be possible?
because most sci-fi stories don't work otherwise.

duh

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Poodle » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:20 am

There is an underlying problem with our expectations of alien societies - that they will all become highly-industrialised space-faring civilisations. That, of course, is an anthropomorphic point of view and, given all the possibilities provided by an extremely large universe, is almost certainly wrong. It is possible that we are the only species in the universe who have opted to go where no (insert label) have gone before. It is possible that such species are so far apart that their exploratory signals haven't had the time to reach anyone else yet. It is possible that we're all there is.
SETI has, by now, either shown us that there's no one out there close enough to matter a damn, there's no one out there trying to talk to us, there's no one out there at all, or that SETI is so hitty-missy as to be all but useless. It's served its purpose in that it enables us to make those statements. Time to put into bed.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:23 am

My primary concern is that aliens might not be sexually attractive enough.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gord » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:30 am

Poodle wrote:
Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:20 am
...It is possible that we are the only species in the universe who have opted to go where no (insert label) have gone before....
No we haven't! That's a TV show. The furthest anyone's ever gone is to the Moon, and that's just 24 people. (They're also the only ones who've ever seen the far side of the Moon with their own eyes.)
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gord » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:31 am

ElectricMonk wrote:
Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:23 am
My primary concern is that aliens might not be sexually attractive enough.
Meh. If Kirk won't do 'em, Scotty will.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:28 am

The galaxy is small enough for an alien species to colonize every corner to the point of overpopulation within a million years.

Most of the reasons given for the fact that no technologically advanced alien species has ever been detected depend on the assumption that there are only a few such species. For example, if your explanation is that the aliens are too philosophical to leave home, you have to realise that many alien species will include at least one that is aggressively expansionist. We have a sample of one, and the result is 100% aggressively expansionist.

Sagan and Drake used their Drake Equation to calculate the number, and they plucked the value of the various factors out of the air, and came up with a million advanced alien species in our galaxy. Well, I can tell you that if there were that many, at least some of them would be colonizing madly everywhere.

Nor is it likely that, over the 4 billion years life has existed on Earth, that any alien species that visited would leave no trace. We have fossils of the most delicate jellyfish 500 million years old. Almost anything and everything will leave traces, including alien bootprints.

The most reasonable explanation for no trace of any alien civilisation, whether via S.E.T.I. or fossil traces, or direct visits, or radio communication, is that alien civilisations are very rare.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by ElectricMonk » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:36 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:
Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:28 am
The most reasonable explanation for no trace of any alien civilisation, whether via S.E.T.I. or fossil traces, or direct visits, or radio communication, is that alien civilisations are very rare.
or that they are either too insignificant to leave a visible footprint or too advanced to just vent radiation into space.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:34 am

OR we have no idea how they communicated because we haven't gotten there yet. Abraham Lincoln didn't tweet the Gettysburg Address.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:33 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:02 pm
"The existence of humans cover such a tiny percentage of the age of the earth, the Fermi Paradox is really about why are they not here NOW, not where are they."

And it's still stupid.
The only paradox I see is that there are people who think it is a paradox.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:39 pm

Oleg

It is not a paradox, because it has a simple and obvious explanation. Humans have seen no trace of any advanced alien civilisation because such things are very rare.

Gawd and Electric Monk went ahead and offered alternative explanations which would work only if such civilisations were very rare. If Sagan and Drake were correct, and there were large numbers of advanced alien civilisations, then over 8 billion years, some of them would have aggressively colonised the galaxy. This did not happen, so we can concluded that such civilisations are rare.