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ToSeek
2004-Jul-26, 04:51 PM
ET first contact 'within 20 years' (http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996189)


If intelligent life exists elsewhere in our galaxy, advances in computer processing power and radio telescope technology will ensure we detect their transmissions within two decades. That is the bold prediction from a leading light at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View, California.

Seth Shostak, the SETI Institute's senior astronomer, based his prediction on accepted assumptions about the likelihood of alien civilisations existing, combined with projected increases in computing power.

milli360
2004-Jul-26, 04:56 PM
You've been ToSeeked :), by Chuck: Alien Civilizations will be found within 20 years! (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=304509#304509)

ToSeek
2004-Jul-26, 05:20 PM
You've been ToSeeked :), by Chuck: Alien Civilizations will be found within 20 years! (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=304509#304509)

But what's it doing in Against the Mainstream? ;)

Kullat Nunu
2004-Jul-26, 07:15 PM
Funny thing this "within 20 years"...
Exploitation of fusion power and human-level AI has been predicted to be reality in the next 20-30 years since the 50s. :roll:

There are probably more useful methods of communication than the radio that we haven't yet figured out. We have had this method only for some 50 years and we are just becoming able to communicate between the interstellar distances. This means if there are any aliens they may have different methods of communication (i.e. we cannot contact them by radio signals).

Also their way of thinking is probably very different from ours. We may not understand them or possibly they are not interested in us (which would seem odd since any technologically advanced culture needs curiosity to develop).

Third point, the cultural shock resulting from the fact that there really are much more advanced aliens may be destructive to our civilization. One should not forget that the native cultures were destroyed when they met the western civilization, even if the contacts were peaceful. The aliens may know us, but they won't contact us until we are ready.

George
2004-Jul-26, 09:54 PM
I agree with Kullat Nunu, although, ToSeek's quote did include "based on accepted assumptions".

Entangled particles, if understood enough, or some other advanced technology might negate the need for radio communications just as radio replaced smoke signals and other prior conventions.

Emspak
2004-Jul-27, 08:15 PM
I was thinking, the window for detecting any other civilization is small, but not that small -- even if the window is short viz. use of radio, as long as we're the requisite distance away we should be able to hear whoever it is.

But I was also thinking that the old saw about knowledge of the alien's existence being destructive seems a bit farfetched. Remember, there would be no "real time" interaction -- we might get a message (or more likely, detect a signal that is artificial, but not meant for anybody in particular, similar to the emissions Earth gives off because of the power transmission and such). We might shoot back a reply, but don't expect an answer for a thousand years or so. Plenty of time.

The analogy of civilizations on Earth doesn't hold up. The Natives in the Americas, and to a lesser extent Africa and Asia got hit by disease and/or a basic policy of extermination. Knowledge of the Europeans didn't destroy them -- Europeans did. (Some of the ideas floated around about what to do with darker--skinned float are positively creepy). And the whole deal about "world panic" and all that Weekly World News stuff is just bunkum. Civilizations come apart because the way they are run isn't sustainable for whatever reason, and there are many of those that have nothing to do with knowledge of another. By that reasoning, Europe should have fallen apart when they met an Arab or Chinese guy in 1000 AD.

dvb
2004-Jul-27, 09:06 PM
There are probably more useful methods of communication than the radio that we haven't yet figured out. We have had this method only for some 50 years and we are just becoming able to communicate between the interstellar distances. This means if there are any aliens they may have different methods of communication (i.e. we cannot contact them by radio signals).

Also their way of thinking is probably very different from ours. We may not understand them or possibly they are not interested in us (which would seem odd since any technologically advanced culture needs curiosity to develop).

This is all assuming that they are more advanced than us. [-X

Kullat Nunu
2004-Jul-27, 09:24 PM
But I was also thinking that the old saw about knowledge of the alien's existence being destructive seems a bit farfetched. Remember, there would be no "real time" interaction -- we might get a message (or more likely, detect a signal that is artificial, but not meant for anybody in particular, similar to the emissions Earth gives off because of the power transmission and such). We might shoot back a reply, but don't expect an answer for a thousand years or so. Plenty of time.

I find it hard to believe that a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence, no matter how simple, wouldn't have a major impact in our culture.


The analogy of civilizations on Earth doesn't hold up. The Natives in the Americas, and to a lesser extent Africa and Asia got hit by disease and/or a basic policy of extermination. Knowledge of the Europeans didn't destroy them -- Europeans did. (Some of the ideas floated around about what to do with darker--skinned float are positively creepy). And the whole deal about "world panic" and all that Weekly World News stuff is just bunkum. Civilizations come apart because the way they are run isn't sustainable for whatever reason, and there are many of those that have nothing to do with knowledge of another. By that reasoning, Europe should have fallen apart when they met an Arab or Chinese guy in 1000 AD.

Well, Europe wasn't that far behind the Chinese and the Arabs. Only in the Modern Age has western civilization become overwhelmingly advanced compared to native cultures.

Of course the atrocities by the Europeans were major cause of their destruction, but I was referring to their cultural and spiritual life. Native people find it hard to live old ways in modern culture. What point is to hunt or gather your food when you can buy it from the local store?

In some Polynesian islands people abandoned their farms and work after the Americans visited there and left some cargo to them. Why? They waited and tried to summon a new cargo transport! Similar cargo cults (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult) may appear worldwide if the aliens give us some of their knowledge or if they just show to be more technologically advanced.

Kullat Nunu
2004-Jul-27, 09:28 PM
This is all assuming that they are more advanced than us. [-X

How less advanced aliens than us can communicate with us? We might be on same level, but the probability for that is extremely low. Don't forget that most alien Earths are tought to be at least billion years older than our Earth.

dvb
2004-Jul-27, 09:39 PM
This is all assuming that they are more advanced than us. [-X

How less advanced aliens than us can communicate with us? We might be on same level, but the probability for that is extremely low. Don't forget that most alien Earths are tought to be at least billion years older than our Earth.

True, they may be far more advanced than us by now, but if we catch a transmission from 1000 years after it left the alien planet, it quite well could still be a rudimentary radio signal.

As for most alien planets being thought to be at least a billion years older, how could we even begin to come to this conclusion? We really have no idea.

Kullat Nunu
2004-Jul-28, 07:30 AM
As for most alien planets being thought to be at least a billion years older, how could we even begin to come to this conclusion? We really have no idea.

I don't remember where I saw that estimation, but it takes into account that star formation was much more active in the past and how long it took to produce enough heavy elements for terrestrial planets. It is reasonable that most alien Earths are older than our planet. And who knows, how long it takes to intelligent life to appear? It may be that development of complex life on our planet was unusually slow compared to others -- or vice versa.

dvb
2004-Jul-28, 08:57 AM
It may be that development of complex life on our planet was unusually slow compared to others -- or vice versa.

My point exactly. But we also must realize that we could receive a signal from an alien civilization while it was still in its primative stage at the time, and when it reaches us, they could be far more advanced.

Personally, I don't think we'll be developing a better means of communication than radio waves for a long time. Its only limiting factor is the speed of light which is something we can deal with until maybe we start traveling to distant stars.

scourge
2004-Jul-29, 03:09 AM
[quote=Kullat Nunu]
As for most alien planets being thought to be at least a billion years older, how could we even begin to come to this conclusion? We really have no idea.

I’m not sure if the ‘alien Earths’ mean age of a billion years ahead of us is the right number, but it’s probably close—the derivation of this number probably comes from density-modeling of galactic formation (since matter coalesced at the center of our galaxy at sufficient densities to spawn stars and planetary systems sooner than it did way out here on one tenuous arm of the galaxy). Alternatively, we also know that the mean age of the stars toward the galactic core (and therefoe, the -majority- of stars in our galaxy) are that much older than our Sun by looking at their spectral characteristics.

So, intelligence should, statistically-speaking, radiate from the center of galaxies outward. If life is as tenacious elsewhere as it is on Earth, there are probably forms of intelligence in our galaxy at least a billion years ahead of us, evolutionarily.

And I don’t mean to get down on us humans, but radio communication is a crappy/inefficient way to go. Almost all of the radiation emitted goes off in directions that are of no use, for one thing. A beam-style communication set-up of some kind, like a laser perhaps, would at least be more target-specific and therefore more efficient, right? Alternatively, there's always fiber-optic cables...

Frankly, given our current state of affairs, I’m not sure we should be trying to reach the folks out there who are using radio wave communication…if they’re as violent and unstable as our civilizations, we could be asking for trouble. But civilizations with a few hundred million years of experience dealing with young‘uns like us might be very helpful to encounter.

I’ve often thought that if I were a much more advanced alien being encountering the Earthlings, I’d probably endeavor to be very subtle, ingenious and patient in my first contacts. Like appearing mysteriously to a few people here and there in the sky, to get people talking about the possibility of life elsewhere, and to get them thinking about the flight characteristics/physics of an interstellar craft. And I’d probably be very stealthy about my existence until people seemed ready to accept a bigger picture…maybe I’d wait for a large-scale invitation of some kind. That would be the thoughtful thing to do, don’t you think?

Kullat Nunu
2004-Jul-29, 06:37 AM
So, intelligence should, statistically-speaking, radiate from the center of galaxies outward. If life is as tenacious elsewhere as it is on Earth, there are probably forms of intelligence in our galaxy at least a billion years ahead of us, evolutionarily.

Galactic centers may be too crowded (too much supernova explosions and such).


And I don’t mean to get down on us humans, but radio communication is a crappy/inefficient way to go. Almost all of the radiation emitted goes off in directions that are of no use, for one thing. A beam-style communication set-up of some kind, like a laser perhaps, would at least be more target-specific and therefore more efficient, right? Alternatively, there's always fiber-optic cables...

I was thinking something like that. First optical SETI searches are already operating.


Frankly, given our current state of affairs, I’m not sure we should be trying to reach the folks out there who are using radio wave communication…if they’re as violent and unstable as our civilizations, we could be asking for trouble. But civilizations with a few hundred million years of experience dealing with young‘uns like us might be very helpful to encounter.

Well, interstellar conquers are ridiculously ineffective (terrible amount of resources needed with very little gain) so that sounds unlikely. And very hostile civilizations probably destroy themselves sooner or later.


I’ve often thought that if I were a much more advanced alien being encountering the Earthlings, I’d probably endeavor to be very subtle, ingenious and patient in my first contacts. Like appearing mysteriously to a few people here and there in the sky, to get people talking about the possibility of life elsewhere, and to get them thinking about the flight characteristics/physics of an interstellar craft. And I’d probably be very stealthy about my existence until people seemed ready to accept a bigger picture…maybe I’d wait for a large-scale invitation of some kind. That would be the thoughtful thing to do, don’t you think?

Maybe they're doing that right now ;).

dvb
2004-Jul-29, 12:37 PM
And I don’t mean to get down on us humans, but radio communication is a crappy/inefficient way to go. Almost all of the radiation emitted goes off in directions that are of no use, for one thing. A beam-style communication set-up of some kind, like a laser perhaps, would at least be more target-specific and therefore more efficient, right? Alternatively, there's always fiber-optic cables...

First off, welcome to the board! :)

There's a few problems with optical communication. First of all, light, efficient as it is, doesn't pass through solid objects too well, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it would work very well in broad daylight either. It's also not very practical for mobile communications. For instance, I wouldn't want to have to point my mobile phone directly at the nearest tower just to make sure I get a signal. Even though these examples only involve terrestrial communications, we still have to realize that aliens still need to communicate with each other on their own planet. Fiber optics of course, have their own applications and won't work for mobile communications at all. The fact that radio waves radiate everwhere can be a good thing.


Frankly, given our current state of affairs, I’m not sure we should be trying to reach the folks out there who are using radio wave communication…if they’re as violent and unstable as our civilizations, we could be asking for trouble. But civilizations with a few hundred million years of experience dealing with young‘uns like us might be ves really all depends on what what you're applying the means of cory helpful to encounter.

I would assume that an advanced civilization would have made it over the hurdles of war, ignorance, and violence. Just look at where we are today, then take a look back to the medieval times. At least in the western hemisphere we don't chop off heads for stealing bread anymore, or think that we're the centre of the universe. As for war, yeah it still happens, and it will go on for as long as there are cultural and political differences. But say in 1000 years from now, if we don't blow ourselves up before then, you'll see most culture and race unified as we continue to intermingle with each other. It's not impracticle to think that we'll one day become 1 global race and culture, and by then, there won't be much need for war either. If they haven't overcome violence, I would assume they would have annihilated themselves long before they advanced much more than us.

bacterium-in-spaceship
2004-Jul-29, 01:46 PM
I'm fairly sure Shostak's wrong, but just in case he isn't:

Has anyone ever seriously thought out what could go wrong in case the civilization contacting us is hostile or indifferent, and how this should affect our plans? (Is there e.g. a web reference?) I can imagine they'd select a message very carefully designed to get us to blow ourselves up in advance, or to do something else stupid, but I don't see this sort of consideration anywhere in what SETI people are saying.

bacterium-in-spaceship
2004-Jul-29, 01:56 PM
Well, interstellar conquers are ridiculously ineffective (terrible amount of resources needed with very little gain) so that sounds unlikely.

A whole solar system plus the permanent removal of a threat isn't "very little gain". If they're much more technologically advanced than we are, which is what I'd expect, then they can probably win at little cost.


And very hostile civilizations probably destroy themselves sooner or later.

It could easily be an in-group/out-group thing: they might be nicer to themselves, or some of themselves, than to us. And destroying yourself is hard once you've spread out into space.

Hostile ETI seems to be something people mostly aren't willing to think about, forgetting that What You Don't Think About Can Kill You.

ToSeek
2004-Jul-29, 02:39 PM
Hostile ETI seems to be something people mostly aren't willing to think about, forgetting that What You Don't Think About Can Kill You.

What do you suggest we do about it? Any battle between us and a starfaring civilization is going to be the equivalent of cavemen fighting against an armored division. About the only thing we could consider doing is not drawing attention to ourselves.

bacterium-in-spaceship
2004-Jul-29, 02:51 PM
Other than not drawing attention to ourselves, I think we should be very careful with any messages we receive. We should think hard about whether that's the sort of thing we really want to read or decode, and if so, how. We're probably dealing with beings much smarter than we are here. A radio message could contain carefully selected, very convincing lies to manipulate us into doing something we don't want, or for all I know it could contain Horrible Cosmic Truths that will drive us all insane. :)

bacterium-in-spaceship
2004-Jul-29, 03:02 PM
Maybe the best strategy is to not decode messages until later, when (and if!) we'll be smarter, wiser, saner, more rational, more capable of dealing with a wide variety of threats, and so on. There will be hundreds of years of delay, anyway. Then again, maybe some other strategy is better. I don't see many people thinking about this sort of thing, though. (At least I have an excuse: I don't believe we'll receive ETI communications.)

dvb
2004-Jul-29, 03:02 PM
A radio message could contain carefully selected, very convincing lies to manipulate us into doing something we don't want, or for all I know it could contain Horrible Cosmic Truths that will drive us all insane. :)

lol

We're doomed. :o

Emspak
2004-Aug-03, 10:48 PM
I have been away for a bit, but to both answer an earlier part of th epost to mine and the others, if you detect another civilization by radio, by definition the information you get is pretty out-of-date. That is, if we see a signal from somewhere else 100 light years away, whatever has gone on in that amount of time has already happened -- after all, would somebody picking us up 1,000 years from now worry about what the Americans or French presidents think? They'd be long dead and any issues with our civiliztion, assuming it exists at all, will be sort of moot.

I wasn't saying the detection of aliens would have no impact on our culture, but I can't come up with a scenario where people panic wildly or everything falls apart. I mean, there might be great impact in how we see ourselves for sure. But the cargo cult analogy doesn't seem to hold up -- unless there is some technological secret in there that is pretty radical, it isn't like we can say "oh, the radio signal will deliver the papers tomorrow and feed me, so I need not do so."

I mean, cargo ships that started those cults were leaving real, material things behind.

Also, the native peoples who find it difficult to live in modern systems find it so because the modern system was imposed -- they usually didn't get to vote on it or anything. It was "live the way we (white people) tell you or we kill you." Once the system is in place it is very difficult to dismantle, especially when you co-opt the right number of people and destroy the basis of the earlier culture. There was a real, deliberate effort to eradicate these cultures and make their lives difficult -- exterminating the buffalo in the US is one example, stealing their kids away to be raised by whites another. The latter was, in some respects, far more effective.

I can't see the receipt of an alien signal diong that to us.

Meanwhile, worrying about what any aliens might do if they pick us up seems weird. I mean, the odds of them being close enough to us, technologically, given the wide age range (+/- 1000 million years or so) that stars with sufficient metallicity have been forming in systems with planets at all like ours have been forming. If they were to show up I doubt there is much we could do about it.

I get the sense that a vast civilization would more likely be just indiffernt to us, in the way we are indifferent to many creatures we run across. Not that that's a good thing.

Not drawing attention to ourselves is pretty much not an option. I'm told the Earth shines as bright or brighter in some radio wavelengths than the sun does now. Anyone know if that's a silly urban legend? But mor to the point, any major industrial effort here-- like if we decide to build a dyson sphere (far ahead, I know) or move asteroids around and build habitats will be pretty noticeable to passer-by.

eburacum45
2004-Aug-04, 12:11 AM
Scourge is right about light being used for communications; a tight beam of short wavelength light radiation remains focused further than a tight beam of long radiowaves; so it can be detected further away.

As long as the beam passes through a fairly transparent region of interstellar space lasers would carry more indformation further. Gamma ray lasers would remain focussed even further.

Other methods of possiible communication involve wormholes and entanglement; it may never be possible to send information by these methods, but they could possibly provide communication that could never be intercepted, or if intercepted never decoded.

scourge
2004-Aug-04, 05:40 AM
First off, welcome to the board! :)
Thanks dvb!


I would assume that an advanced civilization would have made it over the hurdles of war, ignorance, and violence. Just look at where we are today, then take a look back to the medieval times. At least in the western hemisphere we don't chop off heads for stealing bread anymore, or think that we're the centre of the universe. As for war, yeah it still happens, and it will go on for as long as there are cultural and political differences. But say in 1000 years from now, if we don't blow ourselves up before then, you'll see most culture and race unified as we continue to intermingle with each other. It's not impractical to think that we'll one day become 1 global race and culture, and by then, there won't be much need for war either. If they haven't overcome violence, I would assume they would have annihilated themselves long before they advanced much more than us.
I hope you're right...I think you're right...it does seem to make sense that if a species is going to 'go global' annihilation on itself, it'll most likely happen soon after it acquires the ability to do so. I think it makes sense, that if a species has reached he point of colonizing new worlds (or building enormous spaceship habitations), and has solved the problem of scarcity, then there isn't much to fight over...you can always go off somewhere else if you have a philosophical problem, you're not forced to share borders and resources with the opposition. Hopeful thinking maybe?




I wasn't saying the detection of aliens would have no impact on our culture, but I can't come up with a scenario where people panic wildly or everything falls apart. I mean, there might be great impact in how we see ourselves for sure.
Yeah, and I think that could be a -really good thing-. Having an outside 'them' might make us see the truth of 'us' a little more clearly, which, by my little primitive primate God-idol image, is Long overdue. Besides, I'd guess that if 'they' could get here at faster-than-light, they could take all the confused hostility we might be tempted to throw their way, and then some. Lashing out at an invulnerable opponent has advantages ;)


I get the sense that a vast civilization would more likely be just indifferent to us, in the way we are indifferent to many creatures we run across. Not that that's a good thing.
I dunno, on the other hand, those folks might have a Lot of free time on their hands...probably a lot of time and energy to devote to social work. I think we'd be a good 'project.'


Not drawing attention to ourselves is pretty much not an option.
Here here! I revolt at the thought of playing possum, humanity has always been adventurous, and it got us this far. Let's take some risks, live a little. I could be shot running across the street to get some coffee...but it's more likely I'll meet a cute new girl…


I'm told the Earth shines as bright or brighter in some radio wavelengths than the sun does now. Anyone know if that's a silly urban legend? But more to the point, any major industrial effort here-- like if we decide to build a dyson sphere (far ahead, I know) or move asteroids around and build habitats will be pretty noticeable to passer-by.
And if a civilization is relatively advanced (like we are today) we've already been blaring across the cosmos for several decades...I think the cat's already out of the bag!



Other methods of possible communication involve wormholes and entanglement; it may never be possible to send information by these methods, but they could possibly provide communication that could never be intercepted, or if intercepted never decoded.
That makes a lot of sense...a more advanced civilization would likely be More aware of the 'prying ears' problem, and take appropriate measures...not to mention...we've Just Begun to understand the possibilities. Who knows what other means of communication there are? Frankly, I think we'd be better off transmitting than listening. Not only does it seem kinda peeping-tomish, but I'd rather have an alien civilization listening to what we -wanted them to hear-, like 'hey, let's get together for a clam-bake,' than Hitler's broadcast, or the 'War of the Worlds.' Seems to me, the only way to make friends is to offer friendship. And who knows...maybe the listening ears are closer than we think 8)

Brady Yoon
2004-Aug-04, 08:40 PM
What if an intelligent civilization is looking for fresh meat? 8-[ Then we're in big trouble.

eburacum45
2004-Aug-04, 10:50 PM
Any intelligent civilisation capable of crossing interstellar space should be able to feed its population on manufactured meat.
How else could they cross all those dark light-years? Sandwiches?

On top of which it is likely that we would be indigestible to them at best, toxic at worst.

Aipex
2004-Aug-09, 01:22 AM
I doubt that a civilization that is billions of years more advanced than us will aquire energy by ingesting biological lifeforms. How uncivilized!! :)