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Scientists Urge Broadening Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Seti_2 Scientists from around the world are discussing how to improve the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program after 50 years of "The Great Silence" at The Sound of Silence conference, being held at Arizona State University

"Have we been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong way?" ASU astrophysicist Paul Davies told the New Scientist. "SETI's big mistake is that it's relying on ET to do all the heavy lifting," Princeton University astrophysicist Richard Gott said. According to Gott, if the aliens have the same attitude as us, "we'll all just be sitting round listening".

Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies said the approach currently being undertaken by SETI researchers is too narrow, assuming aliens communicate the same way we do here on Earth. "We're making a lot of assumptions about aliens based on human 20th century western society," he told New Scientist.

So far, we have no evidence we are not alone in the universe, and yet the odds that not one single other planet has evolved intelligent life would appear, from a statistical standpoint, to be quite small. There are an estimated 250 billion (2.5 x 1011) stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 70 sextillion (7 x 1022) in the visible universe, and many of them are surrounded by multiple planets. The shear size of the known universe is staggeringly and inconceivably vast.

The odds of there being only one single planet that evolved life among all that unfathomable vastness seems so incredible, that it is all but completely irrational to believe. But then "where are they?" asked physicist Enrico Fermi while having lunch with his colleagues in 1950.

Fermi questioned, if there are other advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, then why is there no evidence of such, like spacecraft or probes floating around the Milky Way. His question became famously known as the Fermi Paradox. The paradox is the contradiction between the high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and yet the lack of evidence for, or contact with, any such civilizations.

Given the extreme age of the universe, and its vast number of stars, if planets like Earth are at all typical, then there should be many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations out there, and at least a few in our own Milky Way. Another closely related question is the Great Silence, which poses the question: Even if space travel is too difficult, if life is out there, why don't we at least detect some sign of civilization like radio transmissions?

Milan Cirkovic of the Astronomical Observatory in Belgrade, points out that the median age of terrestrial planets in the Milky Way is about 1.8 gigayears (one billion years) greater than the age of the Earth and the Solar System, which means that the median age of technological civilizations should be greater than the age of human civilization by the same amount. The vastness of this interval indicates that one or more processes must suppress observability of extraterrestrial communities.

Since at this point, there is no direct and/or widely apparent evidence that extraterrestrial life exists, it likely means one of the following:

We are (A) the first intelligent beings ever to become capable of making our presence known, and leaving our planet. At this point, there are no other life forms out there as advanced as us. Or perhaps extraterrestrial life does exists, but for some reason extraterrestrial life is so very rare and so very far away we’ll never make contact anyway—making extraterrestrial life nonexistent in a practical sense at least.

Or is it (B) that many advanced civilizations have existed before us, but without exception, they have for some unknown reason, existed and/or expanded in such a way that they are completely undetectable by our instruments.

Or is it (C) There have been others, but they have all run into some sort of “cosmic roadblock” that eventually destroys them, or at least prevents their expansion beyond a small area.

Then ancients once believed that Earth was the center of the universe. We now know that Earth isn’t even at the center of the Solar System. The Solar System is not at the center of our galaxy, and our galaxy is not in any special position in contrast to the rest of the known universe. From a scientific viewpoint, there is no apparent reason to believe that Earth enjoys some privileged status.

Since Earth’s placement in space and time appears to be unremarkably random, proposition “A” seems fairly unlikely. Assuming humans evolved like other forms of life into our present state due to natural selection, then there's really nothing all that mystical, special or remarkable about our development as a species either. Due to the shear numbers, there are almost certainly other planets capable of supporting at least some form of life. If that is so, then for Earthlings to be the very first species ever to make a noticeable mark on the universe, from a statistical perspective, is incredibly unlikely.

For proposition “B” to be correct would defy all logic. If potentially thousands, or even millions of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist in the known universe, then why would all of them, without exception, choose to expand or exist in such a way that they are completely undetectable? It’s conceivable that some might, or perhaps even the majority, but for all of them to be completely undetectable civilizations does not seem likely either.

Proposition C in some ways, appears to be more likely than A or B. If “survival of the fittest” follows similar pathways on other worlds, then our own “civilized” nature could be somewhat typical of extraterrestrial civilizations that have, or do, exist. Somehow, we all get to the point where we end up killing ourselves in a natural course of technological development and thereby self-inflict our own “cosmic roadblock”.

    “Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Fermi Paradox is what it suggests for the future of our human civilization. Namely, that we have no future beyond earthly confinement and, quite possibly, extinction. Could advanced nanotechnology play a role in preventing that extinction? Or, more darkly, is it destined to be instrumental in carrying out humanity's unavoidable death sentence?” wonders Mike Treder, executive director of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN).

Treder believes that some of the little understood new technologies now being developed such as nanotech, and others, could well be either our salvation or just as likely end up causing our ultimate destruction.

    “Whatever civilizations have come before us have been unable to surpass the cosmic roadblock. They are either destroyed or limited in such a way that absolutely precludes their expansion into the visible universe. If that is indeed the case—and it would seem to be the most logical explanation for Fermi's Paradox—then there is some immutable law that we too must expect to encounter at some point. We are, effectively, sentenced to death or, at best, life in the prison of a near-space bubble,” suggests Treder. “Atomically-precise exponential manufacturing could enable such concentrations of unprecedented power as to result in either terminal warfare or permanent enslavement of the human race. Of course, that sounds terribly apocalyptic, but it is worth considering that the warnings we heard at the start of the nuclear arms race, and the very real risks we faced in the height of the Cold War, were but precursors to a much greater threat posed by an arms race involving nano-built weaponry and its accompanying tools of surveillance and control.”

When we consider the chronological history of life on Earth, humans have only existed for a small fragment of time and our existence has always been precarious. The entire time we’ve existed, we been banding into various groups and attempting to kill each other—or at least are constantly in the process of developing more effective ways of killing each other—just in case. The US government, for example, spends on “Defense” (including “preemptive” warfare) and Homeland Security, 8 times what it spends on educating the next generation. There is enough nuclear weaponry in storage around the world to kill every living creature on the planet several times over. Clearly, we’re a species with poor odds of surviving indefinitely.

Our self-destructive natures aside, curiosity may end up killing more than the cats. The faster technology is advancing, the more our “leap now, look later” nature appears to grow as well. If evolution on Earth serves as a somewhat typical template for evolution of other life forms, then becoming a truly advanced civilization must be a very daunting task indeed and a very rare, if not impossible, achievement.

In fact, Sir Martin Rees, Great Britain's Astronomer Royal and respected professor of astrophysics at Cambridge University has estimated that humans have only a 50-50 shot of making it through the 21st century. If Rees is right, and our standing on the planet is as precarious as he and others believe it is, then we may be alone due to a built-in evolutionary self-destruct button. Others have come before and others will exist after, but the cosmic roadblock may be an innate, finite nature, which only allows sentient life forms to exist for a very small window of time—windows of life which may be too small for our civilization to match up with the small windows of other civilizations that have been before or will come after.

In a contrary point of view, Milan Cirkovic believes that highly efficient city-state type of advanced technological civilizations could easily pass unnoticed even by much more advanced SETI equipment, especially if located near the Milky Way rim or other remote locations.

In spring of 2007, the SETI Institute switched on the first of 42 dishes that will make up the Allen Telescope Array, a facility in the California Sierras dedicated to searching for extraterrestrial signals.

"In the next two years we will have collected and analysed more new data than we have over the past 50 years," Dr Seth Shostack of SETI said. By 2028, the project will have surveyed more than one million star systems. "If it remains silent after that, then that will be the time to rethink."

Posted by Rebecca Sato and Casey Kazan.

If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on Digg, Reddit, or StumbleUpon.Thanks!

Related Galaxy posts:

MIT Asks: How Would Extraterrestrial Astronomers Study Earth?
"The Great Silence" -A Galaxy Insight
Harvard-Smithsonian Scientists Zero In On Key Sign of Habitable Worlds
Cruising the Goldilocks Zone -The Search for Super Earths
Dead Zones in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

  Non-Carbon Lifeforms -Why We May Overlook


 

Link:

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23173417-5001028,00.html

Comments

If we want to meet te aliens, we might wait some 100 years. No problem: http://www.duckway.com/spice/alcor

It doesn't matter how much farther we can see, or how big the universe is... If any ETs are more than a few light-years away, they might as well not exist because we won't be able to interact with them.

totally agree with Nemo. I'd say rather than spending time/money on searches, we'd be better trying to invent space wrapping thinng (or whatever that makes travel between starts instantaneous) It's fiction I know, but if we don't have that, aliens is fiction as well...

This article ignores the very compelling argument of gamma-ray bursts (super-duper novas) which sterilize everything for light-years around them every so often. If they are frequent enough they will wipe out most/all races before they advance far enough to outrun/survive such bursts.

Another possibility is that interstellar travel is so difficult and "sweet-spot" planets and star-systems are so few and far between that virtually all races exploit only their own solar systems, awaiting the inevitable gamma-ray burst.

you forgot (D) There is in fact extra terrestrial life humming throughout the galaxy, and that our corrupt western society government has been manipulating evidence and facts because they think we're children and can't handle the truth.

There is evidence of extra terrestrials visiting earth all through out history, and even to this day there are literally millions of sightings reported all across the planet.

The truth is we've had free energy technology for over 100 years now, but the reason why we're not seeing it because free energy = no oil = no profits. In fact, over the last 100 years we've advanced so technologically fast that no other point in history can even compare. This isn't a coincidence... our government has recovered and reversed engineered alien space craft, and has been doing so since at least 1947. Most UFO sightings are more than likely the USAF carrying out classified missions... but some are extra terrestrial.

Wake up people.

It will be a great day if/when we discover other life. It will force us to rethink our fundamental beliefs. Ideally it will also unite the world, but this may be too hopeful.

Join us at http://www.atheistrevolution.com

Our sweet spot is 4.5 billions years old, and yet we've only had the technology to broadcast radio signals for a bit over a century. Which is nothing in cosmological terms. Even if we continue for another million years, which is hard to imagine. It's still nothing on the grander scale. Just a tiny spark of life.

Human Beings are the same everywhere, planets which have human life are similar. There is nothing out there that we don't have here.
Planets are not stable. Disasters happen regularly which wipe out most human life. It has happened many times on this planet, and will happen again. The bible, for example, talks about "the flood of Noah", which destroyed most lives on the planet. Is it just a tale or was there a flood? I believe there was a flood. The biblical version is embellished is a way which makes scientists scoff, however there are solid reasons to support the event. Scientists know that the Earth's diameter is greatest at the equator, and slowly increases over time. How long can this continue without some "correction" from the universe? What does that correction look like? How often does this happen? What is left of human life afterward? Why do we have a day at the end of October every year when people all over the planet dress up like ghosts and walk around?

Science is fascinating and inherently dangerous. I think its a good idea to keep our ears open so long as the costs are negligible. However, BEFORE anyone goes intentionally attempting to make contact with everyone else out there we should consider the "Prime Directive". Do we really want additional visitors considering the radically violent diversity of our own little planet?

Awesome article, and even more awesomly humourous comment from 'daniel', or should I say Mulder...

Just a thought... but maybe the other lifeforms that exist outside of our limited understanding, do not currently want to have anything to do with us. I mean a more advanced civilization would have to look down on Earth with disgust. I think Humans have yet to evolve to the point where any alien lifeforms would want to even bother with us... Observing Earth/Humans to them is probably 1000 times worse then any intelligent person watching Jerry Springer. But hey I am a cynic, yet I do have so glimmers of hope once in a blue moon.

It's too late folks. They're already here.

I tend to agree with Daniel. There are too many credible sightings to be dismissed, even with the publicity/money seekers. This isn't 1908, I think that most people in the western world know the difference between cloud formations, swamp gas, Venus and an object that they haven't seen before. Also, it's not like the governments of the world are the most trustworthy bunch to ever come along. Even if the elected/appointed politicians aren't privy to the truth, there are lots of classified, secretive agencies operating all the time around the world who answer to no one, and I don't mean the CIA or the other ones that we know about. If you think that's just conspiracy talk, just sit in your chair drinking your diet Pepsi and watching Idol and you won't have a thing to worry about.

What makes us think that we're important enough in the galactic scheme of things to warrant official contact? We study animals all the time with remote cameras and behind hidden blinds. I think that a civilization only a few hundred years more advanced than us, let alone thousands or millions of years, could keep us from detecting them if they wanted. Besides the fact that we're assuming that other races have developed technology/communications on the same basis that we have, using broadcasted frequencies and radiation. Even if some have, they may only have had the technology for several hundred years, and our detecting it while they were broadcasting is a remote chance. We only developed broadcast technology 60 years ago, and in another 100 years we may very well come up with a successor to present forms of communication that hasn't even been thought of yet that would be undetectable to someone listening for broadcasts from our planet.

I tend to agree with Daniel. There are too many credible sightings to be dismissed, even with the publicity/money seekers. This isn't 1908, I think that most people in the western world know the difference between cloud formations, swamp gas, Venus and an object that they haven't seen before. Also, it's not like the governments of the world are the most trustworthy bunch to ever come along. Even if the elected/appointed politicians aren't privy to the truth, there are lots of classified, secretive agencies operating all the time around the world who answer to no one, and I don't mean the CIA or the other ones that we know about. If you think that's just conspiracy talk, just sit in your chair drinking your diet Pepsi and watching Idol and you won't have a thing to worry about.

What makes us think that we're important enough in the galactic scheme of things to warrant official contact? We study animals all the time with remote cameras and behind hidden blinds. I think that a civilization only a few hundred years more advanced than us, let alone thousands or millions of years, could keep us from detecting them if they wanted. Besides the fact that we're assuming that other races have developed technology/communications on the same basis that we have, using broadcasted frequencies and radiation. Even if some have, they may only have had the technology for several hundred years, and our detecting it while they were broadcasting is a remote chance. We only developed broadcast technology 60 years ago, and in another 100 years we may very well come up with a successor to present forms of communication that hasn't even been thought of yet that would be undetectable to someone listening for broadcasts from our planet.

I tend to agree with Daniel. There are too many credible sightings to be dismissed, even with the publicity/money seekers. This isn't 1908, I think that most people in the western world know the difference between cloud formations, swamp gas, Venus and an object that they haven't seen before. Also, it's not like the governments of the world are the most trustworthy bunch to ever come along. Even if the elected/appointed politicians aren't privy to the truth, there are lots of classified, secretive agencies operating all the time around the world who answer to no one, and I don't mean the CIA or the other ones that we know about. If you think that's just conspiracy talk, just sit in your chair drinking your diet Pepsi and watching Idol and you won't have a thing to worry about.

What makes us think that we're important enough in the galactic scheme of things to warrant official contact? We study animals all the time with remote cameras and behind hidden blinds. I think that a civilization only a few hundred years more advanced than us, let alone thousands or millions of years, could keep us from detecting them if they wanted. Besides the fact that we're assuming that other races have developed technology/communications on the same basis that we have, using broadcasted frequencies and radiation. Even if some have, they may only have had the technology for several hundred years, and our detecting it while they were broadcasting is a remote chance. We only developed broadcast technology 60 years ago, and in another 100 years we may very well come up with a successor to present forms of communication that hasn't even been thought of yet that would be undetectable to someone listening for broadcasts from our planet.

Sorry I posted 3 times, page kept expiring and I didn't think it was going through. Or it was one of those agencies.....

To be taken seriously, learn the difference between 'sheer' and 'shear'.

To be taken seriously, learn the difference between 'sheer' and 'shear'.

Why do we assume that if there is lifeout there (I believe there is)
That it is inteligent or superior?
We as a life form have only existed for a nanofart in time. If the big bang theory is correct then all life got the same time to evolve.

First off, I didn't post the original "governments are hiding aliens" message, this site just has a crappy 'posted by' format.

To respond to vegasguy:
A) We assume they're out there for numerous well founded mathematical reasons. One is the sheer number of chances, another is the rapidity with which life developed on earth, I believe well under 1 billion years after it's formation, meaning it doesn't seem THAT unlikely.

B) We assume they're "superior" because if we knew about them they would have either 1: gotten here from another star which is WAAAAY beyond our ability right now, or 2: had the sophistication to notice our puny signals.

C) Assuming the big bang IS true, AND that most all life is planetarily based, all planets would NOT have anything like the same time to develop intelligent life. Some would've been cooled, seperated and inhabitable almost 3 times as long as the earth, while some still have yet to become inhabitable as they are still too close to their respective galactic cores and/or still too hot. This is not conjecture but accepted scientific fact from the likes of Sagan and Drake.

Also, one misrepresentation in the article is that we should count all galaxies as potential sources of contact. The only way this could be true would be if there really were a tachyon-based or other type of teleportation loophole in our current understanding of the laws of physics. If such a method were feasible then Fermi's paradox would stand and the first race(s) to develop the teleporter would have filled every suitable planet in the universe in a billion years or so. That is assuming a very conservative rate of expansion. The point is, the distance between galaxies is so great that any engine that wasn't essentially a teleporter would take so long to reach the next galaxy over, that even if sed galaxy still existed, it would be a totally unrecognizable place after the 100s of millions or billions of years required for travel (none of this mentions how difficult it would be to actually make a ship that could remain intact that long while supporting life and/or functioning robots).

Daniel, you're close. They do have Free Energy Technology. But it wasn't an alien spacecraft that crashed in 1947. It was a Nazi craft. Look into the Vril project and see for yourself. Uncle Sam didn't want to admit the Nazi's were in fact not yet defeated and were happy to distract the sheep with thoughts of aliens on board.

It wasn't until unleashing the Nuclear 'tests' over Antartica to get rid of the rest. (Admiral Byrd and fleet got a first hand lesson in Operation Highjump as to where they were hiding) But let's not forget the Project Paperclip scientists that found a new sucker host government to continue their research right here at home.

The Kecksburg crash was also very similar in description to another experiment the Nazi's were researching. Look into the Nazi Bell.

There are no aliens out there. It's all United States black research projects. The sightings, the abductions. All of it. This is all a big scheme to keep you clowns distracted from the real goal, one the Nazi's also had: to control the world. Hence the New World Order.

Don't kid yourselves thinking this research is for tracking aliens. It's for tracking and controlling YOU.

I feel sad for Rebecca Sato and Casey Kazan. A well written scientific article, only to be followed by some of the dumbest and most unenlightened comments i ever seen. Some comments are insightful and noteworthy, but most make me pity the human race.
Even if there is intelligent life in other parts of this universe, why the f**k would they want to come here!

To quote Monty Python:
The Universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding in all of the directions it can whizz.
As fast as it can go, the speed of light you know, twelve-million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure how amazing unlikely is your birth.
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, 'cos there's buger all down here on Earth!

NO! NO! NO! I'm the one posting the well reasoned comments! For the second time, I am Daniel! Not the aliens-are-here guy, he's not me.

This site just has a horrible 'posted by' format which makes it look explicitly like your post comes AFTER your name. The opposite is the case. I am the one with two scientifically founded comments that seek to explain my views on the ABSENCE of aliens.

In closing I believe all sorts of "conspiracy theories" most readers would find ludicrous, but I do not see convincing evidence, or motive for aliens having come to earth, ever. UFO's are mostly secret aircraft, misidentification of mundane things, ground based illumination systems (the breakneck speed course changes "UFOs" often make are much better explained by ground based light projectors being reoriented), hoaxes and miscellaneous this-worldly phenomena. Please no one else agree with me about Roswell or any of that other crap just cause this comment separation scheme is the opposite of good. Go agree with anonymous.

I believe in an option "D" in that if there is intelligent life out there, the odds are their much older then we are, and like mentioned above we've only had the technology to send and receive radio signals for a handful of decades, wich is a joke in comparison to the projected age of the galaxy.
The most likely option I see is the caterpillar/butterfly paradox that I remember from reading the serendipity books as a kid. It goes something like caterpillar see's butterfly and asks him how it feels to fly, and all the butterfly can respond with is wait and see.
The same principle is similar to star treks prime derective.
Or how about dont give a monkey a loaded tactical nuke launcher.

To sum up, if there is intelligent life out there, its already ran into the problems we're facing long ago and if they survived and their here then they have the same view of us as we do rats in a maze. Just something to watch and place bets(or theories) on who'll get to the end first, but maybe in our case, how fast will we unknowingly and immaturely wipe ourselves out.

All this is assuming they can even focus their awareness down to our level - remember quantum theory and math sciences tells us theres anywhere from 5 to 50 possible dimensions and we're barely aware of a couple of them.

-I cannot believe the egotism of Humans-

1.we see all.
2.we know all.
3.wich allows us to theorize indefinitely on what we dont know???
Can You Say "LACK OF OVERSIGHT"

Such children... with every proven theory you have to admit you dont know all or see all wich means you must change the premise that proved your theory... but since we solved something well then of course we see all and know all now right...

IN THE END WE KNOW NEARLY NOTHING AND THE ONLY THING WE KNOW FOR SURE IS OURSELVES AND WE'RE CONSTANTLY GIVEN DISTRACTIONS TO LOOK AWAY... anyone wonder why???

Take the time to dig a little deeper. Alien species is already here on earth, and has been for some time. The greatest U.S. secret ever, working with extraterrestrial life in underground bases. It is said the entities may have a third lobe that is used for telepathy. Becoming an integral part of their space craft, and controlling it by mind. Could explain how they got here from light years away, and the incredible maneuvers reported during sightings.

Items to search:

The Disclosure Project

Phil Schneider

Underground bases (DULCE Base)

Enjoy!

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