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Mirrors on the Moon as a Galactic Greeting Card -A Galaxy Classic

070111search_2 Proponents of making contact with advanced ET life forms have come up with a new way to attract their attention—mounting mirrors on the Moon and using them to signal across space. It’s sort of like a bigger version of Batman’s bat-signal to shout out, “Hello aliens! We’re here! Come on over!”

Since radio broadcasts haven’t had much luck drumming up a clear response, it’s time to step it up to improve our chances of being found reasons Shawn Domagal-Goldman and Jacob Haqq-Misra of Pennsylvania State University. They say the mirrors could be angled to catch the Sun's rays, which would increase the amount of light the Earth-moon system reflects by 20%. That could be more than enough to attract the attention of an astute alien astronomer. Domagal-Goldman proposes stealing ideas straight out of Carl Sagan's book Contact, where a code of prime number flashes let aliens know the signal is intentional and not just natural variations in brightness.

Also, for those who think mounting mirrors on the Moon as an intergalactic greeting card isn’t worth the investment, they’ve come up with a win-win solution for the dreamers and the pragmaticists. The underside of the mirrors could be covered with photovoltaic cells. When the mirrors aren't busy signally they could be reversed to allow the cells to generate electricity, which would be then be beamed via microwaves back to Earth.

"You could help solve the climate crisis, too," says Domagal-Goldman, who presented his idea last week at the 2008 Astrobiology Science Conference in Santa Clara, California.

It sounds good, but there is a surprising amount of controversy over the topic of whether or not we should be actively trying to contact ET life forms. Feelings run deep and rampant on the subject ranging from “alien contact would be the best thing to ever happen to planet Earth” to a very serious “hell no, the aliens will eat us!”

US. New Scientist Space commenter Steve Tuck raises an interesting (if not severely pessimistic) point seemingly straight out of a sci-fi horror flick, that far from wanting to help us out, advanced alien races might be more likely to want to snack on us.

“Any alien civilization able to reach us, is likely to regard our planet as "living space" and the fauna (including ourselves) as a source of food,” he writes. “Just look at how European settlers of the USA, Australia etc. behaved. This was 'natural' behaviour, i.e. Genes maximizing their effectiveness and capture of resources in the new environment, to the detriment of what was already there. Any alien race will have been subject to similar evolutionary pressures on its home planet and will have therefore acquired similar resource-acquisition behaviour. Maybe they will study us, as we study interesting new species in rainforests. But we still cut rainforests down.”

Then, of course, there’s the popular counter argument that any species evolved enough for space travel is likely less violent and barbaric than us. It’s also likely that there’s nothing so special on Earth that they couldn’t find or create it elsewhere in the universe. From a common sense perspective, it just doesn’t seem like planets like ours that spend the majority of their resources stockpiling weapons to blow each other up are intelligent and evolved enough to conquer interstellar space travel. Surely species that have advanced capabilities have evolved past the point of constantly teetering on the edge of self-destruction. That could mean that they are less bloodthirsty than we imagine them to be, based on our own bloodthirsty natures.

Commenter Mick Malkemus puts it this way, “Most space fairing civilizations are peaceful. Proof? Any technological civilization that doesn't learn to live together in peace, will either blow themselves up, or be blown away by a killer asteroid while they are fighting amongst themselves. They are probably here already anyway, just making sure we don't make it into orbit around their planet unannounced. Would you want to wake up one day, and find humans on your planet? I don't think so. We should stop projecting our own worst qualities on other intelligence space fairing civilizations, it is an insult.”
Steve and Mick reflect two polarized views, both of which are shared by millions of others in some form or another. But from a cost versus benefit ratio analysis, are the benefits of contact with an advanced species worth the risk that they might want to snack on us, or cause some other nefarious harm?

John Billingham, senior scientist at the private SETI Institute in Mountain View, California cautions that we ought to be very careful of intentionally giving away our location and haphazardly sending random messages. He notes, "We're talking about initiating communication with other civilizations, but we know nothing of their goals, capabilities, or intent."

Alexander Zaitsev, Chief Scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics is less worried. He has already been broadcasting messages to the potential transient life forms that may exist within the Milky Way. Zaitsev has access to one of the most powerful radio transmitters on Earth, which is officially used to conduct the Institute's planetary radar studies, but he uses it to double as a galactic “loudspeaker”.

For those who believe that the chance other forms of sentient life in the universe are too small to be significant, the debate is a moot point. However Zaitsev believes extraterrestrial intelligence likely does exists, and that we as a species are morally obligated to announce our presence to our sentient neighbors.

After all, if all sentient life forms in the galaxy are only listening just as we are, he reasons, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is already doomed to failure. In other words, someone has to make the first move and since our species specializes in acting first and then worrying about the consequences later, it may as well be us.

Posted by Rebecca Sato

Related post:

Is Active SETI a Smart First Move or Potentially Dangerous?


This idea is total junk....

Using the biggest currently available laser coupled to the biggest current telescope we could outshine the Sun by a factor of more than 1000, broadband.

Covering half of the moon would cost xxx times more, and would ony reflect a negligible percent of solar output, and that with the same spectruma shape as the Sun...

If somebody did this on a moon of an Alpha Centauri's planet, our current technology would probalby not detect it?


If our own intraspecies interactions are any guide, it would seem that any space exploration would be funded and built on a military agenda for the view of expansion and control. But to date, that is the only proven path to progress for the Human species, or any for that matter.

I like the idea of solar panels on the moon. I also like the idea of having mirrors on the moon, but only so that I can look up the sexy alien moon-skirts.

While I can see that some would think this idea kind of silly and or stupid, I'm tired of hearing more and more ideas that come to nothing on this topic. Maybe it's time for us to step up and go exploring again, like we did hundreds of years ago. The fact that we can look back on that history and know what we did wrong, will help to prevent us doing wrong again in the future. Why is it always another species that are the advanced ones? It could be us, if we could just pull our fingers out.

The suggestion that the European invasion of North America was a natural process is ridiculous, and only serves to justify what was a social decision, and not a biological imperative.

Next folks will be saying rape is a natural reproductive process, therefore should be excused..

RepoDespot, I think you missed the entire point. No one was saying it was cool, they were just noting that humans do tend to be awful little invaders with no concern for how they are impacting others outside of their own perceived groups, so why would advanced alien beings regard us as being highly evolved like them? I agree with that particular point, but I don't equate that to mean that advanced aliens would want to eat us just because we're relatively primitive. I think it's more likely that they'd ignore us because we don't have anything of value to bring to the table. Why would they come and share advanced technologies with a species that is virtually 100% guaranteed to end up using that knowledge to create even worse weapons of destruction to kill each other with? Exactly.

We can't even get along with our next-door neighbors, and now we want to invite in some people(?) who are a whooooole lot stranger than our neighbors?

At least these guys are thinking of alternatives to sending radio broadcasts to other stars, but broadcasting an extra - terrestrial Morse message to other stars probably wouldn't work. Sunlight reflected from mirrors into space would be outshone by light from other sources in the Solar System alone, not to mention other stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc. One could easily make the same argument about radio signals.

Sorry - but this scheme is a real PIPE DREAM.

See also my early preprint:

Detection Probability of Terrestrial Radio Signals by a Hostile Super-civilization


I love good ol' fashioned out of the box thinking as much as the next guy, but have to say I'm stunned at the amount of press coverage this particular scheme is getting. Covering half the moon with (presumably) rotating mirrors? That's an area approx. twice the size of the United States. Never mind building such an array; how are you going to keep it clean and in good repair? All for a 20% boost in luminosity? I'll take MC's orbiting laser platform, for 5000 times the boost in performance at a bazillionth the cost, thank you very much. The idea would be a whole lot stronger if it could promise a substantial source of power.

Okay gang here is the rub. How would we manufacture all the hardware needed for this when we are reaching peak oil? The Hubbard Bell Curve shows that we are already at the peak of oil production and that we will see from this point on at least a 2% reduction in energy availabilty annually. The entire Human economic venture on Earth is fuelled by oil. As it becomes more expensive to extract and use, there will be very little if any energy for space exploration vehicle R&D let alone operational costs any if it were to get off the ground. We lost our window of opportunity for space exploration with thirty years of conservative governmental pocket lining and naval gazing. The energy sources that remain will be eventually used for resource wars in the future. Happy stuff I know. For more info see peakoil.org

Why would we want to do that when they are already here, controlling all world events through a hidden hand which is in control of all governements, banks , oil companies and religions? I suspect this is nothing other than a show or seed which is to be planted in the non awake people's minds so when the staged invasion happens in 2012, they'll say we contacted them.

There is no need for oil, we dont need it, it's the aliens who have brainwashed us into using it and thinking we are powerless beings with no hope.

Interesting idea, but it sounds like it came right out of a science fiction movie. I don't know if it would be worth the billions of dollars it would take to do this to make it worth it.

The previous comment about further exploration is awesome! The only problem is we are spending all our money by living in this paranoid, fear-driven society that spends more on bombs than it does on educating our children or caring for our sick...Alas, it will never happen unless there is a huge paradigm shift...

interesting idea thanks for post

Yes! Let's waste a bunch of space that we could build a moon base on to travel to more distant planets! Does that really make any sense? A 20% brightness increase won't make much of a difference if any alien life forms are millions of lightyears away. Money for that idea could go to a moon base or even a mars base. Something better. If we as humans could get probs to Pluto or the farthest solid planet, and mount them, we could view out so much farther. Moon mirrors arnt a bad idea I guess. Just not a rational idea.

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