NASA delivers first grant in 30 years to support the search for extraterrestrial intelligence

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I’m probably the outlier here, but I don’t see the point. I’m perfectly willing to sit here and wait for their arrival.


Well wouldn’t that just be a grim realization?

Seriously? It would be the greatest discovery in human history. It would rock the foundations of religion and spawn unprecedented new interest in science and exploration. Even if they are long gone or we can’t communicate due to the distance (both likely scenarios) just knowing a civilization ever existed elsewhere changes everything.

It’s the difference between n=1 and n=2 in our study of life and evolution in the universe. The importance of that difference is impossible to overstate.


“The atmosphere contains high concentrations of methane, carbon monoxide, and fluorine”.
“All Borg.”

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I’m not sure that’s true, unfortunately. Religion has shown the ability to adapt to the advance of science pretty well.
I do agree that it would be the greatest discovery in human history however. Proof we’re not alone. Amazing.

So if we send some spacecraft with the same sensors we are using for this here on earth and we send them out out past where the Voyagers are now and point it back towards Earth, would we detect the things we expect?

Shoe shops everywhere?


If you’d studied astrophysics, you’d realize that us sitting here and waiting for the arrival of extraterrestrials is like a man sitting on his porch who decides to get up and randomly walk across town, finding a dog, petting the dog, then leaning down and, upon spotting a flea on the dog, saying “hey flea! How are you?” And the flea answering.

In this analogy, the planet earth is the flea.


Humans made CFCs for 100 years. We stopped because they’re bad, in another 100 years they will have broken down and leave no trace in the atmosphere. We can assume another civilization would have done the same, if they have a handy ozone layer which isn’t de rigueur but handy for life that’s trying to get out of the ooze.
200 years is a tiny fraction in the lifetime of a planet.

Honestly if we made contact with an intelligent extraterrestrial species today I’d be kind of embarrassed by the first impression we’d doubtlessly make. It would be kind of like hopping on a zoom call with a new acquaintance while the camera clearly showed your home was in disarray, your children were at each other’s throats and your significant other was passed out half-naked and drunk on the couch.

I am with you on this one.

We do not know what alien civilizations look like. Fermi’s paradox kinda assumes that an advanced civilisation must want to set up an empire that spreads throughout the galaxy. Or we look for alien megastructures, which they have some urge for unending growth. Or we look for pollution in the atmosphere, which suggests they aren’t going to last long anyhow.

Suppose we were to look for alien civilisations. Drake’s equation suggests we stand a much higher chance of finding a planet that had simple life which may become complex, or (perhaps) a planet that had housed a complex civilisation that had died. The best suggestions of how we might survey a planet that is not actively trying to contact us would be to send light, laser-driven sail-craft. We would probably not even see these craft incoming. What we may be capable of sending in a hundred years is anyone’s guess, but it would probably be even lighter and smaller.

Astronomers queue up to use telescopes to look at objects, mostly known objects, to refine or refute existing theories. If they can at the same time set bounds on extraterrestrial life, then this would be handy. Trying to measure atmospheres of remote planets would seem to fit this. But if they are taking instruments away from researchers to look for some unknown alien megatechnology based on the politics of the last century, with a high chance of finding nothing, this is not something to cheer about.

With intelligent life in scant supply on Earth, boffins search for technosignatures of civilizations in the galaxy

Am I the only one who’s a little nervous that we earthlings are demonstrating that we’re not very good at mounting a coordinated response to a global threat?

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