Step 1 Find life
Step 2 Find intelligent life
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit
SETI (the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) is both exciting and disappointing: exciting because of peoples' eternal wish for someone else to be out there; and disappointing because life proves so hard to find. The SETI Institute's Nathalie Cabrol is wondering whether the whole idea needs something of a reboot, a …
The issue has always been, the Universe is a big fucking place and light is slow in the cosmological scale.
And by the time the data gets here, it's so weak and corrupt as to be indistinguishable from white noise.
It's either going to come from optical observations of the chemistry of remote planets, or from 'look at me' cosmological events that are unexpected (e.g. a civilisation playing with tech on a massive scale - move-a-sun type events).
Or it will come from local evidence - info encoded on our DNA - if we were seeded from extra terrestrial (unlikely).
But radio signals - unless they are using pulsars to send more code - hardly likely.
"And by the time the data gets here, it's so weak and corrupt as to be indistinguishable from white noise."
Given today's, or any foreseeable, technology of the future, the only way to deliberately communicate with another solar system's intelligent life is the old standard "message in a bottle".
Sending out probes with the message, "This is Who and where we are.", like we did with the voyagers, and hoping that someday, somehow, someone else finds them.
In all probability whoever sent them will be long gone by the time we find any, but at least we'd know that they once existed.
In the category of "look at me" events, I remember many years ago reading a story that postulated we could figure out what types of advanced spacecraft drives were possible given the laws of physics as we know them, then look for their emission signatures. These mostly focused on fusion-powered photon drives, which would have pretty distinctive Doppler shifts. It was beyond a long shot, but it did strike me as clever in that we already had much of the data we'd need to do a search. If nothing else, an interesting thought experiment.
Picking up radio is limited to a few light years range due to cosmic noise and inverse square law unless someone has massive dishes pointing straight at us. Even then the range isn't great. It's doubtful our own ordinary transmissions can even be received at the nearest star.
three basic questions:
1 How abundant and diverse is intelligent life in the universe?
2 How does intelligent life communicate?
3 How can we detect intelligent life?
1) We can't answer the first question at all.
2) No communications method we know is practical for interstellar distances, so forget this question, it's irrelevant. We aren't going to "eavesdrop". The inverse square law and Shannon's law mean that's probably impossible.
3) The only current practical method for Interstellar distances is spectroscopy. You are using the power of a star as the remote transmitter and detecting the adsorption in the atmosphere of a planet transiting between us and the star. Not all planets will transit between us and stars.
Unless we discover a whole new branch of physics we are limited to spectroscopy. We need to have no preconceived ideas and examine each spectrograph. Oxygen and carbon Dioxide has a signature. If there are additional chemicals that seem to be in unnatural proportions, we might conclude we have found possible evidence.
How do we communicate if we thing we have found life? Radio or Laser won't work, too far even if they were "looking" in our direction. We can send a probe that takes hundreds or thousands of years to get there.
We can't know if we discover unknown stuff in the future that allows "ansibles", stargates, warp drive, artificial wormholes or "jump" drive. Those are all SF today. Contrary to popular belief, Quantum Entanglement can't be used for instant communications but only to verify a light speed message hasn't been tampered with.
It's more likely that we've yet to discover some method of signaling across huge distances. We're probably missing something to do with gravity or quantum entanglement.
Considering that human civilization existed for millennia without producing any radio signals and we're actually going back to cables as we need fibres to carry serious amounts of data that radio couldn't cope with.
If anything our signals are getting harder to detect, the more advanced we've become. A small number of very Powerful radio transmission systems was replaced with networks of transponders, those were replaced with more and more cable systems and very low power cellular systems.
We've also moved to a billions of low power digital transmitters (mobiles, wifi, Bluetooth etc ) that likely just create noise that could be easily mistaken for a natural phenomenon.
The only thing I think might make us detectable is satellite uplinks. We are constantly beaming fairly powerful, directional signals at satellites in orbit. A large % of that radiation goes right past the target satellite and off into space.
We've also assumed that ET isn't deliberately maintaining radio silence. If space life is anything like earth life, announcing your whereabouts mightn't be adjusted m advisable.
We're only really decades into high tech and space technology. They could be either running around in a pre technology societies that we will never detect, or centuries or millennia or even millions of years ahead of us.
You've got to make assumptions to begin any kind of seti but, we're very likely missing a hell of a lot of stuff.
I, and others, believe that as in the past about this, it is just wishful thinking. As other commenters point out, given the distances, the speed of light, tech improvements in communication, even if there is intelligent life, our chances of eavesdropping on them is probably slim to non-existent.
.... Hell on Earth Scripts to Intellectually Challenged Beings with Learning Difficulties
Is Creative Messaging on Earth to and from Global Operating Devices, an alien master pilot for online plotting of future events for current presentations/media mainstream delivery with New Orderly World Orders and Autonomous Anonymous Elite Executive Bodies, or AI and a Virtual Machinery Makeover with Remote Takeover Facilitation of SCADA Command and Control Systems Leverage?
Or would y'all wish for it and its IT Systems Administration to be classified way above and beyond TS/SCI Mk Ultra Umbra and Foreign State Actor Designated whenever a Non State Actor Affiliations and AIMoniker would reveal and energise Almighty Invisible and Energetic Intangible Forces and Novel Cosmic Sources?
Would any such wish in a world of worlds consistently constantly fed precious little more than just a debilitating daily din, be heard to be heeded, or simply noted and immediately dismissed as not needed to be seeded by IntelAIgent Life Phorms.
And are all human centric systems, bar none, SCADA Command and Control Systems and catastrophically insecure and flash crash vulnerable to massive novel information dump and PACT* Pack Attack/Hostile Virtual Terrain Team Sortie?
And the truly EPIC answer to that vital question is a resounding YES.
* Persistent Active Cyber Threat with Wild Wacky Western Delights and Exotic Erotic Eastern Treats
I run the SETI screensaver at work, much better than the screensaver that is forced onto our monitors.
I like the graphics, very relaxing to watch and ponder. For example, is there intelligent life out there? I don't just mean among the stars, but in the organisation I work in, and the people I work with.....
It would be fairly sad if we became so self-absorbed that we just stopped exploring and sniffing around of life beyond Earth.
I really enjoy SETI and astronomy's pure optimism and just wonder about what's out there.
I was just thinking the other day that while people are prattling on about xenophobia, mass shootings, terrorism, Trump, Brexit, wars raging, economies crashing, the nicer side of humanity has ignored all that nonsense and sent a probe to frigging Jupiter - just to see what's there! Between NASA, the ESA, SETI, the Russian space agency and increasingly other high tech nations and players, at least some of us are still looking beyond our own navels.
If it wasn't for some of these things, and we just had to listen to right wing politicians bickering, terrorists blowing things up and economists analysing supply and demand all day and reducing human activity to dull mathematical formula about accumulating wealth, it would be a very depressing little planet.
Who knows, we may never find any life outside earth, but it's well worth looking!