back to article Mankind to detect alien life 'by 2025'

Senior Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) astronomer Seth Shostak last night boldly claimed that mankind would certainly detect intelligent alien life by 2025, assuming the right technology is in place to probe 500 light years into space where there are doubtless thousands of ET radio stations transmitting into the …


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  1. Jason Togneri

    "The prediction does, of course, come with a few caveats."

    "It assumes that "assumptions about computing power and the strength of forthcoming research instruments are correct", as Cnet explains, and that scientist Frank Drake's estimate of 10,000 civilizations in the Milky Way alone capable of putting together radio transmitters are likewise on the money."

    Caveats, indeed. Including this one: maybe there are no aliens.

  2. Alan Fisher

    On Planet Betelguese 2

    there is an organisation full of whitecoats sitting there wondering when these terribly primative earthlings will develop a phased MASER/Coherant Light array and finally answer the messages they have beaming at the godsforesaken rock for the past two centuries......

    I think we won't discover alien civilisations by 2025, they'll 'discover' us sometime between 2012 and 2015 (you heard it here first!)

  3. Anonymous Coward


    That was the sound of solar flair caused by the near-relativistic projectile hitting the Sun from Tau Seti finishing off the said astronomer and everything else on this "used to be green" planet.

    This idea reminds me of the donkey in shrek jumping up and saying "pick me, pick me"


  4. Anonymous Coward

    Pfft, we've already made alien contact...

    ... most of them reside in Birmingham...

  5. Anonymous Coward

    It's life Jim but not as we know it

    Given that the lifespan of the Universe is unthinkably long, the chance of life developing nearby, in a similar way and at the same point in time is laughably small.

    SETI is not science but wishful thinking.

  6. Chris Miller

    Fermi Paradox ...

    says no!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Another 17 years ? Probably be too late for me then :-( They need to get a move on.

  8. Neil Shepherd
    Black Helicopters

    Just In Case...

    I for one would like to welcome any future alien overlords that we might discover (or might discover us)

  9. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Down

    Slightly dubious assumptions

    Surely he's also assuming that aliens DO exist, and that's something we cannot calculate the odds on (like a god existing - it's either true or not, but as we have no evidence pointing to truth, it is pointless to postulate about the likelihood of finding any)

    Also, an incredible number of coincidences have to happen for the SETI project to detect alien life even if it does exist.

    A waste of money and power.

  10. Master Baker

    They're looking in the wrong place

    Alistair Crowley made contact with an Alien entity called LAM whilst scrying during one of his magickal ceremonies. So SETI have got it wrong. Instead of erecting massive antena, perhaps they should built giant scrying (black) mirrors as big as a house?

    According to David Icke the Alien lizard-man human farmers are all around us....

    HP Lovecraft states that the ancient old-ones (Aliens) are buried deep in the earth (and slumbering at the bottom of the ocean - which we still haven't explored yet).

    HP Lovecraft also has a story of the 'thin people' - alien beings who disguise themselves as lamposts and live in tall, thin houses.

    SETI has for years ignored these pieces of evidence and thus has found no Alien life.

    And now they plan to 'build bigger arrays'. Idiots.


  11. Joe Cooper

    And you know it's right cause there's math involved

    The Drake Equation:

    The chances of bigfoot existing is 0.1% per square mile.

    There's over a million square miles of land on Earth!

    Therefore, there must be many thousands of bigfoots.


    The Fermi Paradox:

    If there are so many, why haven't we heard them on the radio yet?

  12. Jason Togneri
    Thumb Up

    @ Fermi Paradox

    You should read Stephen Baxter's Manifold Trilogy (Time, Space, Origin); it deals with three different interpretations to explain the Fermi Paradox and is damn good reading. Sadly, the Fermi Paradox seems all too likely.

  13. Gerard Krupa
    Paris Hilton

    I predict that...

    I will win the National Lottery by 2025 assuming that my guess^W carefully calculated estimates of my ability to select the correct numbers and my lifespan are both correct.

    Paris could guess the number of alien species out there with just as much reliability as any other random publicity-seeker with a controversial statement to make.

  14. Phil Cooke
    Black Helicopters

    @ AC 10:16

    and there was me thinking most of them were in places like the House of Commons, or the White House......I can't see how a politician could ever be human!

  15. goggyturk

    Two dozen?

    Isn't that 2x12=24? In that case the date is really 2032, unless the astronomical dozen has gone the way of Pluto and become a Dozenoid or a Dwarf Dozen. If it got heated up while being compressed from 12 to 8.5, maybe it could be a Red Dwarf Doz...

    What's that? Oh, OK, I'll get me coat then...

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Not that simple

    Early radio comunications would be easy to pick out from the background noise.

    The assumption being made, that once a civilication has begun transmitting analogue radio signals, it is bound to carry on doing so, is unsafe. As we are experiencing on our very own planet, the spectrum has gotten very crowded since Heinrich Hertz started experimenting in 1888 (Commonly credited to the famous fascist Guglielmo Marconi) So we start to make better use of the spectrum by transmitting compressed, digital signals. The more advanced/effective the compression is, the more "unpredictable" the next Bit in a stream of bits become. A perfectly compressed signal will sound like white noise. So let's say we have until 2088 before all analogue transmission that has the potential to reach outside our imediate neighbourhood/solar-system has seized altogether. So since we are judging potential aliens by our own standards in the rest of the calculation, we can carry on doing so. Suddenly that "inevitability" of picking up signals look a bit different. If there is only a window of 200 years in which you can detect an inteligent species, then we may never do so. I hope we do, but it would be a bit like buying a wining lottery ticket. It's reasonable to believe there is inteligent life out there, it is reasonable to try/hope to pick up their signals, but it is unreasonable to think we'll ever communicate with them.

    The distances are just too great.

  17. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Paris Hilton

    Why bother?

    Sorry to bring it down but would any alien creature in their right mind, want anything to do with us and our buggered up, little planet? Hmmm, let's just get it over with and send this: "Come to Earth! We've got creatures obsessed by little bits of paper and shallow entertainment like Big Brother, X-Factor and Elton John! For more information tune in anytime on an Earth radio and TV source near you!".

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another possibility

    Another answer to the paradox is that everybody is solely listening and no-one is actually saying anything... Although the combined SETI listening time has been several years, the directed broadcast time is a mere 37 hours. (As of 2006).

  19. Anonymous Coward



    1) Life exists

    2) We will find it before 2025

    In which case, yes I think he's on to something.

    As for the Fermi Paradox, as I recall it's along the lines of "it can't exist because I haven't seen it yet". Fair enough - but there's plenty of things that we think exist but can't yet prove. If all science was around this, we'd never try anything.

    The chances of us looking in the right direction at the right time are pretty slim, but not impossible. Improbably maybe, but not impossible. All he's done is taken some stats about how likely a planet like ours exists, how likely life will spawn from it, how many of these would be at a suitable level of development, how much of the sky can we cover. It's a similar calculation to saying "if I play the lottery for 13 million weeks, I will win" - fundamentally wrong (independent events), but does increase the probability.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    we don't need no steenkeeng title

    @ Phil Cooke - bugg...ritt - that's my line.

    Let me just add that I also welcome our temporally imminently but as yet undiscovered (and/or undeclared) future overlord species of whatever form and dimension it may evolve from at such time that it is either discovered or makes it's presence known.

  21. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Crikey.... just imagine whenever I have something to say

    I'm saying Nothing/NaDa ... for the simplest of reasons that Mankind is so terribly slow at Comprehension and Understanding their Failures at Fantasy. ...which I suppose is Due in No Small Part to the Fact that they XXXXPect IT to be Treated and Accepted for Real whenever IT is Always Virtual.

    And that makes the Natives Totally Unprepared and Vulnerable to Alien Invasion and Communications Control, for there is Unbelievable Available Stealth in Sharing the Preposterous Notion and Posting it to the Web ...... for whatever TelescopIQ Arrays are out there.

    Now quit messing around in boats, Paul, and actually do something Mega Useful and Innovative, which would be QuITe Alien to Man too. Lord knows that Saints preserve us from Spoilt Little Rich Kids..... more at Home on the Range with Nothing much to Do and Think about but starting Burning Bush Brush fires.

    Been there, done that and IT sucks. Time for AI Change, eh?

    And don't you know that the East has Cracked the West and ITs Addictive Obsessions .... and PsyopSessions.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Live long and prosper V

    we are amongst you already :)

  23. SpeakerToAliens

    There may well be intelligent life...

    ... elsewhere in the universe, but somebody somewhere had to be first - Carl Sagan.

  24. Alexander

    a paradox in a paradox

    There are big problems with Fermi paradox

    1. if your a advanced extraterrestrial civilization and you send a probe or probes out , your hardly going to leave them lying about for primative's like us to get our hands on and if time is not a barrier then why build any more then one probe to tour the whole universe, and who says we are not the product of some life seeding probe (not that i believe that) that travels the great voids creating new life based on a original template.

    2. how would we recognise a signal...and who says advanced extraterrestrial civilizations use detectable technology ..we now have mostly stopped using radio waves and moved on to microwaves so the window for detecting civilizations using radio waves is minutly small.

    3.And what ultimately defeats the fermi paradox is the exsistence of we Humans, it means that under certain circumstances intelligent life does evolve add a bit of choas and quantium theory to the pot plus the vast size of the universe and it makes drakes equation a far more likely concept than fermi's paradox arguement which takes a standpoint that it understands what advanced intelligent is and how it operates ...i would not be so bold

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Missing factor in the Drake Equation

  26. TimM


    Problem as I see it is, as we look further into the universe we are looking further back in time and therefore surely making it harder to find any advanced civilisation. There may be many advanced civilisations out there, but we wouldn't know about it for millions of years based on the speed of light. Indeed, few will know about us in our lifetime except those who are nearby.

    By the time we're in a position to really know, the human race will be long gone.

  27. Rick Eastwood
    Thumb Up

    I cant wait until we meet intelligent life

    because Eccentrica Gallumbits, The Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon Six is going to be ace !!!!!

  28. Tom Chiverton

    AC should research better

    @Not that simple

    The content of the signal isn't important. SETI@Home, for instance, just looks for enough of a peak above background - because radio transmissions are narrow band and noise isn't.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    the gravy train

    1 . Make bold comment to appeal to star trek type morons:

    2 . Keep the funding coming so they dont have to get real jobs.

    3. Boffin should try 'space exploration can save the economy as aliens may lend us money'

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @amanfromMars 13.32 GMT

    I think we just got the first message from an alien!

  31. Nazar

    2025 == Mad Max

    2025? Who would care by then?

    1. There will be no fuel left for the common man/woman

    2. All those feral kids, tanked up on cider and armed with knives, will all be adults...

    3. Adults from 2 will have feral kids 2.0

    3. Big Brother^W^W The government will never tell us. If it would then how as none of us would afford running a radio, let alone a PC or television!

    The less I think about the future the happier I am...

  32. twat

    just don't tell the Church

    I think it was Asimov who said that if we ever detect alien life all religeons would cease to exist. Man was made in Gods image so in whose image were aliens made?

    Sorry I forgot, according to Star Trek all aliens look exactly like man and speak english.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Senior Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

    I'm still waiting for intelligent life on earth.

    Knowing how things are going, the life out there will be a planet of Jacquis and Dubyas and we'll all be up shite creek.

  34. Peter Mc Aulay

    Detecting radio is all well and good...

    Until the aliens switch off wideband analogue broadcasting and move to something more advanced, like digital fibre or microwave relays and such. We evolved into a high-tech society a mere astronomical instant ago. In another instant, Earth itself wouldn't trap the SETI detectors anymore. The window of opportunity is probably appalingly small.

    Certainly there must be other sentients, but probably not close by nor right now.

  35. Luther Blissett

    Thank U amfM

    For that modern restatement of Kant's theory of Transcendental Idealism. Not to be confused with any old oriental Transcendental Bagwash.

    I will simply add that anyone unable to distinguish Luther from amfM is quite unlikely to detect an alien by 2025, even if it/s/he bit their donkey.

  36. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Apologies for this English, but is IT not Strangely SurReal in Virtual Territory.

    "I think we just got the first message from an alien!" .... By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 12th November 2008 15:03 GMT

    And did it make Sense to you, with even a Bit meaning that the Rest just needs more Explanation and Information Supplied to Questions is by Far the Quickest Direct Root/Route.

    How do you Think IntelAIgent Beings Travel in Space .... Spontaneous Invisible TelePortation with Adjustable Cloaking .... AC Mode for Ubiquitous Stealth Ambiguity..... Peaceful CodeXXXXistence.

    42 Be, or not 42 Be, a Statement or a Question, is the Question to Answer with Fervent Resolve and Unbridled Hope Saddled.

  37. Neil Davis

    Hearing and seeing are not the same.

    There is life out there. We might hear their radio transmissions, which have been travelling for several billion years, but that's serveral billion years in the past. I defy any civilisation to last that long, let alone a single species. (Unless its a bacterium, but then, it wouldn't have radio would it?)

  38. James O'Brien


    *points to the alien lifeform*

  39. Syren Baran

    Lotsa a dumb assumptions

    1.) Why check for radio waves? The question is not how long we have been using radio waves for communication, but how long we still will. Is it really that likely, that we will be using radio waves in a thousand years? Might well be replaced by something we dont yet know.

    2.) Why havent we been visited by aliens? Maybe we have been, and they got bored of us. Just imagine Odin having a beer with Zeus and saying "Good one, but now let me tell who how i told them the planet was created."

    3.) Why should aliens visit us? Earth. A boring planet at the edge of the milky way that no intelligent life form would even consider visiting. Nothin here, nothin to see and do, nothin worth visiting even near here. Add the fact that nobody wants to waste their money on dilitium crystals during the recession anyway its clear that we wont be visited.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    How are we to detect these signals?

    If we have yet to actually spot any other planets because the interference from the star they orbit, how are we to detect a low power non-directive signal from one of these planets? I have been puzzled by this some time now. Seems to me a bit like trying to find a single atom in a haystack when you have yet to find the needle.

  41. Doug

    Absence of proof is not proof of absence

    The argument "there's no other life out there because we would have seen/heard it by now" has the unfortunate side-effect of proving that we don't exist either.

    We've only been messing around with radio for a hundred-odd years, and only the Voyager probes have ventured beyond the edge of our piddly little solar system, so to anyone more than 150 or so light-years distant or just not looking in exactly the right direction, we simply don't exist - and yet I'm resonably convinced that we do!

    Absence of proof is not proof of absence.

  42. Jon Tocker

    Major wishful thinking...

    ...for a large number of the reasons above. SETI is a blindfolded man sitting in the middle of the Sahara with a parabolic microphone hoping to detect someone else who:

    May have already passed through

    May still be too far away to hear

    May be making sounds that the searcher does not identify as being made by a human

    May not be in the direction the mic is currently pointed

    May not actually be shouting.

    We know that lots of people have passed through various parts of the Sahara over the years and others are likely to do so or perhaps already are doing so. Best of luck trying to detect them from some random position in said desert with a parabolic mic, though.

    Icon? Because it fits.

  43. John Savard

    Ten thousand?

    I think it is indeed likely that at least some non-negligible fraction of alien civilizations will manage not to blow themselves up, the way it has sometimes seemed that we would. So the immense age of the Universe doesn't prevent us from detecting alien signals. Even after alien DRM, their signals should be different enough from random noise to be convenient to receive, as well.

    However, I wouldn't be surprised if other factors make the number of civilizations in a galaxy much smaller than 10,000. 1 is possible; so is 1 in every 10,000 galaxies. So my advice is not to hold one's breath.

  44. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Universe Filtering

    The rest of the universe has actively filtered us out of the available interstellar spectrum - it's only fair given our incredibly ill-tempered, uncivilised and violent habits.

    We now return you to the usual pap that passes for Earth entertainment.....

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Mankind to lose all interest in SETI 'by 2010'

    Boring barking boffins barged to back burner by next nutty networked neologism

  46. Paul Cooper

    @twat: Religion and Aliens

    Twat said "I think it was Asimov who said that if we ever detect alien life all religeons would cease to exist. Man was made in Gods image so in whose image were aliens made?"

    Not so - several theologians have considered this issue, and there are several possible answers. The meaning of the phrase "God made man in his own image" is subject to a wide range of interpretations. For an entertaining take on this issue, see C S Lewis' trilogy "Out of the Silent Planet", "Voyage to Venus" (a.k.a. "Perelandra") and "That Hideous Strength".

    I don't think any established church has a problem with the existence of other intelligent beings.

  47. John Hall
    Thumb Down

    Not the Right Modem

    I have long believed that we haven't yet discovered the Universal Internet (UniNet) that everyone's talking on. We could be a thousand years away from it (be it 'sub-space' or whatever). Once we're plugged in with the right modem, we will probably find a billion messages in our Inbox (half of which will be Spam).

  48. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Not that simple

    - The more advanced/effective the compression is, the more "unpredictable" the next Bit in a stream of bits become. A perfectly compressed signal will sound like white noise.

    That depends on how you interpret the signal. It's true that compression / encryption of messages will lead to a bit stream that looks 'random'. The important thing to note is that in order to resolve the bit stream in the first place you have to demodulate a signal from a carrier wave.

    Whilst the demodulated bit stream can look random due to compression, the appearance of a signal modulated onto a carrier wave will look unlike anything in nature (as far as I'm aware there is nothing, besides technology created by humans, that emits strongly in just one narrow frequency band - c.f. 2.4G wifi signals).

    So any aliens might not be able to crack our 256bit encrypted tumour rays, but they'll sure as hell know that the rays are coming from little green men.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC Wednesday 12th November 2008 13:47

    Yes we are and heck are we bored!!! I'm just waiting for the fleet to come and take us back home!

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