Friday, May 25, 2012

"What happens when we detect Alien life?"

Dear readers,

This post is about two recent articles in science magazines, about SETI. As you will no doubt know, most SETI proponents steer clear of the UFO subject, preferring, as they say, not to get SETI tarnished with the UFO phenomenon. I came across the following two items the other day.

What happens when we detect Alien life?

The May 2012 issue of Astronomy magazine (Vol 40 No 5) carries an article by SETI astronomer Seth Shostak (click here for more on Seth) (pages 24-29.)

The article starts off "We've never heard a peep from aliens...then poses the question "...has any serious consideration gone into what happens when our efforts to detect cosmic intelligence pay off and we find a blip of a signal in the sea of radio noise that pours into the SETI antennas?"

Shostak then reviews the work of Frank Drake's "Project Ozma" (click here) and the International Academy of Astronautics' (click here) SETI detection protocols. The protocols "...boil down to this: (1) carefully verify that the signal is truly extraterrestrial, (2) inform other scientists and the public, and (3) seek international approval before transmitting any reply."

A discussion of possible public reactions to such an announcement follows. The author concludes "But this much we can say: If SETI succeeds, we'll have proof that biology is as much a part of the cosmos as pulsars and pockmarked planets. And, while instant brotherhood is unlikely to erupt suddenly on Earth, we'll at least know we're neither the crown of creation nor even particularly exceptional..."

Scanning for E.T.'s calls

The Scientific American magazine, April 2012 issue, Vol 306 No4 page 10, carries a piece about a new SETI initiative.

"More than 44,000 radio antennas will soon link over the Internet to create one of the most ambitious radio telescopes ever built. Its job will be to scan largely unexplored radio frequencies, hunting for the first stars and galaxies and, potentially, signals of extraterrestrial intelligence....The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) will consist of banks of antennas in 48 stations in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden and the UK...The array will be finished by the middle of this year...In the next few years, the array will also scan for artificial radio emissions as part of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) at lower, neglected frequencies than past SETI missions."

For more on LOFAR click here.

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