Astrobiology and SETI

A Statistical Look at Panspermia

September 1, 2015

Would panspermia, the idea that primitive life can spread from star to star, be theoretically observable? Henry Lin and Abraham Loeb (both associated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) believe the answer is yes. In a paper accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the duo make the case that panspermia would create statistical correlations […]

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Searching for Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence: Knowable and Unknowable

July 24, 2015

We recently looked at the $100 million infusion into the SETI effort by Yuri Milner, with backing by major figures in the field. When I’m considering SETI developments, I always look to Michael Michaud, whose judicious perspective in his book Contact with Alien Civilizations (Copernicus, 2007) remains a touchstone. He served in senior international science […]

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A $100 Million Infusion for SETI Research

July 20, 2015

SETI received a much needed boost this morning as Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, along with physicist Stephen Hawking and a panel including Frank Drake, Ann Druyan, Martin Rees and Geoff Marcy announced a $100 million pair of initiatives to reinvigorate the search. The first of these, Breakthrough Listen, dramatically upgrades existing search methods, while Breakthrough […]

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The Zoo Hypothesis as Thought Experiment

June 26, 2015

Imagine a civilization one million years old. As Nick Nielsen points out in today’s essay, the 10,000 year span of our terrestrial civilization would only amount to one percent of the older culture’s lifetime. The ‘zoo hypothesis’ considers extraterrestrials studying us as we study animals in controlled settings. Can a super-civilization study a planetary culture […]

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Enter the ‘Warm Titan’

May 20, 2015

Our definition of the habitable zone is water-based, focusing on planetary surfaces warm enough that liquid water can exist there. New work by Steven Benner (Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution) and colleagues considers other kinds of habitable zones, specifically those supporting hydrocarbons, which can be liquids, solids or gases depending on the ambient temperature and […]

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SETI and Stellar Drift

May 13, 2015

It was natural enough that Richard Carrigan would come up with the model for what he called ‘Fermi bubbles,’ which I invoked in Monday’s post. A long-time researcher of the infrared sky, Carrigan (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, now retired) had mined data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) in 2009 to mount a search for […]

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SETI: Are ‘Fermi Bubbles’ Detectable?

May 11, 2015

I’m enough of a perfectionist that when I get something wrong, I can’t rest easy until I figure out how and why I missed the story. Such a case occurred in an article I wrote for Aeon Magazine called Distant Ruins. The article covered the rise of so-called ‘Dysonian SETI,’ which is adding an entirely […]

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SETI: The Black Hole Alternative

May 8, 2015

Our speculations about advanced civilizations invariably invoke Nikolai Kardashev’s scale, on which a Type III civilization is the most advanced, using the energy output of its entire galaxy. Given the age of our universe, a Type III has seemingly had time to emerge somewhere, yet a recent extensive survey shows no signs of them. All […]

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Transient Listening: A Caution

April 20, 2015

by James Benford Searching for the faintest of signals in hopes of detecting an extraterrestrial civilization demands that we understand the local environment and potential sources of spurious signals. But we’ve also got to consider how signals might be transmitted, the burden falling on SETI researchers to make sense out of the physics (and economics) […]

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G-HAT: Searching For Kardashev Type III

April 16, 2015

A new paper out of the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies search (G-HAT) at Penn State is packed with fascinating reading, and I’m delighted to send you in its direction (citation below) for a further dose of the energizing concepts of ‘Dysonian SETI.’ Supported by a New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology grant funded by […]

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