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Overflow Thread: SETI’s Paradox

The thread on SETI’s Paradox and the Great Silence has continued with considerable gusto, enough so that we’re pushing the database limits on comments there. So I’m starting an overflow topic for those who want to keep the debate going. Please post any further responses to the SETI thread here, where we’ll have plenty of room.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Edg Duveyoung December 9, 2006, 11:57

    The Great Silence.

    That’s an odd phrase. Silence, like the property “zero,” cannot be “great” or “small.” Either it’s quiet or it’s not.

    How about “The Great Mystery — Silence?”

    Mystery. Mystic. See? “Oh, geeze, not again, Edg.” So sue me.

    Here’s a truth: when a mind (human or otherwise) attends to an “object of consciousness,” the brain, from which that mind is an emergent phenomenon, “grows itself into having more neuron formations ‘dedicated’ to the object.”

    This truth is the common sense, the ordinary experience of everyone. If one thinks about something-anything, thinking evolves — becomes more varied, more complex, more related to other thoughts. This is due to the brain creating the structures to embody the conceptual nuancing that putting one’s attention on an object engenders. Recursive biofeedback. We see this so clearly in the minds of children as clarity sprouts in them.

    What you put your attention on expands the brain’s ability to have “clarity” about an object. This is science, right? Or, as circa 1970 hippies would say, “If I knew everything about peanut butter, I could fly.” Everything is, conceptually, six degrees of separation from everything else. All of reality is infinitely correlated. The butterfly wing fluttered somewhere, and now I’m having this exact thought happen to me on the other side of the planet.

    Study anything deeply, and it blossoms with relatedness. The grain of sand becomes a group of molecules which become groups of atoms which become groups of sub-atomic particles. That’s what we love about scholars — they focus — and that grows their brains until they have thoughts others cannot have — literally cannot have.

    Oh, I can teach my parrot to say, “E equals M C squared.” A four year old child can say it instantly if I merely speak the words once. But when Einstein and Bohr thought about that formula, they thought about it for LIFETIMES. Their dendrites, their synapses, their associative pathways got nurtured until they could have clarity that we know not of. How obvious is this truth about “learning,” but how ignored it is by almost everyone on the planet.

    Gotta pay your dues. Gotta focus if you want clarity. Saturate the mind with one concept, and the next thing you know, a tender shoot pokes up out of the dirt.

    I see this everyday. I speak about a concept, and no one knows what I’m talking about, but my brain seethes with complexities about it. You have this experience everyday too, right? We all get into our idiosyncrasies, and unless you belong to my club, my church, my scientific discipline, my hunting group, my philosophy, my whatever, well, you won’t really know what I’m talking about. Nope, hardly at all.

    Ask any physician about this. How many times a day does a doctor have to explain to someone something that it takes four years of medical school to really grasp? Doctors speak poetry only to their patients.

    And as for mathematicians, well, if one of the top dogs barks, only about two or three other dogs knows what’s being said, but gradually, as the others in the ashram take up the mantra, their brains grow the understanding that the top dog is howling about.

    Evel Knievel’s kid studied motorcycles because his father did such deep meditations on it. Donald Trump’s kids will know things about “big real estate” that no one here on this message board might EVER KNOW. The environment can saturate a mind via psychic osmosis, ya see? The children of focus-masters have their brains constantly called to attend to the concepts of their parents. It grows clarity — and attachment, identification — and generally speaking the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    Just so, must we attend silence. We must become silence’s offsprings and grow ourselves brains that can produce thoughts about no-thing-ness. Why? Because the silence of the universe is eternal, and the noises may come, but they also go. To build a skyscraper, first dig a deep hole. To shoot an arrow well, first pull it strongly away from the target. To eat, first throw your food in the mud, and pray for rain.

    To understand the silence of the universe, stop paying attention to noisy things. Put your attention on silence, and the brain will grow in order to grasp it.

    Convergent evolution is a very powerful truth. Wildly different species develop the same answers. The webbed feet of ducks, of seals, of alligators, of frogs — all those minds attended to the concept “swimming,” and they all manifested a same-but-different biological poem to express the same truth.

    What has the universe converged upon that has produced the silence? Why are all-the-extraterrestrial-minds-possible coming up with the same non-response? And by the way, no difference is no difference. The television signals passing through the brains of animals is unheard — that’s silence to them. If ETI’s transmissions are passing through our poor grasps, they’ll know that they will be mute to those without the technology to receive. They’ll know that species that are below a certain technological sophistication will be hearing only silence. That’s a convergent choice of theirs — no matter if they are tentacled, slug bodied, feathered or paper-thin slime mold colonies.

    I submit that the minds of advanced species will converge on the same truths, the same answers, the same strategies, the same values. They’ll grow themselves by attending on, well everything, but also by attending to no-thing-ness. They’ll come up with the same “take” on the issue of interstellar vastness and communications.

    Listen to the silence. Grow the brain that ETIs seemingly have grown. Don’t expect clarity until you pay those dues.

    They’ve heard the silence for upwards to billions of years.

    What “webbed” ears have they all converged upon?

    Edg

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 9, 2006, 12:54

    I would like to trasfer from the thread on SETI’s Paradox and the Great Silence one short, but remarkable response:

    https://centauri-dreams.org/?p=928#comment-24028
    andy Says:
    December 9th, 2006 at 6:35

    It’s quite amusing how these pro-METI “papers”
    http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0611283
    read quite like religious tracts.

    Alexander.

  • andy December 9, 2006, 15:28

    Hmmm maybe I better explain that one better.

    It’s just the reasoning behind the three-stage signal seemed uncomfortably close to New Age woo to me. And when papers end with such statements as “Solely that who is overcoming the Great Silence deserves to hear the voice of the Universe” makes it seem quite like METI-religion. And the consistent branding of caution with regard to METI as paranoia strikes me as quite similar to the branding of thoughts outside the orthodoxy as heresy.

  • James Brown December 9, 2006, 19:36

    I have read the entire thread with interest and a lot of questions have been raised (and a few even answered) but the fact remains that we are doing *very* little in the listen side let alone the transmit side. Yes I know about the ATA and SETI@Home and all the rest but the problem is a matter of address space. My own SETI station (www.SETI.Net) which is tiny compared to ATA, for example still has 12,000,000 addresses that I can look for a SETI signal and each one requires about an hour of time..

    I think we need more ears before we start building our mouth.

  • ljk December 9, 2006, 19:44

    There needs to be an end to confusing the religious feeling with
    actual religion. Normal human beings are emotional, social creatures
    and they are naturally going to have a sense of wonder and awe
    about such grand concepts as ETI and the Cosmos itself. Personally
    I would not want to get near anyone who doesn’t wonder or care
    about the world around them.

    Scientists and scientist types like to pretend they are above such
    “base” displays, that they can coldly and objectively talk and think
    about such concepts and not be stirred by them. But when no one is
    looking, they get excited and wonderous, too. They just don’t like it
    when guys like Carl Sagan actually showed emotion and subjectivity
    about something so major. It must be the equivalent of guys not
    wanting to ask for directions or pretending they don’t cry, ever.

    Then the same scientists wonder why the general public doesn’t
    get as enthused about subjects they don’t really understand
    because the education system and the lack of education and
    promotion of the sciences by the science community hasn’t
    done enough to make the same public aware of the wonders
    outside their four little walls.

    We ARE going to learn something from the discovery of alien life,
    or even the lack thereof. It IS going to affect most areas of human
    society, no matter for how long or how much. No one can seriously
    claim that humanity is not already affected by the mere idea of
    alien life, as the discussions on this forum alone show in this one
    example.

    If you want some kind of scale as to how much and for how long
    depending on what we find, where, and when, check out Frank
    White’s 1990 book on the subject, The SETI Factor, 1990, Walker
    Publishing Company, Inc., ISBN 0-8027-1105-7.

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=646

    http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/lobby/7049/fermi.htm#white

  • Administrator December 9, 2006, 22:57

    Larry mentions Frank White’s The SETI Factor. This is the same Frank White who wrote The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution (1987), also a good read, on the effect that space activities have had on various astronauts, and their probable effects on the species at large.

  • Eric James December 10, 2006, 3:17

    Marc, David, et al:

    Without intending to defend any one position, how can any small group of scientists rationalize research that is potentially deadly to all of humanity? There’s lots of scientists that do this as a matter of course. Besides the obvious nuclear weapons specialists, biological warfare specialists and chemical warfare specialists, there’s the more “benign” research going in various labs everywhere.

    For instance:
    CERN intends an attempt to create thousands of nano-blackholes that may or may not radiate. A recent paper on Unruh radiation (based on many of the same principles as Hawking radiation) throws reasonable doubt on blackbody radiation of the quantized field, altogether.

    http://www.phys.lsu.edu/faculty/oconnell/PDFfiles/297.%20Is%20there%20Unruh%20Radiation.pdf

    As I understand it, the Unruh hypothesis says something like: Blackbody radiation of the quantized fields of space is relative to the acceleration of the observers. The gravity of black holes is supposed to be a state of uniform acceleration that allows for Hawking radiation (essentially a form of Unruh radiation). As far as I know, no one has yet detected either (a worrisome state of affairs). It seems to me that if Unruh radiation doesn’t exist that this bodes ill for Hawking radiation.

    Why is it okay for these scientists to conduct potentially dangerous experiments and no one says a word against them, but sending information into space that is highly unlikely to be heard by anyone is such a big deal?

    Even if it is heard, it’s likely to take decades at the least, more likely centuries or millennia to find the listener. And, it is just as likely to fall on benevolent, unresponsive, malevolent but technically challenged, malevolent but self destructive, or otherwise assorted benign ears as it is to fall on malevolent and technically superior ears.

    Besides, as I’ve pointed out before: Doesn’t it seem obvious that any race advanced enough to economically transit the distance between solar systems is going to have imaging capabilities far beyond what we can currently imagine? They’d probably already be seeing us!

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 10, 2006, 4:57

    Dear Colleagues,

    Please read David Darling’s response at:

    https://centauri-dreams.org/?p=928#comment-24079

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 10, 2006, 5:14

    SETI Fartor: Summary (Oct 25, 2003): What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of a book, The SETI Factor, by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations.

    See also:

    Albert A. Harrison. AFTER CONTACT. The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life, Plenum Trade, ISBN 0-306-45621-4, 1997.

  • Adam December 10, 2006, 15:47

    Eric

    You live at the bottom of a giant atom smasher – the cosmic rays bashing into our atmosphere above our heads are far, far more energetic than what the LHC will manage and to date we haven’t been annihilated by stray black-holes nor has the Earth been eaten up by ‘strangelets’ (a faddish fear from a few years ago.) The Earth has been bathed in high-energy particle events for 4.5 billion years and so far there have been no exotic physics caused extinctions. So don’t stress.

    As for the other issue of Hawking radiation it has been seen in acoustic analogues of black-holes, so it has some observational basis. And Unruh radiation is produced by the uniform un-accelerated motion of objects creating a bias in their reference frame with respect to the non-comoving vacuum around them – or so I remember. It’s not quite a direct comparison with Hawking radiation.

  • island December 10, 2006, 17:11

    You live at the bottom of a giant atom smasher – the cosmic rays bashing into our atmosphere above our heads are far, far more energetic than what the LHC will manage and to date we haven’t been annihilated by stray black-holes nor has the Earth been eaten up by ’strangelets’ (a faddish fear from a few years ago.)

    What, no higgs, either?… ;)

  • Eric James December 11, 2006, 3:34

    With apologies for an off topic post:

    Adam Says: December 10th, 2006 at 15:47
    Eric

    You live at the bottom of a giant atom smasher – the cosmic rays bashing into our atmosphere above our heads are far, far more energetic than what the LHC will manage and to date we haven’t been annihilated by stray black-holes nor has the Earth been eaten up by ’strangelets’ (a faddish fear from a few years ago.) The Earth has been bathed in high-energy particle events for 4.5 billion years and so far there have been no exotic physics caused extinctions. So don’t stress.

    Adam, this is true. However if nano-blackholes are created in these collisions, and they don’t radiate, the conservation of momentum would dictate that they pass through the earth and escape with a still very high relative momentum. They’d essentially become the proverbial WIMPs. The CERN ones will have very low relative momentum (they’ll linger).

    As for the other issue of Hawking radiation it has been seen in acoustic analogues of black-holes, so it has some observational basis. And Unruh radiation is produced by the uniform un-accelerated motion of objects creating a bias in their reference frame with respect to the non-comoving vacuum around them – or so I remember. It’s not quite a direct comparison with Hawking radiation.

    I hadn’t heard that this has been done. Do you have any citations? I have heard that it’s being attempted though. Here’s a paper that spins it positively, “…with a view to finding which experimental settings could magnify this effect and provide an observable signal”:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110036

    Anyway, an acoustic analog of a blackhole is not a blackhole. It’s mostly just a comparative mathematical model in BEC physics. It’s definitely not the same as a blackhole that’s surrounded by nothing but empty space.

    Hawking radiation and Unruh radiation are similar enough (I think) to warrant the comparison indicated. It seems logical that if one cannot exist, neither can the other. Is this assumption incorrect? Please explain.

    The strange matter thing is beyond me altogether. I always thought strange matter was the “secret sauce” used in commercial hamburgers. ;)

    Anyway, I still think it’s more likely our world will die in a man-made disaster than at the hands of malevolent aliens.

  • Marc G Millis December 11, 2006, 9:15

    Dear Alexander Zaitsev;

    I said I’d get back with you about the difficulties I had with your papers. Here goes:

    In your first paper that I read “Proposing a METI Institute,” I found both the sections for, and against, contact to be insufficient. Each were only 1-2 paragraphs long and neither cited any sociological studies or risk/benefit assessments to substantiate their assertions.

    Next, I consider this statement to be wrong: “… if all civilizations in the Universe are only recipients, and not message-sending civilizations, than no SETI searches make any sense.” Civilizations could be detectible through their activities, such as the EM noise they make while going about their local business, much like our own radar and Earth-to-Earth broadcasts that leak out.

    And lastly, creating the label of “METI-Phobia” smacks of a dismissive treatment rather than an impartial assessment.

    On the next paper of yours that I read, “The SETI Paradox,” I did find something useful – the suggestions to modify the Drake Equation to account for the likelihood of choosing to transmit.

    Unfortunately, the paper has a fatal self-contraction. Eric pointed this out to you too. While you assert that we must transmit in order to break the silence, you also concede that our radar signals already make us visible. This is a self-contradiction.

    I’ll provide more detail, because I’m not sure that you’ve been comprehending this fatal flaw, since it’s been pointed out to your before on more than one occasion, and by more than one person. Quoting you: “However, nothing but natural objects can be found in a Universe where there are only ‘searchers’ and no ‘senders.'” This statement is wrong. Even without deliberately “sending,” there is likely to be evidence of civilizations by the noise they make, much like our TV and radio broadcasts and radars. You concede this fact when you state: “They will find us, first and foremost by radio emissions of dozens of military radars of USA and Russia…”

    You are contradicting yourself, which is evidence of flawed thinking, which then gives me grave doubts about the rest of your assertions. At this point, if you wanted to redeem yourself, it would have been prudent to draw quantitative comparisons between the delectability of such local activities with the kind of transmissions that you are advocating. Or in other words, show the data to support your contentions. But, even though the data to make such important comparisons is available and would help you with your work, you do nothing to provide such vital comparisons. In general, your works lack such data, but instead just ramble with assertions.

    Another error is that you mention the “San Marino Scale” as a way of gauging the risk of transmission. As was pointed out to your earlier, this scale only measures the intensity of the transmission and in no way addresses consequences. To promote it as a risk scale is over-selling it. It is a step in the right direction, but is not sufficient to gauge relative risk.

    Another shortcoming is that when the paper raises the question of the societal value/risk of contact, it does not offer any evidence from of the numerous sociological studies to substantiate anything.

    This is a recurring theme in your work. You make assertions, but then do not back them up with information that is available. I’m not sure if the information would support or go against you claims, but their absence is not good. Making “belief statements” without offering any evidence is the type of behavior more like a religion than of rational exploration.

    Some other details I found disappointing were statement like:
    – “Two opposing tendencies paradoxically coexist..” There is nothing paradoxical that there is more than one opinion on a matter when there are multiple people involved. Perhaps you do not understand the meaning of the word ” paradox.”
    – “.. on this incomprehensible hope …” Comprehension is relative to who’s comprehending.
    – “Solely that who is overcoming the Great Silence deserves the hear the voice of the Universe.” This is a judgmental comment, self-aggrandizing, and just plain irrelevant. I agree with the other poster that such statements reflect more of a belief-system (like a religion) than of analytical rigor.

    Please answer these questions:

    (1)
    What qualifications do you have to act on the behalf of all Humanity? Why are YOU the best choice?

    (2)
    Why is the “great silence” is a BAD thing? Why can’t it just be evidence to ponder?

    (3)
    On what factual basis do you assume that kind extraterrestrials will anoint us with their blessings (yes, religious overtones deliberately evoked). And if you cannot be certain, at least provide some foundations with which to calculate the probability that this mght be the case?

    (4)
    Please convince us, irrefutably, that what you are doing is a good thing, and that you are the best human to be shouting to the Cosmos.

    If you cannot answer these very reasonable questions, then I do not think you are qualified to keep transmitting without humanity’s permission. For the good of humanity, please stop transmitting until you have the rest of humanity supporting you.

    Marc

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 11, 2006, 11:34

    Dr. Darling’s response is a rather curious one. Writing a pro-SETI column for the SETI Institute does make him, according to old fashioned journalistic principles and rules, a spokesman for the SETI Institute. I will take him at his word that he didn’t get paid for his article that the SETI Institute published online – though Space.com stated otherwise – but it doesn’t change the basic fact that the SETI Institute put his pro-SETI/METI views out as a public face for the organization.

    As Dr. Darling is aware, an international organization like the SETI Institute usually has more than one spokesman on board promoting its views – whether they get paid and/or volunteer their time and effort.

    I did note that in Dr. Darling’s response he didn’t dispute the fact that he considers dolphins and apes to be far superior to Humans.

    I’m also noting Alexander Zaitsev’s silence to Marc Millis’s rather well thought out questions. I would add one more question though, if you don’t mind me being so bold Mr. Millis:

    Why do SETI-ists insist on ignoring Human history and examples from nature when hearlding the great benefits of chatting with an ETI? If we can look to life in extreme environments here on Earth as to what type of life may exist elsewhere in the Solar System, we better examine how contacts between different cultures impacted civilization here on Earth before being so willing to get “saved” by an ETI – religious pun intended.

  • Robin Goodfellow December 11, 2006, 11:50

    “However if nano-blackholes are created in these collisions, and they don’t radiate, the conservation of momentum would dictate that they pass through the earth and escape with a still very high relative momentum. They’d essentially become the proverbial WIMPs. The CERN ones will have very low relative momentum (they’ll linger).”

    Eric, please explain how this is so.

    Consider that for a given particle (e.g. a nucleus of some particular atom) its energy is entirely dependent on its relative speed. Thus, for equivalent particles of equivalent energies there is no difference in momentum dependent on cosmic or Earthly origin, and thus no tendency to “linger”. Moreover, I think you do not fully appreciate the ability of 4.5 billion years of constant bombardment by a variety of particles at a variety of energies to have, with firm certainty, reproduced any and every possible type of event that will be produced in Earthly particle detectors for the foreseeable future (not to mention the same set of “experiments” having been carried out for every other major body in our Solar System, and the lack of black-holes or strangelet-worlds in our Solar System today). Additionally, you seem to have some misconception about the nature of momentum.

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 11, 2006, 11:54

    Dear Marc G Millis

    >What qualifications do you have to act on the behalf of all Humanity?

    Please let me know — is it permissible for me to act on the behalf of myself ?

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 11, 2006, 12:07

    Dear Marc G Millis

    >Why is the “great silence” is a BAD thing? Why can’t it just be evidence to ponder?

    Oh! It is not only my sense, please see:
    http://www.setileague.org/editor/motion.htm

    “In the XVII century, French philosopher Blaise Pascal shared this emotional insight: “Eternal silence of these infinite spaces horrifies me!”

    The mature planetary consciousness, having felt as Pascal did, and having realized that this silence frightens not only us, but also all who inhabit the Universe, comes to an understanding that its mission is to contribute whatever it can to overcoming the silence of Space.”

  • Kurt December 11, 2006, 12:22

    What’s the problem with the notion that that we are alone (at least in our own galaxy)? This is the most plausible explanation.

    It seems to me that many people here in these discussion boards WANT extraterrestrial intelligence to exist (much like the L-5 crowd in SoCal in the late 80’s) and don’t want to accept the possibility that we may, indeed, be alone.

    Perhaps we should talk about WHY we want ETI to exist.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 11, 2006, 12:48

    Dear Alexander Zaitsev,

    No, it is morally reprehensible to act on your own behalf when your actions can endanger the life of others.

    I believe you need to review the historical record of what happened when individuals acted on their own behalf for the betterment of all of Humanity. Start with the 1930s Nazi Germany.

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 11, 2006, 13:02

    Dear Joseph Baneth Allen,

    Take the liberty of note, that the cardinal subject of the paper under current discussion (“The SETI Paradox”
    http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0611283 )

    is not to act or not to act, but much more trivial question:

    (Abstract): [i]Two opposing tendencies paradoxically coexist in terrestrial consciousness — the insistent quest for intelligent signals from other civilizations and the persistent aversion to any attempts to transmit such signals from Earth toward probable fellow intelligent beings. If typical for our entire Universe, such manifestations of intelligence would make the search for other civilizations totally meaningless.[/i]

  • ljk December 11, 2006, 13:22

    Remember the scene in the 1993 film Jurassic Park where
    those involved in running the park said that the dinosaurs
    were kept under strict control and would be unable to breed
    or get out of the park? And one character shoots back that
    life always finds a way to break past the very boundaries
    that the world often seems to set for it? And of course that
    is exactly what happens.

    The same is true for Active SETI. We may ask for and want
    a way to control the kinds of messages that some want to
    send into the galaxy, or even outright stop them, but it will
    become virtually impossible to do so with everyone. I am
    not even talking about the electromagnetic leakage that
    humanity has been producing for decades. I mean actual,
    deliberate messages that have the technology and the power
    to reach other star systems.

    Amateur astronomers and regular folk now have technology
    in their hands – bought at department stores or through eBay,
    no less – that twenty years ago even professionals with major
    funding at their disposal could not obtain. It won’t be long
    before communication technology advances to the point that
    people won’t need a huge radio dish or laser system to send
    messages to the stars. And they will be able to send any kind
    of message that they want.

    The desire is already there, and I am not only referring to Dr.
    Zaitsev. A number of “projects” have happened over the last few
    years alone where an individual or company has sold the rights
    to the public to send messages into space to ETI. It doesn’t
    matter that most of these attempts wouldn’t be heard on Mars,
    let alone Alpha Centauri – many people have shelled out their
    hard earned cash for the opportunity to send a message to ETI.

    I even recall that the idea of no one person or small inclusive
    group being allowed to speak for humanity was used AGAINST
    the very idea of trained scientists conducting Active SETI in
    favor of The People speaking for themselves.

    So what do we do? Ban all communications equipment? Take
    down the radio telescopes? Is having the IAU SETI group enough
    of a moderation force? Judging by what happened with the whole
    Pluto-Planet Debate, I think the IAU’s credibility is seen with less
    than respect at present. And as for controlling people in what is
    seen as “free speech”, the ramifications will lead to only more
    “rebellion” and more interstellar messages.

    What about when we start colonizing space? I bet you a few
    groups will quickly decide they don’t want to be told what to
    do and how to live by those residing on Earth and start heading
    out into deeper space. Despite my reservations about the
    actuality of multigenerational starships due to the possibility
    of Artilects arriving before then, if baseline humans are still
    the major intelligent species by the time serious Sol system
    colonization begins, we may indeed find some of our descendants
    leaving Earth and its star system behind for what may or may
    not be the wide open (and empty) frontier. How will we control
    such a scenario then?

    It makes me wonder if other intelligences have had the same
    thing happen when they reach a certain level of technological
    advancement, but I also realize that this could be very
    anthropomorphic thinking.

    One final note: Perhaps we are thinking a bit too much of
    ourselves, that a few radio messages beamed into the void
    without any real knowledge of what is at the other end is
    going to bring us to the attention of the galaxy. The natural
    radio noise of the Milky Way alone is much louder than most
    of what we make.

    If you have a copy of Timothy Ferris Life Beyond Earth http://www.pbs.org/lifebeyondearth/, check out the page where
    it shows Earth’s radio sphere as the artwork moves away from
    our planet into the galaxy. It isn’t long before even that 200
    light-year wide sphere disappears among the 400 billion stars.

    Carl Sagan estimated that even if 1 million technological civs
    inhabited the galaxy, the nearest one on average would be
    about 200 light years away. This alone could explain why we
    haven’t heard anything; they don’t even have our stronger
    signals yet, let alone had time to send a response.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 11, 2006, 14:16

    Dear Alexander Zaitsev,

    Take note of your own words – the question you posed about yourself on this blogsite:

    “Please let me know — is it permissible for me to act on the behalf of myself ?”

    It is morally reprehensible to act on your own behalf when your actions can endanger the life of others.

    Quoting an abstract of a paper you wrote to dance around a question you don’t like just shows that Mr. Millis is right: You should not be conducting an active METI program.

    Dear LJK,

    Listening for salvation from ETI is going to lead to a lot of groundside disillusionment . Any ETI is going to be just as flawed as Humanity is.

    True, there are dozens, if not hundreds of amateur SETI programs being conducted across the globe, but in the rush to replace G_D with an ETI, it actually might help to know what religion is and how G_D has interacted with Humanity in the past.

    G_D almost murdered his prophet Moses for reasons still debated amongst biblical scholars. Thankfully, for Moses, his wife was pretty handy with a knife and knew how to conduct an emergency circumcision.

    Even the interchangable Greek/Roman gods of old were vicious in their interactions with Humanity. Zesus raped young men and women at his whim.

    If you dislike the elusive religious examples – just look to more tangible Human history where cultures met and collided – with the more advanced society overwhelming the less advanced one.

    If we warn a child that a stranger equals danger, we’d be remiss not to take that quaint advice into reconsideration when thinking about an active METI program.

    There’s a quaint Egyptian saying Grandfather Baneth used to tell me when I was younger: “Calm waters can hide a hungry crocodile.” [At least Grandfather said it was an Egyptian saying.]

    Nothing wrong with listening, I’d just wouldn’t be in such a rush to dive in before I knew what I was jumping in to. Even dead crocodiles have sharp teeth that can cut.

  • Alexander Zaitsev December 11, 2006, 14:32

    Dear Joseph Baneth Allen,

    I would like to note that ALL three IRMs (Interstellar Radio Messages), which were transmitted from EPR (Evpatoria Planetary Radar) to 15 Sun-like nearest stars in 1999, 2001, and 2003, are not only my initiative — see Tables 2 (line “Authors”) and Table 3 at:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0610031

  • Stephen December 11, 2006, 14:36

    One of the problems with METI is that it can take alot of energy to get noticed at interstellar distances. If one creates a focused beam instead of a broadcast, one can get the desired effect with less. Where to beam? How about beaming to where nearby stars will be by the time the beam gets there? OK. But will ET look?

    So, another idea is to wait for a supernova. When you start detecting one, beam your signal in the opposite direction. That is, you beam along the same direction that the light you saw was going. That way, ET astronomers, who will be looking for this sort of thing anyway, will see it. It will be anomolous, and they’ll have good reason to try to figure it out. I can see ET’s headlines now. FIRST SUPERNOVA TO GENERATE PRIME NUMBER SEQUENCE IS DISCOVERED.

  • ljk December 11, 2006, 14:53

    You can tell me all you want not to signal into the darkness.
    I don’t have a radio dish or even a good set of semaphore
    flags for the task.

    But telling everyone else not to touch the stove because it
    may be hot will be another matter. Not everyone is going to
    listen or care, and in a few instances, they’ll do it just because
    you told them not to. Ah, the human species.

    Society pressures are going to keep pushing humanity outward,
    just as it has pushed people across the planet for ages. Soon
    Earth will not be enough. The motivations for going into space
    will extend beyond mere exploration into desire for profit and
    freedom of all sorts, especially religion.

    And eventually the Sol system will not be enough. As people in
    this forum like to say, just one advanced society could colonize
    the entire galaxy in a few million years. Interesting (in the
    Chinese proverb sense of the word) if we become the Milky
    Way’s alien invaders many humans constantly fret about.

    All those religious analogies: The irony is that religion may be
    one of the biggest motivating factors for some humans to seek
    out alien intelligences – to SAVE THEM.

    A Jesuit astronomer was once asked in a media interview what
    he would do if he encountered an ETI. His response was to
    determine if they had souls and attempt to baptize them in
    order to “save” them.

    I can just imagine the reaction by the ETI, to say nothing if
    the ETI thought the human needed saving itself.

    This is another aspect of all these warnings about not poking
    around in the galactic darkness: Religious types motivated to
    save the alien unwashed will not only not fear the darkness,
    they will likely even accept the risks to their very lives to do
    what they see as God’s will. Just study a few biographies of
    the Roman Catholic Church saints to see how often they
    willingly went to their deaths while trying to save the souls
    of the pagan barbarians.

    It’s one thing to tell a few “maverick” scientists to back off;
    it will be an entirely different matter trying to stop a determined
    and zealous religious group from saving the souls of the galaxy.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 11, 2006, 15:17

    Dear Alexander Zaitsev,

    To directly quote you again:

    “Please let me know — is it permissible for me to act on the behalf of myself ?”

    It is morally reprehensible to act on your own behalf when your actions can endanger the life of others.

    Based on your own words you should not be conducting an active METI program.

    Dear LJK,

    LOL! How quianlty humorous! You’re telling a Conservative Jew about Christian Missionary Outreach Programs. Based on first hand experience, I’d have to say Mormons have the best Missionary Outreach program. At least the more initially friendly one.

    Let’s listen first to see what an ETI is saying and believes before shouting out “HELLO! HUMANS HERE!”

    Otherwise you just might be finding yourself listening to why Humans should convert to RETI-ism [Religion of ETI]. Chances are pretty darn good ETIs will have a religion, if not multitudes of religions. And chances are the RETI missionaries won’t be as cute as some Mormon missionaries are when they are trying to get you to convert – with apologies to two young Mormon missionaries I know.

  • ljk December 11, 2006, 15:42

    Like I am supposed to know what your religious background is.
    How quaint yourself.

    Now I undestand your real underlying motivations regarding SETI
    and the concern that some humans want ETI to save them and not
    the Big Guy with the White Beard sitting up on the throne in the sky.

    Of course I am sure you will tell me how wrong I am, that you
    are just trying to safeguard humanity so it can remain in freedom
    – so long as they follow your beliefs and your deity, etc.

    And to quote you:

    Let’s listen first to see what an ETI is saying and believes before shouting out “HELLO! HUMANS HERE!”

    Yes, I think we’ve gotten that point from you, numerous times.

    Yes, it’s a big, dark, scary Universe out there. We got it.

    Personally I find the dark motives of nearby humans much
    scarier and more immediately dangerous than any hypothetical
    aliens, but the distant ETI are always easier to pick on, ay?

    And we better not shout out into the wilderness, ’cause we might
    attract the wolves or the boogeyman or who knows what else.

    Of course we might also attract some nice ETI, but the paranoia
    and fear of the third order primate species still wins out.

    And I will repeat one more time: Human nature, combined with
    advancing technology, is going to send our species headlong into
    the galaxy whether you like it or not or whether we have nice
    neighbors or not. So instead of whining and belittling those who
    have an outward look towards existence, perhaps time would be
    better spent preparing for the eventuality.

    The real irony will be if humanity shouts out its presence to the
    galaxy and the galaxy responds with a collective “So what?”

    Or worse, nothing at all.

  • Adam December 11, 2006, 16:50

    Hi Eric

    We’re kind of off topic, except that it might (yikes!) explain Fermi’s Paradox.

    But the point is that if cosmic ray collisions make mini-holes that pass straight through the Earth, then even more so the LHC. Million TeV black-holes would be bigger and nastier than the LHC’s spawn, and if they were a threat they’d swallow enough matter to slow down with the body of the Earth – unless they almost instantly decay away into a shower of particles, which is what has been claimed to have been observed in certain cosmic-ray debris showers.

    As for acoustic holes I first took an interest in a Scientific American article – there’s more than a few articles in the Physics pre-print archive. Only time will tell if they’re a decent analogue.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 11, 2006, 17:25

    Dear LJK,

    I’ve stated a few times in previous postings that I’m a Conservative Jew. Don’t blame me for your lack of memory or lack of imagination.

    But can you name me one example in nature of successful interspecies communications? Oh, and “Here Rover!” doesn’t count.

  • ljk December 11, 2006, 17:44

    I get the impression I am supposed to know who you are or
    have to remember every single post you’ve ever put here, or
    that I was somehow meant to derive that you are Jewish from
    your writings. Isn’t that profiling?

    And now I am being quizzed on interspecies communication.
    When did this come up? Did I miss something else too? Is this
    your continued gripe about pro-SETI folks who say that cetaceans
    are better than humans? Did you forget that I said I think they
    are different from humans, not better, though they are smart
    creatures on their own merits? Plus my other several statements
    that just because some SETI folks may think this way – though it
    looks like you aren’t exactly on base regarding Dr. Darling with
    several accusations – doesn’t mean I or others automatically follow
    suit?

    It’s pretty obvious that some humans who apparently speak the
    same language and maybe live on the same planet cannot get
    their points across to each other, so I guess why would we do any
    better with less sophisticated life forms here or more advanced
    ones out there?

  • Administrator December 11, 2006, 18:28

    OK, everybody take a deep breath and let’s get back on topic. This is starting to get too fractious. Which, by the way, is my great concern with the Drake Equation. The term that has the most play is the one involving the lifetime of a technological civilization. My hunch is that if ETIs are similar to us, they may well blow themselves up before they ever have the chance to do interstellar flight.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 11, 2006, 19:20

    Dear LJK,

    Will this suffice for Dr. Darling being a spokesman for the SETI Institute:

    Date: 6/11/2006 8:50:14 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
    From: aduignan@imaginova.com
    Reply To:
    To: JoeShuttle@aol.com

    Sent from the Internet (Details)

    Any and all opinion pieces that do appear are under the different partnerships we have with other organizations (SETI or the National Space Society) and have been approved by those organizations to appear on the official sub-sections that appear on SPACE.com

    Anthony

    Now to me, it appears that ADC is saying that Dr. Darling was contracted to write an opinion piece for the SETI Institute, which they approved of and published, making him a spokesman for the SETI Institute. ADC never corrected my opinion once he learned of it, and neither did the SETI Institute.

    As for quizzing you on interspecies communications, that’s what SETI is. One of my basic points, which you accuse me of harping on, is the following: If astrobiologists can use examples of extreme life on Earth to state the case for life elsewhere in the Solar System, then SETI-ists have to look at Human history and how other animals; such as the vauted dolphins and apes act other; to at least get a basic idea of how two advanced, but different cultures may communicate.

    Another one of my basic points is to state that if you equte godhood to ETIs, you better be prepared to be disappointed. It takes passion to reach the stars, not dulled emotions. ETIs will love, hate, be bored, ect…

    Now, I’m going to get in trouble here, but the Drake Equation is dreadfully flawed. It’s a mathematical equation based on guesses. You need a bigger sample for a hunch to have some validity – in other words, you need some ETIs, or their ruins. Right now, we have neither, and a nearby stellar neighborhood filled with some 200-plus solar systems, that so far, are very, very different from ours and vastly different from original assumptions and early computer modeling.

  • Administrator December 11, 2006, 20:05

    Dr. Darling has already spoken on his status, and I think we need to give that question a rest. He surely knows where he stands with the organization. In any case, I think we’ve said about as much as we can about that issue.

  • Marc G Millis December 11, 2006, 20:14

    Dear Alexander Zaitsev;

    Before you read my responses to your answers, I want to make it clear that I truly want to understand the logic behind deliberate transmissions. I agree that inaction can also be risky, but I want to hear a more well-reasoned and substantiated discusssion so that when I reach my own conclusion, I can know that my conclusion is well-reasoned and know the facts and guesses on which I’m basing my conclusion. I’m not yet getting that from you yet.

    In one of your replies you state:
    “I would like to note that ALL three IRMs (Interstellar Radio Messages), which were transmitted from EPR (Evpatoria Planetary Radar) to 15 Sun-like nearest stars in 1999, 2001, and 2003, are not only my initiative.”

    Can you get these individuals to also post here too? Perhaps they can state the case clearer than you have. One of the reasons that I’m asking for their insights is that, frankly, your articles and answers are not making a convincing case in your favor. Actually your replies are having the opposite effect. Also, your colleagues are equally liable. Please get their help to explain to humanity why their actions are a good thing.

    Now, about your answers…
    (1) About your qualifications to act on behalf of all humanity, you responded: “Please let me know — is it permissible for me to act on the behalf of myself ?”

    Is this your best answer? If your actions affect only you, then it would be okay. Instead, your actions affect all humanity, including me and everyone here on this discussion. How can you not see this? You should get the permission of the greater part of humanity before proceeding to do things that affect all humanity.

    Consider what a dismal time you are having communicating with us. If you are failing to be a good spokesperson for yourself, here, then what makes you think you are qualified to act as a spokesman for the rest of humanity?

    (2)
    About your answer to the “good” or “bad” of the great silence…

    In your defense you cite the following, neither of which I have read. For those of us who are not acquainted with these works, please tell us if these other works are opinions if they describe the research findings:
    – Frank White’s book
    – Albert A. Harrison’s book

    When you pointed me to this URL: http://www.setileague.org/editor/motion.htm,
    I only found another editorial by you. I’m not looking for editorials, I want well-reasoned research.

    And when you state:
    “Oh! It is not only my sense, please see:” You cite a philosopher. As is shown in other posts, one can easily find other philosopher s with points to the contrary. This is grossly insufficient supporting information. Also, to find one opinion in support of yours is not enough to substantiate your case. To act on the behalf of humanity, you should at least have half of humanity agreeing with you. You’re not even getting close to 50% on this discussion group.

    (3)
    When you responded to Joseph Baneth Allen, you again cited your abstract that has already been shown to have fatal flaws. Repeating flawed works does not correct them. Normally, when a researcher is shown flaws in their work, they do their best to correct the flaws.

    IN CLOSING
    I will completely agree that a good question is: “To act or not to act?” I am willing to entertain the possibility that transmitting might be a good idea, but what you have presented so far is dismally unconvincing. Worse, you are repeating flawed editorials with self-aggrandizing characteristics.

    To convince humanity that your actions are in their best interest, your statements must be other than editorials, and must be free from flawed logic.

    Facts exists upon which to construct a case. Compare the delectability range of humanity’s general activities with what you and your colleagues are transmitting. Show the numbers of that relative comparison. Then, based on sociological studies that are based on real human history and behavioral experiments, convince us that contact with altruistic ETIs would be beneficial. And then, convince us that the chances are greater for finding altruistic ETIs than predatory ETIs.

  • Marc G Millis December 11, 2006, 21:01

    To the rest of you…

    My apologies for not reading all your posts as carefully as I am trying to understand AZ’s position. He is the one who is actually planning to transmit again, so that’s why I’ve placed my concentration there.

    In the other posts I’ve seen some provocative points (and some irrelevant bickering too, but we are human). I wish I had an easy way to extract out the best points pro and con, to sum them up for the rest of us in an impartial manner.

    Right now, however, I must be off to other duties.

    Marc

  • Gordon W H German December 11, 2006, 21:36

    As a non-physicist, I may not quite understand all the nuances of the preceding arguments, but surely there are some constructive constraints we can apply to the problem of determining whether to actively communicate with ETI?

    Firstly, I think most would agree that IF a human signal was detected by ETI, said ETI would not be at a significantly lower level of technological ability to ourselves. But I don’t see how it also holds that a highly advanced (by comparison to human) civilisation would notice our signalling, unless they were actively looking for us. And if they were really involved in such an ETI search of their own, then surely they would find us anyway, sooner or later.

    As has been pointed out, we have been bleeding signals into space for decades. Any malevolent ETI capable of coming here should be capable of detecting that leakage. They haven’t as yet, and such leakage has a 60 year head-start on any deliberate signals we may send out now (if we consider radar as the most likely culprit). As someone else pointed out, a little time may be all we need before we become space faring ourselves, and by then, surely we will need to have some strategy in place to deal with less-than-space-brotherly ETI’s.

    In other words, I think the problem of whether to bradcast or not is somewhat moot. Ithink though, that _what _ to broadcast, and by _whom_, is a fundamental problem. There is a huge difference between “is there anybody out there” and “come get some!” (to regurgitate a line from an old computer space game). And from the level of argument I’ve read from some of the proponents of METI here, I’m not sure if I’d trust them to recognise it.

  • Eric James December 12, 2006, 0:44

    Please accept my apologies for continuing with this off-topic thread and the extravagant conjecture within (I knew I shoulda’ used the Artificial Intelligence analogy! Why do I doubt myself?).

    Robin Goodfellow Says: December 11th, 2006 at 11:50

    Eric, please explain how this is so.

    Consider that for a given particle (e.g. a nucleus of some particular atom) its energy is entirely dependent on its relative speed. Thus, for equivalent particles of equivalent energies there is no difference in momentum dependent on cosmic or Earthly origin, and thus no tendency to “linger”. Moreover, I think you do not fully appreciate the ability of 4.5 billion years of constant bombardment by a variety of particles at a variety of energies to have, with firm certainty, reproduced any and every possible type of event that will be produced in Earthly particle detectors for the foreseeable future (not to mention the same set of “experiments” having been carried out for every other major body in our Solar System, and the lack of black-holes or strangelet-worlds in our Solar System today). Additionally, you seem to have some misconception about the nature of momentum.

    As you’ve indicated, the relative speed of the colliding particles in large part determines the energy of the subsequent collision. I think what you are missing though is the relative momentum of the collision product with the earth.

    Cosmic ray particles bombard the earth with a very high relative momentum to the earth – approaching the speed of light. The product of the first collision (both parts being equal) would therefore have a relative momentum to the earth equal to nearly half the speed of light (as the earthbound half of the collision begins with no relative momentum to the earth). If this collision results in a nano-blackhole, only matter absorption can subsequently slow it enough to be captured by the earth (blackholes experience no friction with ordinary matter). As it turns out, it would have to grow about 53,000 times in about 0.17 seconds to be captured (impossible).

    They wouldn’t orbit our sun because they must necessarily form with an inherent, solar escape velocity. However they might not escape the galaxy. Cosmic anecdotal evidence to this abounds. For instance, this could easily be a darkmatter candidate.

    The CERN experiment, on the other hand, will use two opposing beams of equal but opposite energy to create its collision product. As per the laws of momentum, equal but opposite forces result in a state of equilibrium. That is the collision product will have as little as no relative momentum to the point of the collision. This point is a fixed place on the earth, so the collision product is just as likely to have no relative momentum to the earth.

    Does this mean they will be dangerous? No. It isn’t even known that they’ll form. It just means they are potentially more dangerous than may have heretofore been considered.

    “Stranglets”… Isn’t that like a Hollywood marriage? 

  • Eric James December 12, 2006, 1:50

    Back to the topic at hand…

    I don’t think it matters whether we transmit or not. Anyone likely to detect the signal is more than likely too far off to be of immediate concern. Simply by our own example, we see a desire in one sentient species to always push observation technologies to their limits. I think this must be the case of any space faring race. They’ll likely see us long before they might detect a purposeful transmission.

    It could take hundreds of years to even reasonably settle our own system. Image the deep-space imaging technolgy we might have then! Would we even need a signal from a nearby system for us to know their’s a developing technological civilization in a relatively nearby star system worth investigating? I doubt it.

    Keep in mind that any dangerous alien civilization would have to be quite a bit more advanced than that. How well might we image the nearby systems in a thousand years?

  • Eric James December 12, 2006, 2:13

    Small correction:

    A cosmic ray induced nano-blackhole would have to grow about 53,000 times in 0.017 seconds to be captured (not 0.17 seconds).

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 12, 2006, 5:53

    If Dr. Darling is uncomfortable about having been potrayed as a spokesman for the SETI Institute, he should have voiced concerns over the byline the orginzation gave him when it presented one of his opinion pieces prior to print.

    It fell under his responsiblity to make any corrections to the final galley before it was published. This is the byline in question:

    Of Faith and Facts: Is SETI a Religion?

    By David Darling
    SETI Institute
    posted: 01 June 2006
    06:30 am ET

    Note the byline doesn’t say “for the SETI Institute.” As written, the byline gives any reader the reasonable assumption that Dr. Darling is a spokesman for the SETI Institute.

    Yes, Dr. Darling did speak about his status with the SETI Institute, but has he spoken to the SETI Institute to correct what he views as an incorrect statement of his association with them? Apparenlty not, because his opinion piece for the institute still reads: David Darling, SETI Institute.

  • Gordon W H German December 12, 2006, 6:51

    Joseph Baneth Allen,

    Can you post the para where Dr Darling states that dolphins/chimps are more advanced/cleverer than humans? He seems to have stated that he did not say that. Perhaps I missed it?

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 12, 2006, 14:21

    Dear Mr. German,

    I believe that if you review all of Dr. Darling’s writings you will get a much better sense of what he does and does not believe. His own webiste might be a good place to start:

    http://www.daviddarling.info

    However let’s examine what Dr. Darling said:

    Needless to say, Jill Tarter is less than impressed by this argument, as indeed am I. Firstly we know that there’s intelligence in the universe. As I pointed out on the show there are dolphins and great apes. And you might even throw Homo sapiens into that mix on the rare occasions when we live up to our self-proclaimed species name.

    To break down what Dr. Darling said: Dolphins and great apes are intelligent and on rare occassions, so are Humans.

    To the average reader, Dr. Darling is stating dolphins and great apes are more intelligent than Humans.

    If he didn’t mean it, he shouldn’t have wrote it and said it.

    Now if the following posting is wrong about Dr. Darling, he should take immediate steps to correct it with CoastToCoast AM:

    Astrobiologist and astronomer Dr. David Darling discussed evolution and the origins of the universe, as well as such topics as NDEs, ET contact, teleportation and the particle accelerator at CERN. He believes that God likely started the universe, but then let things take their course, rather than being involved in an ongoing manner. The Book of Genesis, he added, is based on a cosmology that is several thousand years out-of-date.

  • Administrator December 12, 2006, 16:10

    Let me say this more plainly. Dr. Darling is not the issue here. He is an exceptional journalist and space advocate, and it is time to stop going round and round about what he did or didn’t mean. Let’s stay on the issues and give Dr. Darling a rest. Those who need more can visit his Web site.

  • Joseph Baneth Allen December 12, 2006, 19:27

    Dear Administrator,

    When an exceptional journalist and space advocate like Dr. Darling makes public statement about SETI; it is fair for his fellow journalists and the general public to examine his quotes and refute them. It’s also more than fair to use his own comments and make personal observations about them when discussing SETI/METI.

    I happen to be a pretty darn good journalist myself. I also happen to be an advocate for space exploration though not on the scale that Dr. Darling is. But I should note, that I have done nothing different than what Dr. Darling has previously done before in previous articles and interviews. Perhaps Dr. Darling should re-read his Slate.com interview where he talked about how he “outed” an astronmer who believed that G_D created the universe in order to set the record straight – in his mind – on the “Rare Earth” theory.

    I find it odd that someone would belittle a fellow astronomer for believing that G_D created the universe, when the same claim is attributed to him in a public forum that he to date has never disputed – to the best of my knowledge.

    I didn’t see you rushing to my defense when I got challenged to defend my statements – despite the fact that I offered to publically apologise to LJK in an off-blog email I sent to you if I had offended him in a previous posting. And please note that LJK launched a few vicious assualts about me on this particular blog.

  • Gordon W H German December 12, 2006, 19:43

    JBA,

    The passage you quote from David Darling appears to me to be nothing but ironic humour. You’re drawing a long, long bow to imply that he literally believes this. However, this is not on track, so if that’s what you believe, let’s leave it there.

    As reagrds to METI, as I said in my first post, “to broadcast” or “not to broadcast” I think is somewhat moot. _Who_ broadcasts (and _what_ to broadcast) isn’t, IMO.

    I would have thought that some of the UN’s conventions on space should limit this?

  • Administrator December 12, 2006, 20:14

    Enough. Comments on the “SETI’s Paradox” story are now closed. I do intend to pick up the SETI/METI debate, which is a significant one, in a slightly different form soon, perhaps through an add-on forum, but that awaits some software decisions at this end.