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SETI’s Dilemma: Break the Great Silence?

When Alexander Zaitsev presented his recent paper at the International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad (India) recently, he spoke from the center of a widening controversy. The question is straightforward: Should we broadcast messages intentionally designed to be received by extraterrestrial civilizations, thereby notifying them of our existence? Zaitzev, chief scientist at the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, addressed the question by seeing a necessary relationship between SETI (the search for ETI) and METI (messaging to other civilizations).

Indeed, the Russian scientist, working at the Evpatoria Deep Space Center in the Ukraine, has the experience to discuss METI from a practical standpoint. Evpatoria has already transmitted a number of messages, the so-called ‘Cosmic Call’ signal (1999) being made up of various audio, video, image and data files submitted by people around the world. The later ‘Teen-Age Message,’ aimed at six Sun-like stars, was sent in 2001; another ‘Cosmic Call’ followed in 2003.

Zaitzev has in the interim emerged as a leading spokesman for direct messaging to extraterrestrial civilizations, an idea now hotly debated by a relatively small group of researchers concerned about its implications. I note the size of the debate pointedly — it is remarkable to me that an issue that has the potential of involving the entire human species in what could become a first contact scenario is known only to a limited number of professionals, within whose ranks there is by no means agreement.

Thus, having coffee with a neighbor not long ago, I brought up the SETI/METI debate, curious about his reaction. I asked whether he believed transmitting messages intentionally designed for contact was a sound idea. “What’s the problem?” he asked. “If anyone’s out there, the sooner we get to know them, the better.” When I urged caution, pointing out that we know nothing whatsoever about what an alien species might think or do, he smiled. Wasn’t I just bringing up tired science fiction scenarios like the movie Independence Day? And what about the ‘I Love Lucy’ factor?

The latter, of course, is that expanding sphere of electromagnetic radiation that seems to flag our presence in the form of old television and radio shows (Fred Mertz as Terra’s first ambassador to the stars — the mind boggles…). Whether or not such signals would actually be detectible is problematic, but Zaitsev turns to an even stronger source of signalling, planetary radars like Arecibo, Goldstone and Evpatoria itself, whose active search for near-Earth asteroids would represent a more likely chance for reception.

When Zaitsev analyzed radar observations of asteroids and comets at the three radar sites, he found that none of these transmissions crosses the habitable zone of a star. That would imply that a civilization like our own, restricted to its own planet, would be unlikely to pick them up. In any case, a civilization bound to its own planet presents no threat to Earth in the first place. Whereas Kardashev Type II or III civilizations, with far greater energy resources at their disposal and presumably at home in interstellar space, would be more likely to receive them.

In his paper, Zaitsev puts the matter this way:

Accidental detection by such civilizations of signals from the planetary and asteroid radars of some other civilization is extremely unlikely. If we are afraid of powerful and aggressive civilizations of Type II and Type III, which live “practically everywhere”, it is necessary to forbid numerous pointless transmissions of asteroid and planetary radars as their radiation gradually illuminates greater areas that promotes its detection by ‘star aggressors and interventionists.’

In other words, if we’re serious about trying to keep our existence unknown, we had better stop using our planetary radars in the first place, which would mean giving up our protection against catastrophic strikes on Earth by comets or asteroids. It’s ironic that we’re discussing closing Arecibo’s planetary radar as we ponder such matters, but in any case, Zaitsev goes on to argue that there is less danger from interstellar messages like Evpatoria’s, targeted at specific stars, than the radar transmissions we have been making for some time in our own defense.

Zaitsev sees a close connection between SETI and METI in that both require an identical selection from the same target star lists, both involve consideration of optimum frequencies and likelihoods of success, so that the question of where to search and where to send are equivalent. He calls for the further use of Arecibo, Goldstone and Evpatoria in sending future interstellar messages, and notes that SETI itself may be dangerous. What if an uncontrolled SETI search ended up with fanatics in control of weapons derived from knowledge received from a high-level civilization?

As an onlooker in this debate for some time now, I keep running into a crucial problem. Again, it is the size of the participating audience. David Brin has been an advocate of the idea that we need wider involvement from other discipilines in deciding how to handle the METI question, and I have to agree with that assessment. It would be interesting to learn of any first-contact situation on Earth involving a technologically superior civilization and a less developed one where the latter did not suffer.

I admit to having little patience with sociology, but it would certainly be helpful to have a historian’s take on all this, and for that matter, people in the arts. We have a model for this kind of gathering. It is the 1983 Los Alamos meeting called the Conference on Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience. There, biologist met social scientist, historian met physicist, in an attempt to put our past human experience into perspective as we look forward to a future beyond the Solar System.

Why relate possible alien contact to scenarios that are expressly human? Because these are all we have to work with, and therefore must form the basis of our investigation. Which raises another troubling question. Human nature has shown its colors for good and ill throughout recorded history, a mixed record of dazzling achievements and horrific barbarism, depending on where you look. Would aliens be better than us, or worse? Or would they be much like us in having a mixture of motivations of the sort that in our own history has often led to misunderstandings, brutality and war?

At this point these can only be speculations. But how helpful it would be to see a meeting like the Conference on Interstellar Migration convened to address these matters from as wide a range of perspectives as possible. The interest for such a gathering seems to be growing. I would hope it could also raise the consciousness of the general public to an issue that, as we continue our technological advance, may well play a role in our long-term future. SETI/METI is a good story, but it’s not science fiction any more. And we need to establish an informed consensus before we send more messages.

Dr. Zaitsev’s paper “Sending and Searching for Interstellar Messages” is now available online. For more on the Los Alamos conference, see Ben R. Finney and Eric M. Jones, Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • andy October 18, 2007, 16:52

    I see that many people here desperately want there to be a proactive effort in contacting aliens. Indeed, I acknowledge the fact that there are significant potential benefits from such an effort: actually I am not opposed to a METI-like program, just to the current culture among METI practitioners and proponents. However, it is essential to recognise that this is a highly safety-critical endeavour, which may involve existential risks to the entire planet. Therefore we need agreed policies and regulations in place. We need some kind of regulatory committee to discuss whether specific METI efforts are desirable. We need to discuss mitigation strategies in case things go wrong. Just because we want or believe the aliens to be benevolent sky-fairies does not mean they actually are.

    So far I see the optimists concentrating solely on the benefits and making arguments like “I don’t see why they would have negative impact on our civilisation, so let’s go ahead” arguments. This is called argument from incredulity and is fallacious.

    I see fatalists asserting that the aliens are bound to know about us already, without any evidence. If we’re wrong about that, METI could attract the attention of much more powerful civilisations. Again, the analogy with being lost in a forest: the wolves may or may not already have heard us blundering around in the dark or smelt our tracks, but is specifically calling into the night for attention really a good idea?

    I see people arguing about how a post-Singularity culture will behave, when the entire defintion of a Singularity states that post-Singularity civilisations will have development that is impossible to predict from our perspective. I would not want to have the assumption that a post-Singularity culture would not do us any harm disproven by demonstration.

    There are other issues than simple destruction of humanity. What about destruction of our culture due to assimilation into a more powerful civilisation? What about the impact of the knowledge of the existence of aliens – how would that interact with belief systems/politics/etc (this one also applies to SETI and considerations in releasing a positive result from that programme)? What if the aliens decide to convert the rest of our solar system into computronium, or mine it all out, leaving the space program with nowhere to go? What if the aliens do not behave in a manner we think is rational? What are the ethics of contact if there are other biospheres in our solar system (perhaps Europa?) which might be put at risk?

    There needs to be a discussion about this issue, involving not just the scientists who operate the facilities being used, but also professionals in other academic disciplines, industry, the general public. It would be better to have this discussion sooner rather than later, because we are entering the era where we can locate planets which may be able to host alien civilisations. Such a discussion might reach the conclusion that METI is worth pursuing, it might come to the conclusion that humanity is not yet at a stage of development where METI is a responsible/good idea, it might come to the conclusion that METI is totally irresponsible under any circumstances. Who knows, but it would be far better to have an open, multi-disciplinary discussion and perhaps global policies (through the UN?) rather than leaving this field of endeavour in its current state, where the practitioners and proponents do not behave as if they are operating in a safety-critical environment, refuse to contemplate the possibility of downsides, act without accountability, and no pre-emptive disaster mitigation is in place.

  • andy October 18, 2007, 16:55

    …er, that comment was rather long, wasn’t it? Didn’t seem that way when writing it. Might need to get myself my own blog at this rate…

  • stargazerdude22 October 19, 2007, 4:32

    This is great debate thus far! I’m still undecided though… I find it hard to believe that we would pose any sort of threat to The Immortals right now.

  • ljk October 19, 2007, 9:40

    All we really have to worry about is that Hyperspace Bypass coming through….

  • tim gueguen October 19, 2007, 13:52

    There’s currently a book on the market that is based on a “nasty aliens” scenario, The Cloud by Ray Hammond. In it a signal is detected several decades from now that is unambiguously of artifical origin, apparently from a planet 20 or 30 light years away. A response is sent although the signal has not yet been decoded. This turns out to be a Bad Thing when it turns out the transmitter is a giant artificial cloud that goes after any responses it detects to destroy the transmitting world.

    Ultimately if and until further evidence becomes available pretty much any scenario can be considered equally likely. Perhaps we are the local zoo exhibit, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the X’soudopud military are discussing how many planet busters they intend to use in their attack on us next year. But we can equally assume that we are the only technological civilisation in our galaxy because intelligent life developing anything past the Copper Age is exceedingly rare, or because those civilisations that came about a billion years before us all hit the equivalent of the most pessimistic Peak Oil scenarios and ran out of resources before they could discover antimatter power and hyperspace drives.

  • george scaglione October 19, 2007, 14:38

    tim,yes any or all of that is most likely possible! but that cloud business…I HOPE NOT. as for the rest i tend to agree with a scientist,forgive me i forget his name and i’m being too lazy to go look it up -but anyhow to paraphrase “all of this space all of these planets…and WE are the ONE with intelligence?”lol don’t you think that,that makes perfect sense! common sense seems to force one to agree.but tim,glad to hear from you anytime,i am george udt109@aol.com write me anytime.ps that goes for all of the rest of you who may be taking part in this discussion also. anyway, your friend george

  • ljk October 19, 2007, 16:41

    Hammond’s book sounds a lot like Gregory Benford’s SF novel
    titled Eater, or go even further back to Fred Hoyle’s The Black

    I don’t know – 400 billion star systems and every alien wants to
    eat/enslave/mate/destroy little ol’ us? We give ourselves way
    too much importance.

  • Kurogawa October 19, 2007, 19:12

    Go andy! the UN is just what we need… We already have a comprehensive document signed by many countries governing the use of space…it sounds logical as a next step to deal with issues of first contact, planetary defense -and I refer to asteroids and the sort- and of course, such essential things such as “if they don’t seem logical to us”. It is so clear to anyone who is into Sci-fi that most of these scenarios are taken from our “fictional works of art” hardly the place to take as a basis for METI or not… so these kind of basic brainstorming is to me not only essential but the -The Next Step, we all have to take now. as in before anything else… the last thing we want is for them to land in North Korea and 90% of the world start a war because of that! and end up killing ourselves int eh process! and knowing OUR history I don’t find that far out.

  • andy October 20, 2007, 7:28

    Kurogawa: I read your comment as sarcastic, but English lacks the “sarcasm marks” found in some Ethiopian languages which makes sarcasm in a text-based medium tricky to judge, so forgive me if I have misread.

    You can’t just dismiss these scenarios because they come from science fiction. The problem is that the issue of alien contact has NOT been seriously discussed in the mainstream. Writing off the field which has made the most effort in dealing with this issue (limited though those dealings may have been, and no matter how divorced that field might be from our political process) is premature when it is currently pretty much the only field that has had much thinking in this area. Furthermore, science fiction is often based on historical parallels: it is not necessarily entirely divorced from reality.

    As for the possibility of illogical behaviour, we only need look at human history: you can hardly argue that religion, racism, sexism, etc. have not been major influences in the history of our civilisation. Politics is often played to keep the ruling elite in power rather than because the country as a whole would be better off by following such policies. Why was launching a massive military effort to liberate Jerusalem a logical policy for England at the time of the Crusades? Explain that in terms of England needing the resources there. Explain why the Brits needed to introduce rabbits to Australia, causing all the associated problems for the natives. Explain how genocide would have provided a solution to the economic problems faced by Germany at the time of World War II? What are the logical reasons for cultures which practiced human sacrifice?

    Trying to justify why aliens couldn’t possibly do X because they wouldn’t need to doesn’t work: human history is full of examples where people, governments or groups of people have done things for reasons that are not “rational”, particularly in a simplistic “they could get the resources easier another way” approach. Given that an alien civilisation is going to have a totally independent history to our own, such reasons may not seem “logical” to us at all.

  • Cyde Weys October 20, 2007, 22:33

    Anyone who’s interested in this topic should definitely read the book “The Killing Star” by Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski. Without ruining too much, the plot revolves around the seemingly simple logical principle that all intelligent species out there that survive are ruthless in killing all other intelligent species. There’s simply too much to risk in letting them survive, the book argues.

    The book also contains fascinating excerpts of conversations between real SETI scientists arguing over the issue. Should we announce ourselves at all, thereby possibly making ourselves a target? Or should we just keep our head down for as long as possible and get as technologically advanced as possible?

    Maybe the solution to Drake’s Paradox is that any civilization that makes a peep gets annihilated quickly?

  • Administrator October 21, 2007, 8:31

    Interesting. I’ve read some other Pellegrino but not The Killing Star, and will have to find a copy. The SETI debate on this issue is indeed heating up, so it will be intriguing to match what Pellegrino and Zebrowski’s scientists say with what’s now going around. Thanks for the reading tip.

  • Yamato October 21, 2007, 8:40

    Does anyone else believe that the gamma ray bursts are shots of the ultimate weapons of the highest technology attainable in the current age of universe, and so there are a lot of wars being fought all over the galaxies? A shot of that would sterilize this planet in an instant. That means we would never know what hit us. I say go ahead and probe away, if we die it won’t be painful.(/sarcasm)

  • Adam October 21, 2007, 17:26

    Hi All

    Personally I think the strategic logic of the Pellegrino/Zebrowski scenario is questionable. Certainly seems to require a lot more information than would be accessible without sending probes and giving the game away. That and the difficulty of relativistic missiles actually surviving passage through inner system dust. Artificial dust-clouds would be a relatively simple defense against such weapons – something we should invest in if-and-when the economics of matter-antimatter make such missiles possible. There’s not a lot of real evidence yet that such can be used for interstellar drives.

  • Kurogawa October 21, 2007, 20:33

    Firstly andy I’m terribly sorry you thought I was being sarcastic, I should have looked deeper into my keyboard to find the “NoSarcasmSign” -S? : )

    I did indeed agree with you. But I once again diverge, while understanding your point entirely. -Yes, Sci-fi is the next best thing we have, and yes it is extremely useful in some ways… but I keep going back to -we will not need to compete for resources…or at least not necessarily. and ALL human history has greatly been dictated by resources as has been pointed out a number of times in the discussion. Why? -because as things are heading our population may well plummet if current trends follow through… it is quite unrealistic to assume we would multiply like rabbits. Thus we probably won’t become this burden on planetary systems and all that… so I assume there is plenty of space for a good time… I mean really long time… so no need fro annihilation.
    —So it is extremely important to separate OUR history form what Milions of different histories might be. -there is no reason to believe (as far as I’m aware) that ETI are not plant like in their feeding habits or whatever..which would totally alter “resource management/acquirement hisotry” of them.. so wars for resources MIGHT not even come into question.
    To me there is a fundamental problem with Sci-fi: it has to appeal to Humans, who buy them. To do so they have to be able to “relate” to it… cause thinking TOO far out of the box will alienate the reared. these are fundamental issues that would only be weighed sufficiently if it was focused research as you advocate. And I here totally support you on. But I reiterate OUR history is only useful in a very limited manner. -to learn about US.

    Illogical? with hindsight… rabbits in australia, jewish persecution Jerusalem… all bad ideas but at the time..for our quick fix minds it had a reason… I would have hoped we learned with each and every one of those mistakes. YES… we are still fighting stupid wars… but then we are not all that well versed with history are we? for that matter quite few of us (on the planet) have time to sit around and LEARN really get over prejudice and propaganda and all that. That is not the point though… the point is that as Humans we are able to get over that… we do become peaceful beings and learn with all the mistakes if e get a chance to learn all the lessons in an unbiased manner.

    Going back to Jerusalem…there are always political questions..justification to their people of legitimacy, greed for riches, knowlege, power, a desire for expanding influence… I’m not an expert… but resources have many uses. I am of those who believe that IF and it is a toweringly big if, humans have the chance to learn and grow we would all grow to use those resources responsibly, sustainably, and would not use them for power’s sake (or even accept that it be used for that) or whatever…but that depends very much on the political and educational future of humanity…and that is what I think is our greatest challenge.

    Forgive the idealist here but:

    If no ETI’s come to help us in that direction, before we get around to it, recognizing our failed attempts in history (And seeing our potential as civilizable beings), I would hope perhaps the dream of a future of such understanding, growth, and achievement be inspiring to some of us to build towards that NOW.

  • Theo Stauffer October 22, 2007, 18:01

    In some way it’s sad that this article has by far the most replies in a long time. On the other hand it’s indicative of how much fear pervades our thoughts (no doubt increased somewhat by the current unstable world situation and humans are very good at projecting their fears onto the unknown).

    If I were to look at this topic, I would break it down as follows:
    1. If there were any alien civilisations out there, they would be one of three things:
    a. ahead of us technologically, b. on the same level, or c. behind us. In any realistic timespan, only those from a. could be of any danger to us.

    2. IF there is a civilisation out there that could be a threat to us, the question is, would they be, and if so, why?

    3. If there is life out there, and advanced life at that, it could be:
    a. evolved in an oxygen/water/organic compound cycle like we are, b. it could be evolved on some type of other chemistry, or c. it could be so advanced that it no longer lives in its orginal biological bodies.

    4. Making the (dangerous since we have no way of knowing if there are any similarities) analog of life on earth, that form of life would have no doubt have had to fight its way to the top of the food chain, BUT a space faring species would in no way need the resources our planet offers. Any civilisation capable of making the multi light year jump to us would find it easier to simply terraform a planet or maybe just build one from scratch, than need the earth for anything.

    Space is so big that there would be no need to really fight for resources.

    BUT, again, mankind has slaughtered many species on earth for nothing other than pleasure (hunting), and has slaughtered countless millions of our own kind for things as ludicrous as religion (since belief is so obviously important to us).

    Thus, there is no reason to believe that any other alien species would be any friendlier than we are. They might just decide to kill us before we develop enough of our WMD (as in the current situation with Iran) to be gangerous to them.

    Then again, they might just not, since we have no idea what we as a species will actually be like when and if we ever get out to the stars.

    It is, IMO, in other words, a good idea to debate this subject, but with the necessary realisation that there is, in all probability, no civiised species within an enormous amount of space.

  • Mark October 22, 2007, 18:32

    If there are technologically advanced aliens who evolved independently of us, then it would be a fantastic coincidence if they were at a technical stage of development that was within 1000 years of our own — it would be far more likely they got their start a million years or hundreds of millions of years ahead of us.

    From this follows two things: first, they almost certainly will have visited Earth long before human beings came into existence, known about Earth ever since, and (apparently) never decided to take it for their own. Second, they have less to fear from us than we would have from a tribe of cavemen armed with stone weapons.

    Therefore, advertising our existence can’t do us any harm. If anyone is out there to hear our announcement, they’ve already proved their lack of interest in us by letting Earth be for the last several billion years, and the fact that Earth is now occupied will hardly make it more interesting.

    On the other hand, it’s barely possible that they’re politely refraining from letting us know about their existence because they feel we should speak first. Sending a deliberate signal could be the key to opening communications.

    Or, which is most likely, we’re the first ones to evolve in this galaxy, and the signal will be completely safe because it will never be heard at all.

  • johnF October 23, 2007, 8:58

    “In some way it’s sad that this article has by far the most replies in a long time. On the other hand it’s indicative of how much fear pervades our thoughts ”

    I dont agree that its in anyway sad how much debate this article has caused, its amazing how much enthusiasm and interest there is even after a long (in human experiance terms) period of searching with no definate finds. As for fear, that emotion is usefull when it informs us of possible dangers and only dangerous when allowed to control our actions. That said I agree with most every other point of theo and marks last posts, and I would only like to add that whatever the answer to the fermi paradox there is no substitute for actually looking to find what the answer is- even if that takes many life times.

  • hiro October 23, 2007, 15:40

    The first rule of survival: Destroy your competitors or any seeds that will be danger in the future. I think some advanced civilizations have already hit the limit of technological developments. On the other hand, our sciences advance at the exponential speed, so we’ll be a major threat to the other species in another 1000 years.

    If we have antimatter weapons in our hands, then I will agree about sending messages to the stars. Otherwise, I have to disagree this solution.

  • ljk December 12, 2007, 15:18

    Who Speaks for Earth?

    Alexander Zaitsev, Chief Scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, has access to one of the most powerful radio transmitters on Earth. Though he officially uses it to conduct the Institute’s planetary radar studies, Zaitsev is also trying to contact other civilizations in nearby star systems. He believes extraterrestrial intelligence exists, and that we as a species have a moral obligation to announce our presence to our sentient neighbors in the Milky Way—to let them know they are not alone. If everyone in the galaxy only listens, he reasons, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is doomed to failure.

    Full article here:


  • ljk December 19, 2007, 15:48


    ET too bored by Earth transmissions to respond

    16:35 18 December 2007

    NewScientist.com news service

    Tom Simonite

    Messages sent into space directed at extraterrestrials may have been too boring to earn a reply, say two astrophysicists trying to improve on their previous alien chat lines.

    Humans have so far sent four messages into space intended for alien listeners. But they have largely been made up of mathematically coded descriptions of some physics and chemistry, with some basic biology and descriptions of humans thrown in.

    Those topics will not prove gripping reading to other civilisations, says Canadian astrophysicist Yvan Dutil. If a civilisation is advanced enough to understand the message, they will already know most of its contents, he says: “After reading it, they will be none the wiser about us humans and our achievements. In some ways, we may have been wasting our telescope time.”

    In 1999 and 2003, Dutil and fellow researcher Stephane Dumas beamed messages in a language of their own design into space. Now, they are working to compose more interesting messages.

    “The question is, what is interesting to an extraterrestrial?” Dutil told New Scientist. “We think the answer is using some common ground to communicate things about humanity that will be new or different to them – like social features of our society.” Fortunately those subjects are already being described mathematically by economists, physicists and sociologists, he adds.

    Vexing problems

    One topic the two researchers are already composing messages about is the so-called ‘cake cutting problem’. “How do you share out resources is a classical problem for all civilisations,” he says.

    Democracy is also a potentially eye- or antenna- catching subject. “The maths shows that with more than two choices, there is no perfect electoral procedure,” says Dutil. He has started work on encoding this into a message in which “we can explain our methods and ask, ‘What do you use on your planet?'”

    Social physics – the application of mathematical techniques to societies – also provides good material potentially interesting to the alien. “We know that every human social network behaves as a gas, what we don’t know is how universal that is beyond Earth.” Aliens may be asking themselves similar questions, he adds.

    Another fundamental challenge for very old civilisations is using resources sustainably to avoid dying out, says Dutil. “Any good examples out there could help a lot on Earth.”

    Human nature

    Dumas has designed software that is like a word processor for composing messages in the pair’s symbolic language. There is also a separate automatic decoder, which should help avoid slip-ups like the missing factor of 10 in the duo’s 1999 message.

    Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the search for extraterrestrial intelligence at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, US, agrees that we humans need to make our interstellar chat more compelling. “If we only communicate something the receiver already knows, it is not going to be very interesting.”

    Vakoch has recently been holding workshops at sociology and anthropology conferences to try and widen participation in messaging extraterrestrials beyond astrophysicists. “I think perhaps the most important question is: how do we represent what being a human is? And those disciplines can really help,” says Vakoch.

    ‘We’ll get back to you’

    But Vakoch points out that email-like messages may not be the best approach. One alternative is to send software code for an avatar that could answer basic alien questions. That would get around the problem of the delays produced by large distances across space.

    “If someone replies to your message saying, ‘I don’t understand. Can you repeat that?’ it will take decades, centuries or millennia to know,” says Vakoch.

    “Another approach is to send a lot of stuff and hope there is enough redundancy for them to spot patterns,” he adds. “We could just send the encyclopaedia.”

    Dutil agrees other options are worth exploring, but points out that sometimes only a message will do. “It would make sense to have an ‘answer phone’ message ready in case we are contacted,” he explains, “just to say, ‘we’ll get back to you,’ while we figure out what to do.”

  • ljk February 1, 2008, 11:51

    NASA and the Beatles Celebrate Anniversaries by Beaming
    Song ‘Across the Universe’ Into Deep Space


    NEWS RELEASE 2008-019 Jan. 31, 2008

    WASHINGTON – For the first time ever, NASA will beam a
    song – The Beatles “Across the Universe” — directly into deep
    space at 4 p.m. Pacific Time (7 p.m. Eastern Time) on Monday,
    Feb. 4.

    The transmission over NASA’s Deep Space Network will
    commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day The Beatles
    recorded the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of NASA’s
    founding and the group’s beginnings. Two other anniversaries
    also are being honored: The launch 50 years ago this week of
    Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, and the founding 45 years
    ago of the Deep Space Network, an international network of
    antennas that supports missions to explore the universe.

    Technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
    Calif., where the Deep Space Network is managed, will send
    the command that will start the transmission.

    The transmission is being aimed at the North Star, Polaris,
    which is located 431 light years away from Earth. The song
    will travel across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles
    per second.

    Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney expressed excitement that
    the tune, which was principally written by fellow Beatle John
    Lennon, was being beamed into the cosmos.

    “Amazing! Well done, NASA!” McCartney said in a message
    to the space agency. “Send my love to the aliens. All the best,

    Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, characterized the song’s transmission
    as a significant event.

    “I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we
    will communicate with billions of planets across the universe,”
    she said.

    It is not the first time Beatles music has been used by NASA;
    in November 2005, McCartney performed the song “Good Day
    Sunshine” during a concert that was transmitted to the
    International Space Station. “Here Comes the Sun,” “Ticket to
    Ride” and “A Hard Day’s Night” are among other Beatles’ songs
    that have been played to wake astronaut crews in orbit.

    Feb. 4 has been declared “Across The Universe Day” by Beatles
    fans to commemorate the anniversaries. As part of the celebration,
    the public around the world has been invited to participate in the
    event by simultaneously playing the song at the same time it is
    transmitted by NASA. Many of the senior NASA scientists and
    engineers involved in the effort are among the group’s biggest

    “I’ve been a Beatles fan for 45 years – as long as the Deep
    Space Network has been around,” said Barry Geldzahler, the
    network’s program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

    “What a joy, especially considering that ‘Across the Universe’
    is my personal favorite Beatles song.”

    JPL built the Explorer 1 satellite and is celebrating the 50th
    anniversary of its launch. JPL also operates NASA’s Deep
    Space Network. For information about the Deep Space
    Network, go to:


  • Istros February 4, 2008, 4:39

    Most of people, who wrote this site his/her oppinion watch too much science fiction movies. But theese movies don’t want to pay a lot to create the strangest life forms, planets, solar systems what can be imagine. Theese films tell us our stories, nothing else.

    The problem is in our mind. We don’t be able to imagine all of our environment, just our little environment, what we can see, we can hear, we can smell, and so one.

    Our messages are created in our thinking, our sensors, but an alien race may very very strange for us. It may be some extraterrestial life form similar us, but I’m sure mostly not.

    We know our race, what we have done still our home planet. If they are similar us out there, we should shut up every messages, because they will be kill us, or use us, than a slave (like american indians, or african slaves). If they unlike us it may they are more peaceful, than our race, or more dangerous, than us.

  • ljk March 7, 2008, 14:48

    UK astronomers buying adverts to send into the galaxy

    To quote:

    In an attempt to save the beleaguered astronomy community
    in the UK, astronomers have come up with an intriguing idea.
    To rescue the world famous Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, astronomers intend to transmit adverts into space. This is truly
    the final frontier for terrestrial advertising, but is it possible that
    British scientists have finally lost their marbles? How can we
    expect alien races to pay attention to our attempts at selling
    them Nacho Cheese Doritos? If they did buy our products, I
    wouldn’t want to be in charge of the shipping department…

    But there is a very serious reason for this off-beat plan. The UK
    is currently undergoing a funding crisis as the main funding body
    for UK physics and astronomy struggles to fill a £80 million ($160
    million) hole in their finances. No help has been offered by the
    British government. This new fund-raising scheme is already
    attracting a lot of attention. The snack manufacturer Doritos
    has stepped in, donating an undisclosed sum in exchange for
    transmitting their ad. Many more companies are expected to
    follow suit. The publicity from helping out struggling observatories
    seems to be enough for big companies wanting to get involved
    (after all, they won’t be expecting extraterrestrial orders for at
    least 84 years).

    The signal will be sent to the Ursa Major constellation some 42
    light years away by the European Incoherent Scatter Radar
    System (EISCAT) in Svalbard, located in the High Arctic.
    EISCAT is more commonly used to measure emissions from
    the aurora and ionospheric dynamics. It can also be used in
    conjunction with other EISCAT installations in Sweden and
    mainland Norway to track the velocity and composition of the
    solar wind. Now, it seems, the powerful radar transmitter will
    be used to shoot commercials into space.

    Full article here:


  • Brian Sallur April 4, 2008, 17:27

    Communications across the galaxies has always been a fascinating concept.
    Over the years the conventional physicist have largely pushed for the acceleration of photons of Electromagnetic energies.
    This concept is out of the question, the energy required to both accelerate and over come the inverse square law,
    even with laser assistance, would be enormous…. and the whole mechanism would destroy it’s self very quickly.

    The only way to circumvent the problem of distance, is not to use any measurable energy whatsoever in the process.

    It is absolutely necessary to provide a “Simultaneous Transition” to achieve this inter galactic communication, irrespective of distance.
    The proposed transition requires no energy, and whats more is established with no time, ( only the data, is flowing in real time)
    There are no losses, no heat and no attenuation.

    This wonderful facility has been in existence since tome began
    Telepathy is the oldest and most reliable means of communication between the species.
    Tragically, the ability to use this function has been beaten out of us over the centuries.

    A form of telepathy is enjoyed by plants trees animals birds etc. It is humans that are the most primitive communicators in the Universe.

    However, I believe there is another way to operate communications between two persons , irrespective of the distance between them,
    and that is to exploit to mechanisms that produce the so called ” Casimir Effect”.
    By that I mean, to use this phenomena to interface with the aether, and use the aether as a pathway for modulated energies,
    passing from one source to another.

    Many thanks for the opportunity to to reply.
    Brian Sallur

    Western Australia
    4th April 2008

  • Harry Dea November 1, 2008, 22:20

    Perhaps perhaps alien civilizations have a different frequency with which they communicate?

    Maybe the IM’s being sent by EBE’s are not being transmitted in the format we are expecting to receive. Could it be they have been transmitting messages through the crop circles to communicate with our species?

    I also feel that the signals we are sending could be corrupted/destroyed before arrival to the target locations due to space weather or other forms of interstellar distortion – electrical or magnetic etc. Also, the distance the signals could travel in their original form may not be adequate, to highlight this, just use the analogy of sending and receiving packets of data via electronic means.

  • John January 3, 2009, 11:53

    I agreed with Philw. SETI have been listening for quite some time. What if there is a reason why civs try to stay undetected. Like in the jungle: “there are predators out there…”

  • Russ February 9, 2009, 13:21

    We’ll be fine.

    Earth’s biosphere has done a fine job broadcasting our existence for hundreds of millions of years, no problems yet.

  • ljk March 20, 2009, 9:30

    Transmission: The Other Side of SETI

    David F Mayer, Advanced Computer Consultants, Columbus, OH

    Abstract: The thesis of this paper is that the best way to answer the question of how to search for extraterrestrial intelligence is to look at SETI from the perspective of the civilization which is attempting to TRANSMIT to another.

    It is concluded that the visible band presents the most viable medium of contact, since it offers both the greatest bandwidth and the most narrow focusing, permitting the most information to be transmitted to potential targets at the lowest cost.

    The essential problem of defining the meaning of a message to an unknown civilization is solved by the concept of the SELF-DECODING MESSAGE. The problem of the selection of potential targets is discussed and criteria for optimal choice are given. Finally, the essential question of the PRUDENCE of such a transmission program is presented and discussed.

    Full article here:


  • Joe December 31, 2009, 12:53

    Might it be possible to modulate auroral kilometric radio to broadcast signals and should SETI be looking for this?