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SETI’s Charismatic Megafauna

The search for technosignatures that could flag the presence of extraterrestrial cultures has accelerated in recent times with projects like Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies at Penn State and numerous papers. Or is the better term not ‘cultures’ but ‘societies,’ or ‘civilizations’? SETI’s funding challenges, at least from government agencies, point to the need for defining its terms in ways that NASA, for example, can live with. Nick Nielsen examines the question in today’s essay, probing the issue of terminology in relation to public support, and noting the ongoing effort to evaluate and revise how SETI is described. Nielsen, a frequent Centauri Dreams contributor and a member of the board of directors for Icarus Interstellar, is a prolific writer who tracks these and other space-related issues in Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon, and Grand Strategy Annex.

by J. N. Nielsen

Recently there have been some signs that NASA may consider a rapprochement with SETI and SETI scientists, after more than twenty years of a de facto NASA ban on funding SETI (cf. NASA Renews Interest in SETI by David Grinspoon). It’s not yet clear how far this rapprochement will extend, but NASA did lend its name to the NASA Technosignatures Workshop (NTW18) last September. The event webpage names the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration as having provided “institutional support”; I do not know if this involved financial support from NASA. The recent NASA Technosignatures Workshop also resulted in a 70 page paper, “NASA and the Search for Technosignatures: A Report from the NASA Technosignatures Workshop.”

I have to wonder if the term “technosignatures” is ultimately more palatable than the acronym “SETI,” with the latter’s explicit reference to ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence). “Technosignatures” sounds tech-savvy and doesn’t explicitly invoke aliens, though the idea of aliens is still there implicitly as a presupposition. This may sound like an overly-subtle gloss on the situation, but it is still a significant consideration. It is conceivable that NASA eventually will consider funding projects that mention “technosignatures” while continuing to pass over any project that mentions “SETI.”

The need to re-brand SETI was discussed in ‘Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’ Needs a New Name, SETI Pioneer Says by Calla Cofield, primarily discussing the recent work of SETI notable Jill Tarter. The author attributes to Tarter the idea that the acronym “SETI,” and what it has come to signify, “…generates an incorrect perception of what scientists in this field are actually doing.” Tarter also discusses the need for terminology reform. The question of SETI terminology has come in for a lot of discussion lately. We have seen the explicit consideration of SETI terminology in Wright’s paper “Taxonomy and Jargon in SETI as an Interdisciplinary Field of Study” and in the collective effort “Recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on SETI Nomenclature” by Jason T. Wright, Sofia Sheikh, Iván Almár, Kathryn Denning, Steven Dick, and Jill Tarter.

I found myself rather annoyed by the second of the two papers named in the paragraph above (I will henceforth call it the “Recommendations paper”), because it failed to deal with the hard conceptual problems presented by the terminology commonly used, and the hardest problems are usually the most interesting problems once you buckle down and focus on them with a will to really understand what is going on. Usually one finds that vague and imprecise terms paper over a multitude of subtle meanings, easily conflated, and it is a lot of work—sometimes tedious work—to separate out all these threads and give a full accounting of the ideas that are the background of the natural language employed in a science before that science is fully formalized.

Early analytical philosophers had a word for this clarification that has sadly fallen out of use: explication; take a look at Chapter 1 of Carnap’s Logical Foundations of Probability, “On Explication,” for a detailed exposition of explication. Carnap’s conception of explication could provide a framework for thinking about the explication of concepts employed in SETI. It was disappointing to me that the Recommendations paper is a laundry list of terms to use and terms to avoid, but, in fairness to the authors, the remit of the ad hoc committee was, “…to recommend standardized definitions for terms,” and not a root-and-branch re-thinking of the conceptual foundations of the discipline (which is what I would have liked to have seen).

Of particular interest to me in the Recommendations paper was its treatment of “civilization”:


In a SETI context, e.g. (extraterrestrial or alien civilization) usually synonymous with technological species. Use with care.

Notes: The term civilization has imprecise popular meanings, but also particular scholarly meanings in relation to human history that are not generally what is meant by the term in a SETI context. Because of its ambiguity and anthropocentrism, the term is a suboptimal synonym for technological species, but it is nonetheless widely used in the literature. Society is a good alternative but not yet in common use.

It could be pointed out that “society” also has both imprecise popular meanings and particular scholarly meanings, so it is difficult to say how “society” is any better in this respect than “civilization.” I also question the idea that “technological species” is in any sense more precise or any less ambiguous than “civilization.”

The authors of the paper note that the use of “civilization” in SETI differs from its use in other scholarly contexts, but they don’t seem to be at all interested in why this is the case, or in finding some conception of civilization that is non-anthropocentric and is equally suitable for use in SETI and other sciences. This would be like someone saying that “BTU” is used to indicate energy in heating and “watt” is used to indicate energy in electricity, but that there is no need for any common conception of energy that might be an umbrella conception for BTU and watt (or calorie, or joule, etc.).

The same paper takes on the use of the term “advanced,” and while I agree that the term “advanced” is problematic, it is not problematic for the reasons cited in the paper. “Advanced” in isolation means nothing; it is a relational term. What would make sense is a formulation such as “x is more advanced than y.” With a little refinement we get, “x is a more advanced F than y.” Now, this latter formulation could be said to be in the same spirit as the recommendation in the paper of, “…simply specifying the scale or nature of the technology referenced.” I’m on board with this, as long as it is made clear that “advanced” is a relational term that is meaningless in isolation. What we find in most cases of using “advanced” in isolation is that the comparison is implicit; one of the virtues of formalizing any usage in a schema such as, “x is a more advanced F than y,” is that it forces us to make our assumptions explicit.

Clearly, however, the authors of the Recommendations paper mean to condemn, “…deprecated theories of human history which rank human societies from ‘primitive’ to ‘advanced’ based on ill-defined and ethnocentric measures.” No doubt the authors have the most virtuous motives for condemning what they see as ethnocentric measures to distinguish primitive from advanced civilizations, but—Alas!—science is unconcerned with the virtue of its practitioners, or the lack thereof. We could go a long way toward improving the situation by offering a precisely defined scale by which civilizations could be rank-ordered, but I doubt that this would quell the misgivings of those whose concern is addressing the grievances claimed to follow from ethnocentric bias. I will say no more at present regarding this.

In addition to his advocacy for SETI terminology reform, Jason Wright has also argued strongly that SETI is and ought to be a part of astrobiology (cf. “SETI is Part of Astrobiology”). Wright counters the official NASA line that, “Traditional SETI is not part of astrobiology,” by arguing that some of the most obvious signs of terrestrial habitability are Earth’s technosignatures. Wright also points out that NASA arbitrarily excludes technosignatures from “traditional SETI.” Obviously, to the extent that NASA’s exclusion is arbitrary, it is dissatisfying. Given that NASA has been deeply involved with astrobiology since its inception (cf. The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology by Steven J. Dick and James E. Strick, which discusses NASA’s involvement in astrobiology since the term was introduced), if SETI is part of astrobiology, and NASA was present at the foundations of astrobiology, then the case could be made that NASA’s astrobiology program should include SETI as an integral component, organically present ab initio. That is to say, SETI is not some foreign body that has become inexplicably lodged in astrobiology.

However, in a Twitter post, Jason Wright referenced two posts by Dr. Linda Billings, SETI: on the edge of astrobiology and Astrobiology and SETI: different evolutionary pathways, which argue against including SETI under the umbrella of astrobiology. These posts conclude, respectively, “The bottom line is that traditional SETI—using ground-based radio telescopes to listen for signals of extraterrestrial intelligent origin—falls outside the boundaries of NASA’s astrobiology program.” And, “…the history/evolution of exo/astrobiology more closely parallels the history/evolution of planetary protection. Exo/astrobiology and SETI evolved on very different, non-parallel tracks.” Thus the argument whether SETI ought to be considered a part of astrobiology has been made both in the affirmative and in the negative. It seems pretty weak to me to argue that SETI is intrinsically about ground-based observations, as SETI observations from space-based telescopes would be a great boost for the discipline, if only these resources were made available to SETI research. Wright deals with this weakness as one of the erroneous perceptions he identifies that has led to the exclusion of SETI from NASA’s astrobiology portfolio.

Much of this discussion is taking place because SETI is poorly funded, and if government monies were made available to SETI researchers, the discipline could pursue a more ambitious scientific research program. But because SETI has been largely frozen out of government funding through NASA, which would be its natural home (unless, like Billings, we see the National Science Foundation funded ground-based telescopes as the natural home of SETI), SETI funding efforts have taken creative forms. One of these creative ways of doing SETI science on the cheap has been projects that can be described as “parasitic,” “piggyback,” and “opportunistic.” This was taken up explicitly by Jill Tarter in 1984 in “Parasitic, Piggyback and Opportunistic SETI: It’s Cheap and It Just Might Work?”

A year prior, in 1983, the idea was already floated in “The Berkeley parasitic SETI program” by S. Bowyer, G. Zeitlin, J. Tarter, M. Lampton, and W. J. Welch. And since then we have seen, “The SERENDIP piggyback SETI project” by M. Lampton, S. Bowyer, D. Werthimer, C. Donnelly, and W. Herrick (1992) and “An Opportunistic Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) with the Murchison Widefield Array” by S. J. Tingay, C. Tremblay, A. Walsh, and R. Urquhart (2016). The latter paper characterizes their “opportunistic” SETI as follows:

“In this Letter, we present a first, and opportunistic, SETI pilot experiment with the MWA, in the frequency range 103–133 MHz, placing limits on narrow band radio emission toward 38 known planetary systems. The experiment is opportunistic in the sense that the observations were undertaken for a spectral line survey of the Galactic Plane that is ongoing; utility of the data for a SETI experiment was realised post-observation.”

There is a kind of subtle irony in SETI science having to operate parasitically on other projects deemed more fundable, or, at least, projects that would not draw the ire of politicians looking for a soft budgetary target to attack. Arguably, whatever public support that there is for space exploration (and however correct or mistaken it may be to connect space exploration with SETI), derives from the hope, perhaps even the titillating hope, of finding something “out there” that would mean that we are not alone.

I have often said that any excitement over things like exoplanet searches always turns on whether the planets are habitable, any excitement over whether the planet is habitable largely turns on whether we can ever determine whether or not these planets actually have life, any excitement over whether or not we can determine if these planets have life largely turns on whether that life could be intelligent, and any excitement over whether or not this life could be intelligent largely turns on whether we might possibly communicate with or travel to these intelligent beings. Space science, then, is to a large extent an artifact of our cosmic loneliness, and our desire to mitigate that cosmic loneliness.

I’ve read a few candid comments to this effect (I can’t remember the source), and I have no doubt that this is the case. In the same way that conservation biology has an easier time raising money to fight for charismatic megafauna, but has a much more difficult time raising money based on conservation efforts for unattractive animals or very small animals, so too space science efforts do better when they are related to some “sexy” space science topic like aliens — but this has to be done sotto voce, with a wink and a nudge, because NASA, to be taken seriously, must keep up the appearance of high seriousness. NASA’s budgetary choices are held hostage by the “giggle factor.”

In a sense, then, it is space science that is parasitic upon SETI and human spaceflight (which appeals as a source of national pride in accomplishment), which, when the latter dominated NASA and NASA’s budget, took the lion’s share of the money and left little for space science. In recent decades, the focus has been more on space science, and so it is SETI (rather than prestige) which is the unspoken background to what is going on explicitly in the foreground. While I care deeply about space science, and I know how much NASA’s space science programs have transformed our knowledge of the universe, few in the wider public share my sentiments, and they cannot be expected to so share these sentiments. But they can share an interest in the “charismatic megafauna” of astrobiology, which are the intelligent aliens that SETI is seeking.

If NASA can embrace technosignatures as a part of astrobiology, it may find a way to excite the interest of the public while maintaining its scientific respectability. And if that requires a shift in terminology, I suspect that SETI researchers will be ready to make that shift. An article by Lisa Grossman, It’s time to start taking the search for E.T. seriously, astronomers say: Some scientists are pushing for NASA to make looking for alien technology an official goal, notes that Jason Wright is part of a group of scientists who are actively seeking to have the search for technosignatures incorporated into NASA’s next Decadal Survey, which, if successful, would mean federal funding for SETI projects. Everyone is well aware that such funding would transform the discipline, and SETI advocates are now actively campaigning for the funding.

We can already see this transition to the language of technosignatures taking place. For example, if we take as a recent example the paper, “A search for technosignatures from TRAPPIST-1, LHS 1140, and 10 planetary systems in the Kepler field with the Green Bank Telescope at 1.15-1.73 GHz” by Pavlo Pinchuk, et al., we find that “technosignatures” are mentioned repeatedly throughout the text, “extraterrestrial” is mentioned ten times, “SETI” is mentioned a couple of times (as well as in the bibliography, in an internet address, and in a title), “civilization” is mentioned once, and “alien” appears nowhere in the document.

Any scientific discipline, as it evolves, eventually revises its terminology, as it usually begins with imprecise terms taken from ordinary language and eventually settles upon more formalized usages that are defined with scientific precision, and which become the accepted jargon of the discipline. There is scientific precision in spades to be found in SETI research papers. What is wanting in SETI (and in discussions of technosignatures, for that matter) is the conceptual framework within which these terms are formulated. SETI science is strong, but its concepts are often weak and ambiguous, as is evidenced by the recent concern with terminology. I have had this conceptual weakness on my mind for some time, and I hope to be able to write more about this as I clarify my own thoughts on the matter. Others seem to have noted this weakness as well. In a paper that has just come out by Jim Pass of the Astrosociology Research Institute, Exo-Astrosociology and the Search for Technosignatures, Pass notes:

“Unlike with the regard to discoveries associated with the search for biosignatures mostly in our Solar System, which have produced discoveries and insights of tangible value, the research associated with the search for technosignatures is less impressive.”

The charismatic megafauna of SETI—little green men, space aliens, Martians, and their kin—are emblematic of this conceptual weakness, and they could be made more respectable with a prolonged inquiry into and clarification of the conceptual framework within which we discuss the possibility of the emergent complexities we know on Earth—life, sentience, consciousness, intelligence, mind, technology, and civilization, inter alia — also existing elsewhere. If we have gotten the sequence of emergent complexities right, this sequence begins with biology, and so is initially an astrobiological inquiry. However, at some point it becomes an inquiry larger than astrobiology (or, if you prefer, an inquiry no longer narrowly contained within the boundaries of biological thought), and our conceptual framework must expand in order to accommodate this larger domain of inquiry. Explication, then, could play a crucial role in exorcising space aliens and replacing them with a theoretical construction more consonant with NASA’s demand for high seriousness.


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  • ljk February 8, 2019, 14:00


    Machine Vision and Deep Learning for Classification of Radio SETI Signals

    G. R. Harp, Jon Richards, Seth Shostak Jill C. Tarter, Graham Mackintosh, Jeffrey D. Scargle, Chris Henze, Bron Nelson, G. A. Cox, S. Egly, S. Vinodababu, J. Voien

    (Submitted on 6 Feb 2019)

    We apply classical machine vision and machine deep learning methods to prototype signal classifiers for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Our novel approach uses two-dimensional spectrograms of measured and simulated radio signals bearing the imprint of a technological origin. The studies are performed using archived narrow-band signal data captured from real-time SETI observations with the Allen Telescope Array and a set of digitally simulated signals designed to mimic real observed signals. By treating the 2D spectrogram as an image, we show that high quality parametric and non-parametric classifiers based on automated visual analysis can achieve high levels of discrimination and accuracy, as well as low false-positive rates. The (real) archived data were subjected to numerous feature-extraction algorithms based on the vertical and horizontal image moments and Huff transforms to simulate feature rotation.

    The most successful algorithm used a two-step process where the image was first filtered with a rotation, scale and shift-invariant affine transform followed by a simple correlation with a previously defined set of labeled prototype examples. The real data often contained multiple signals and signal ghosts, so we performed our non-parametric evaluation using a simpler and more controlled dataset produced by simulation of complex-valued voltage data with properties similar to the observed prototypes. The most successful non-parametric classifier employed a wide residual (convolutional) neural network based on pre-existing classifiers in current use for object detection in ordinary photographs.

    These results are relevant to a wide variety of research domains that already employ spectrogram analysis from time-domain astronomy to observations of earthquakes to animal vocalization analysis.

    Comments: 31 pages, 7 figures, 4 tables, submitted to Astronomical Journal

    Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

    Cite as: arXiv:1902.02426 [astro-ph.IM]
    (or arXiv:1902.02426v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Gerald Harp Ph.D. [view email]

    [v1] Wed, 6 Feb 2019 23:08:22 UTC (1,266 KB)


    • Alex Tolley February 9, 2019, 13:44

      The SETI ML work seems to be to try to detect [and eliminate?] known signal types in teh data from angel flight signals. I’m surprised that it took so long just to consider 2D spectrograms as a data input. Maybe they can add more signal types to teh training set to act as “uninteresting” filters and farm this analysis method out to a seti@home model.

      What is not clear is what would constitute an interesting, possible ETI, signal. All they have is Figure 4 and a label, but no obvious explanation I can find in the text.

      • Ron S. February 9, 2019, 15:32

        There’s nothing in a spectrogram that you cannot do by directly manipulating the samples in DSP. The spectrogram is a visual aid for humans. What it can do (and I’ve done so) is to allow our pattern recognizing brains to help set and adjust the parameters for a DSP algorithm. For example, to search, lock on and track an event evolving over time. Event classes can be known, or they can be unknown but with interesting and quantifiable features. With appropriate metrics for an event class you can use Bayesian statistics to find and then assign a candidate event to an event class (or null) with good confidence.

        • nn February 11, 2019, 1:32

          Most deep learning research has been done on image recognition. it is a standard technique to leverage that for.other problems by turning their data set into pictures first and then run image recognition algorithms on them. For example speech recognition is commonly done this way. The paper just did the same for seti signals.

          • Ron S. February 11, 2019, 10:26

            But very poorly (by their own admission, at least by 10 db) in comparison to standard techniques. They also advance no good justification that such signals would exist. Standard techniques would find the signal since its SNR is high, after which they could use this and other techniques to decode what they’ve found. But as a search algorithm wading through vast amounts of data? I don’t think so.

            • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 13:29

              I agree. It seems that they have turned “big data” for training, into big data for search. It certainly isn’t clear what their “interesting” category contains, nor why it is interesting. It may just be uncategorizable. Then what?

  • ljk February 8, 2019, 14:06

    Technosignatures at least sounds better than what NASA tried calling its nascent SETI program back in 1992 when they (rightfully) feared being cancelled by a scientifically ignorant U.S. Congress (was that redundant?): HRMS, the High Resolution Microwave Survey. Boring and it did not work.



    Of course this will all be semantics if SETI does not receive the proper funding and support it requires to work as it should.

    A fine and necessary essay, Mr. Nielsen.

    • Nick Nielsen February 8, 2019, 18:02

      Thanks, LJK. I hadn’t previously heard the “HRMS” acronym. It’s boring, yes, but if it had worked it could have deflected a lot of criticism and perhaps even given some plausible deniability. A microwave survey isn’t necessarily about finding SETI’s charismatic megafauna.
      Best wishes,

      • Jason Wright February 8, 2019, 20:38

        Apparently they used to joke the HRMS stood for “He Really Means SETI”.

  • Antonio February 8, 2019, 17:06

    For me, the charismatic megafauna would be METI. Only listening and not speaking doesn’t seem too promising. Worse, if there is no intention to reply any time soon, say during our lifetimes, many people will probably consider all the SETI business pointless.

    • Paul451 February 10, 2019, 12:30

      The problem with METI is that is doesn’t really follow from its own assumptions. If radio-using intelligent life is common enough throughout the galaxy for us to have convenient examples within a couple of light-decades from us, then the galaxy should be _loud_ with communications. OTOH, if those tens to hundreds of millions of civilisations are _all_ staying radio-silent, then there’s presumably a damn good reason, and we should shut up until we know a lot more about what is going on out there via passive observation.

      Either intelligence is rare, and METI is merely worthless. Or intelligence is common enough to be nearby, but staying quiet.

      It makes no sense to believe the latter, but ignore the only message they’ve actually sent us. “Shhhhhhhh….”

      • Antonio February 10, 2019, 18:27

        Your dichotomy is wrong at so many levels… Some of them:

        – That there are frequent communications in the galaxy doesn’t imply that any of those communications are directed in our direction.

        – If all or most civilizations are silent, that doesn’t imply that we should do the same.

        – If all or most civilizations are silent, one of the possible reasons for that (that nobody talks because nobody hears anything) implies that we should transmit.

        • Paul451 February 11, 2019, 4:37

          “That there are frequent communications in the galaxy doesn’t imply that any of those communications are directed in our direction.”

          Wrong. If civilisations are talking to each other, then the culture of the galaxy is to make contact. When the most extroverted civilisations find a planet showing signs of intelligent life, they would send messages to that planet to welcome the newbies to the club.

          Remember, there isn’t going to be just one set of 2 billion year old civilisations. If we are just coming into radio-maturity in the last century, there’s going to have been another civilisation or ten in the century before that, another thousand in the millennia before that. There’ll be a wide and continuous range of ages from us the the oldest. There will be civilisations millions of years old who’ve never known a galaxy without widespread communication. Unless something is silencing them.

          There might be civilisations that don’t make contact, but they contribute nothing to the galactic culture. I don’t use Facebook, so I have no impact on the culture of Facebook users. Hermits don’t influence the culture of the other nations.

          “If all or most civilizations are silent, one of the possible reasons for that (that nobody talks because nobody hears anything) implies that we should transmit.”

          Wrong. Your own dichotomy is false. The choice isn’t between talking-RIGHT-NOW and NEVER-EVER-EVER-talking.

          It’s between choosing to send a tight signal to a planet with known signs of civilisation vs shouting randomly into the unknown “Yoo hoo! Beasties! Come and eat us!”

          We are only just discovering exo-planets. We’ve only had radio for a century. With only a slight improvement in known technology, we can send optical and radio telescopes out to the solar gravitational lens and image the surface of neighbouring exo-planets. Each such telescope is a low-cost interstellar probe. Within a century we will be able to determine the number of life-bearing planets and radio-using civilisations around us. We can _then_ choose whether to contact _those_ civilisations individually. (The gravitational lens also makes a perfect site to transmit, narrow focus over longer distances to a specific target.)

          We can make an informed decision only when we are informed.

          “If all or most civilizations are silent, that doesn’t imply that we should do the same.”

          When you are a child, and the grown-ups are noticeably, weirdly silent, shouting for attention is stupid. You should at least wait until you understand what is going on. Basic common sense says if a situation doesn’t make sense, you should exercise caution.

          METI is childish and selfish, it’s yelling “look at me, look at me, I’m important!” without regard for anyone else on your entire planet, your entire civilisation.

          • ljk February 11, 2019, 11:38

            There are over 7.6 billion human beings on Earth right now, with their numbers growing by 3 every second of every day. You expect every one of them to behave in one particular fashion regarding any subject, especially METI?

            For that matter, you think sending a few random messages into the galaxy is somehow more dangerous to our species and planet than what multitudes of humans are doing to each other right now? Yes, we do need to grow up, but in other more key areas that could do us in long before any hypothetical aliens might.

  • Charley February 8, 2019, 18:01

    from ““Recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on SETI Nomenclature” by Jason T. Wright, Sofia Sheikh, Iván Almár, Kathryn Denning, Steven Dick, and Jill Tarter. ”

    1. n. Deprecated term for extraterrestrial species
    2. adj. Term to be used with care, meaning of or pertaining to extraterrestrial species or
    their technology
    Notes : As a noun, to be avoided for many reasons, including its associations with unscientific portrayals of extraterrestrial life in popular culture and its legal meaning in relation to immigration.”

    “to be avoided for many reasons, … in popular culture and its legal meaning in relation to immigration.”

    Heaven forbid, that we would ever want to refer to immigration…

  • Charley February 8, 2019, 18:08

    Does anyone else agree with me that this whole search for extraterrestrial life, especially the concept that there are ‘greys’, etc. etc. etc. does anyone feel that this is perhaps money thrown down a rat hole? Is there any ACTUAL proof that intelligent life exists elsewhere?
    My reason for talking about this in such straightforward manner is the fact that these are expensive programs in which to engage in in which the possibility of any payback is almost nonexistent.
    It’s one thing to do research and what have you into finding a way to get to other star systems, it’s a whole different ballgame when you think there’s something out there and there’s no proof and you are spending money for that proposition. Jill Tarter has been involved in this, seemingly fruitless chase for now better than 40 years and there is been absolutely nothing to show for.
    Money is precious here, people-and the pie is only going to get smaller in the future, not bigger.

    • Andrew Palfreyman February 8, 2019, 19:49

      Medium cost, low risk, massive reward. Sounds reasonable.

      • Gary Wilson February 9, 2019, 14:51

        If we are to become a true space faring species then listening and looking will be part of it whether we call it a SETI or a search for technosignatures or whatever term is palatable to the various national space agencies. We will be looking outward and eventually we may see something we can’t easily put in the “obvious product of a natural phenomenon” box. I hope we look as hard as we can afford to look at any particular time. We all know what we want to look for, and that is both life and intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. I would wager very few on here think there aren’t both forms out there. Humans are of necessity impatient mainly because of our relatively short life spans possibly. The search will continue. People will analyze data sets that weren’t specifically intended for ETI searches. Even NASA will eventually evolve and possibly even willingly join the various types of searches if Congress becomes more open minded. That might take a couple of years or sadly, longer.

      • Z. Bujandric February 11, 2019, 5:08

        ! Medium cost, low risk, *massive reward. Sounds reasonable.*
        Maybe not.
        Problems with SETI
        Excerpts from Mark A. Sheridan PhD Thesis, Drew University, May 2009: “SETI’s Scope: How the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Became Disconnected from New Ideas About Extraterrestrials”
        [© 2009 by Mark A. Sheridan, All rights reserved]
        #1 – CHAPTER 10: Inflection – Signs of wearying; Paragraphs 5 – 6
        John C. Baird, Dartmouth psychologist:
        If advanced civilizations exist, but in a wildly alien form, located in effect along very different physical, biological, and psychological dimensions, then all the observation time spent at the most sophisticated telescopes will be for naught. The aliens we seek will be going about their business in an alternate universe we are forever prohibited from learning anything about. Once this truth is realized, there will remain little point in continuing the search, since the target civilization will forever lie outside the scope of human comprehension. {orig. ref. 337}
        #2 – CHAPTER 11: Evanescence
        W. H. Calvin, biologist:
        Organisms that evolved under [different circumstances than humans] might have … computing machinery which are quite different from our scenario-spinning, sentence-constructing, music-loving activities. It is difficult to imagine what their ‘consciousness’ would involve instead. {orig. ref. 366}

        Vilmos Csanyi & Gyorgy Kampis:
        Intelligence is understood as an ability of a system to perform goal-directed behaviour on the basis of internal models of its environment. Communication is defined here as an exchange of information related to these internal models. This is shown to be possible only between systems which share a common environ¬ment and construct similar environmental models. Therefore, a direct, meaningful communication with extraterrestrial intelligence is highly improbable. {orig. ref. 367}

        E. J. Coffey, evolutionist:
        A fact too easily forgotten by the physical scientist supports [sic] of SETI is that it is our own human constitution which biases us against appreciation of how truly alien extraterrestrial creatures will be physically, behaviourally, and cognitively. We cannot suppose they will have our concerns, or that what is important to us could be of any real significance to them.{orig. ref. 368}
        Original References in Mark A. Sheridan PhD Thesis
        366 W. H. Calvin, “Fast Tracks to Intelligence: Considerations from Neurobiology and Evolutionary Biology,” in G. Marx, ed., Bioastronomy – the Next Steps, Proceedings of the 99th Colloquium of the International Astronomical Union Held in Balaton, Hungary, June 22–27, 1987 (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988), pp. 244–5.
        367 Vilmos Csanyi and Gyorgy Kampis, “Can We Communicate with Aliens?” in Marx, pp. 267.
        368 E. J. Coffey, “SETI and the Physical Scientists Misconstrual of Evolutionary Biology,” in Marx, pp. 265.

        • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 14:03

          The assumption here is that communication is important. I disagree. Just knowing that ETI exists is of importance. The existence proof of some inscrutable alien civilization would also have an impact on Earth, most likely initiating new religions, but also creating industries determined to mine some gleanings of value from fragments that can be understood, however imperfectly.

          So I think your answer negating the premise is a bit of a red herring.

        • Andrei February 19, 2019, 6:38

          If a civilization exist in a form that we lack the means to detect.
          And we need not assume they be living in other dimensions or having technology we simply cannot imagine.
          It would be enough with a race that have a very low and sensible energy use, such as using optical fibers for communication instead of broadcasting in all directions – we’re about to enter that stage ourselves.
          Wide use of biotechnology could also make them undetectable.
          Neither is not a reason for not looking for the kind of civilization that we can detect. I think it will be a very long search, both in time and distance. And the end result might be negative, even then think it will be worth trying.
          It will tell us how precious life and we are, a people able to observe the universe around us, and how important it is that we preserve ourselves and our planet.

    • Astronist February 8, 2019, 20:40

      The point is not so much that there’s no proof that ETI exists. The point for me is that SETI (or whatever people want to call it) is a badly designed experiment: if it finds a signal which can be attributed to ET, then it has demonstrated that ET exists, but if it fails to find any such signal, then it has demonstrated neither than ET exists, nor that it does not exist.

      A well designed experiment tells you something interesting whichever result you get. But in the case of SETI, the fact that no signal of indisputably ETI origin has been received after 59 years of searching contains no information, except the trivial information that the specific type and strength of signal searched for was not arriving at Earth at the specific time of the experiment.

      One might argue that this puts constraints on the abundance of ETI in our galactic neighbourhood. But given the plausibility of interstellar flight, those constraints are already present in Fermi’s and Hart’s observation that there is no observational evidence of alien activities in our Solar System. So the SETI work done so far has not produced any additional insight into the abundance or lack thereof of ETI in our neighbourhood.

      • Nick Nielsen February 8, 2019, 22:24

        If we were to expand SETI research programs we might be able to significantly constrain the possibility of technological civilizations in the universe, which I think of as SETI as a process of elimination. It’s not just about looking for radio signals, but also looking for night side lights on exoplanets, looking for the technosignatures of spacecraft, whether a Clarke exobelt (cf. Possible Photometric Signatures of Moderately Advanced Civilizations: The Clarke Exobelt) or light-sails (cf. Beyond the SETI Paradigm) or something else, and so on. There is a lot more we could be doing to constrain and thus clarify the presence of technological civilizations elsewhere in the universe. Similar considerations hold for astrobiology and the search for biosignatures.

        Best wishes,


        • Ron S. February 9, 2019, 10:06

          No, Astronist is correct. We can’t constrain the parameters when we have little idea what they are. There is a raft of assumptions in there about how ETI behaves. We have no good reason to believe any constraint we choose is relevant. “Leakage” data such as you suggest will remain exceeding difficult to detect for many years to come and might only work on civilizations undergoing a brief transition, such as we might be within right now. We can search as well as we might using our current understanding and technology, with the humility of knowing it may not be enough.

        • Alex Tolley February 9, 2019, 11:41

          So we don’t see angels in teh sky, so we should look for other evidence – contrails, sonic booms from angel overflights, perhaps lights in the celestial palace?

          The problem with these alternative approaches is that they suffer the same problems. There is no reason to suppose that orbiting structures will outlast civilizations, any more than pyramid tombs will avoid robbery and eventual erosion. Lights, fields, etc. assume that civilizations are contemporaneous and therefore even more transient. They are also going to have to be fairly close too.

          I am not saying don’t look. What I am saying is that all the speculation and paper studies are not unlike medieval philosophers discussing angels standing on pins. At this point the searching on those speculations, and most certainly ignoring unpalatable opinions – that ETI is very rare, and whose light cones not likely to be contemporary with our position, or that they have transcended any physical means for detection by our technology (ants and freeway construction analogy).

          I do think that the search for life is likely to be a lot more fruitful (especially near term), and importantly, will give us a far better handle on whether there is even a basis for assuming that ETI is even out there.

      • Alex Tolley February 9, 2019, 11:25

        What would be your strategy for a good SETI experiment?
        AFAICS, traditional SETI is in the position of marine biologists trying to find deep sea monsters. They take rare trips on ocean-going vessels and try a few fishing attempts. More recently, the “piggyback” approach is like paying commercial fishermen to bring interesting things back to shore for scientific assessment. (After all, that is not so dissimilar in how living coelacanths were found).

        Traditional SETI assumed that there was a “galactic club” of some sort. Tarter et al have assumed that we just haven’t looked long and hard enough. That may be true, or we may be using the equivalent or drums and smoke signals to look for them. It also may be as pointless as hoping for the arrival of an Egyptian papyrus summons to the pharaoh’s palace. We are too late.

        • hiro February 9, 2019, 18:01

          It’s definitely not “galactic club” but it’s more like “hacker club”, we must search in regions equivalent to the dark webs; sadly we’re using very old internet explorer version to find an elite hacker club hiding deep in the dark webs, it ain’t give any positive result in near future.

      • Michael Spencer February 10, 2019, 13:01

        The design of current SETI research – passive listening – is actually a sort of ‘pre-experiment’, and effort to do exactly what Astronist right demands, which is to define parameters. It’s an attempt to wade into a very large ocean, getting some sense of what swims there.

    • Michael C. Fidler February 8, 2019, 23:30

      Sagan warned of this before and with good reason, if our tecno society loses interest in space because of numerous reasons and eventually returns to a dark age because of religion, politics or economic issues we could be left with a long and possibly permanente retreat. It has been 60 years since the first effort at radio signal but in that time our understanding has changed: DNA, Exoplanets, electronics and numerous other discoveries. We have had a extremely limited plan and short time scale for such studies and the looking glass is still on the ground. Space is where any advanced ET will be and long term searches over the full electromagnetic spectrum above the earth’s atmosphere will be the most likely to succeed. The cone of radio, TV and Radar is less the 100 light years in radius. Remember if we do not find them then China or some other expanding country will and possible reap galactic benefits from it. A waste of money! You gotta be Joking!!!

      • Alex Tolley February 9, 2019, 11:52

        Space is where any advanced ET will be

        That is an anthropogenic assumption. It may be that advanced civilizations become much more balanced with the natural world. They may eschew most physical artifacts that cannot be quickly recycled into the biosphere for reuse and focus on other objectives than economic growth and expansion.
        We just cannot know how even we will develop. We are trapped in our [post]industrial age thinking that is a transient period in human history. We space cadets are an extreme fringe of that thinking. So far our dreams of space colonization are as illusory as the ancients hoping to build structures to reach the heavens or millennial lasting empires. The most successful results have come from the sending of robotic probes to explore the solar system. The results have exceeded anything I could have hoped for back in the mid 20th century, and have succeeded as human space colonization has [so far] failed.

        • Paul451 February 10, 2019, 12:51

          “It may be that advanced civilizations become much more balanced with the natural world.”

          What, all of them?

          Because it would only take a few technophile civilisations for that culture to become dominant in the galaxy, simply because they’d be the only ones actively contacting new civilisations, so they’d be the default model of “advanced aliens” for each new civilisation.

          Likewise, it would only take a single energy-hungry civilisation to have spread through our galaxy earlier in history, to have prevented our evolution. Stay-at-home-in-harmony-with-nature civilisations can play no role in that. And it only takes one such energy-consumer in another galaxy to be visible to us by the occlusion of stars in Dyson swarms (or similar energy harvesting).

          • Alex Tolley February 10, 2019, 13:22

            Likewise, it only takes one civ creating replicators or aggressively colonizing the galaxy. So back to the Fermi Question.
            Simple arithmetic shows that economic and energy use expansion of our era is just not sustainable for even 10 millennia. Any civ that spreads through the galaxy will come to an abrupt halt within a short time on a cosmic scale. If they left artifacts, they would be everywhere. We don’t apparently see that. So if there are civilizations out there, they are more likely to last the millions of years terrestrial animal species have, by remaining a viable system within the biosphere.

            • Alex Tolley February 10, 2019, 14:19

              Putting some numbers to my assertion of growth.
              The Sun is approx 2E9x the energy rece1ved by Earth. The galaxy has a similar number of stars, and the universe a similar number of galaxies.
              If we assume constant growth, it takes just 800 years to reach 2E9x at 3% growth rates. So to go from a KII(solar)->KIII (galaxy)->KIV (universe) takes less than 2200 years. At 1% the just over 6000 years. [Assumes c is not a limiting velocity constraint]. We currently use 1/6000th of the sun’s energy reaching Earth, so it will take just ~300 years to reach KI status at 3% growth, and ~900 years at 1%.
              Therefore any civilization as aggressive with growth as we are would fill the universe with Dyson spheres/swarms in less than 10 millennia. A cosmic eyeblink. If c is a constraint, then the galaxy fills in 100,000 years, less than the time since H. sapiens have appeared, and growth was a measly 0.02% once KII status has been reached.

              If ETI was not c constrained, then the only explanation would be that since they started expansion, their light cones haven’t yet reached us. The closer they are, the more contemporaneous they are to us. If c is a universal velocity constraint, then we should see their colonization in the galaxy already, if they are expanding.
              This leaves up with the Fermi Question again, and its many explanations.
              What it does suggest is that our assumptions about ETI having at least one hig tech, visibly expanding culture are either universally wrong, or that absence of evidence is truly evidence of absence.

              • Paul451 February 11, 2019, 4:42

                “This leaves up with the Fermi Question again, and its many explanations.”

                There are only two. They don’t exist or they are being bizarrely quiet.

                • ljk February 11, 2019, 12:44

                  Or maybe they are engaged in their own affairs and cannot be bothered to talk to the primitive little self-absorbed primates crawling all over the planet Sol 3. If they even know we exist at all what with 400 billion star systems spread across 100,000 light years of the Milky Way galaxy to choose from.

    • Antonio February 9, 2019, 4:28

      “Is there any ACTUAL proof that intelligent life exists elsewhere?”

      That’s the whole point of SETI, searching for that proof. You can’t find anything without searching for it.

      • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:03

        Quoting from the landmark 1959 paper that heralded the modern SETI era:


        “The reader may seek to consign these speculations wholly to the domain of science-fiction. We submit, rather, that the foregoing line of argument demonstrates that the presence of interstellar signals is entirely consistent with all we now know, and that if signals are present the means of detecting them is now at hand.

        “Few will deny the profound importance, practical and philosophical, which the detection of interstellar communications would have. We therefore feel a discriminating search for signals deserves a considerable effort.

        “The probability of success is difficult to estimate; but if we never search, the chance of success is zero.”

    • Antonio February 9, 2019, 4:33

      “Money is precious here, people-and the pie is only going to get smaller in the future, not bigger.”

      You couldn’t be wronger.


    • Alex Tolley February 9, 2019, 11:15

      @charley TLDR; So it’s a Snipe hunt?

      • Charley February 9, 2019, 15:42

        @Antonio , I’m so surprised at you here ! Your usually such a levelheaded guy and now you are going off the deep end, as best as I can see. In direct response to your first criticism that searching for SETI will be only fruitful if we actually search for it is the only way forward could not be more wrong. What about the fact that you could spend an eternity searching for SETI , and not be on the same wavelength (here the idea wavelength means crossing spheres of interest, not electromagnetic radiation) as the thing you are searching for, and the civilization you are searching for is only transient. Why not take a passive approach and simply see if what you are looking for comes to find you?
        Point number two is that you claim money is NOT a precious resource, all I can say is; are you kidding me? The majority of the nations of the world now exist in a state of semi-poverty and now even the developed nations are grinding themselves into poverty through unbridled spending. The reasons why countries that are not solvent remain solvent is because they deal in Fiat currency, not real wealth. Wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late.
        @Alex Tolley, your comment “charley TLDR; So it’s a Snipe hunt?”
        is meaningless to me. I don’t understand what
        TLDR or a Snipe hunt is. Those particular abbreviations and words are unknown to me. What for example, is a Snipe hunt?

        • paul thompson February 10, 2019, 7:33

          @Charlie, it may be best to Google some things, rather than tell everyone you’ve not heard of common abbreviations or sayings. Also, I can definately tell that, unlike myself, you do not have an economics degree. Stick to what you know, not what you feel.

          • Charley February 10, 2019, 15:34

            @paul thompson, you are completely right that I do not have an economics degree, unlike yourself. But please tell me how in the world, that you can conclude that we do not have even at this current time a tremendous restraint on this economy and the world in general. I have heard from what I would consider to be considerably reputable sources that the US debt was, even unknown to me, within 120 to 160 trillion dollars. And these are not crackpots who are throwing out numbers just to make sensational news.
            Now I’m just talking about the cumulative debt that this (the United States) country has by itself; other countries which are developed have tremendous obligations to drive their economies to the brink for military and social programs. And you dare to say that I should only stick with what I know and ignore what are apparently open facts?
            Who’s more the realist here, the guy who spouts economics and says others cannot read what is apparently out there OR the guy who isn’t a specialist in economics AND can see what’s clearly in front of their face?

            • Paul Gilster February 10, 2019, 16:04

              US debt at the end of 2019 is projected at $22.7 trillion.

              But this is getting seriously off-topic, so let’s return to the SETI issue the post was about.

        • Antonio February 10, 2019, 18:48

          Charley said:

          “What about the fact that you could spend an eternity searching for SETI”

          That doesn’t disprove what I said. You are giving my sentence just the opposite meaning that it has.

          “If you want to find something, you must search for it” is not the same as “If you search for something, you will find it”. You are reversing the implication.

          “Point number two is that you claim money is NOT a precious resource”

          Again, you are replying to something I didn’t say at all. My graph was clearly a rebuttal of the second part of the sentence I was replying to: “Money is precious here, people-and the pie is only going to get smaller in the future, not bigger.”

          Anyway, regarding the first part, it’s wrong too. There is no such thing as ‘precious’, there is always ‘precious with respect to something’. And, if you compare the present day to any other age in human history, yes, money is pretty much easy to find now (or, alternatively, things are hugely cheap now).

          “The majority of the nations of the world now exist in a state of semi-poverty”

          Totally wrong, hugely and completely wrong. Please search fot the stats for % of people in poverty, people undernourished, etc. before saying such nonsense. Or stick to what you know, as Thompson suggested.

          • Charley February 11, 2019, 22:41

            @Antonio, I NEVER LOOKED at any inserts (or other materials) that you may have posted.
            I only posted back in response to what you had SAID ABOUT ME.
            Sorry, I haven’t seen anything that’s been sought or searched for that proves (so far) the existence of any SETI’s. So far I feel my criticism still holds. And my criticism of the money-finance issue, which involves a vast, complex web of worldwide inter-financial debt dependencies does not engender much hope in me.

    • kph February 9, 2019, 20:35

      Funds spent on SETI are worthwhile. Even if the distances, our limitations are actually insurmountable, so many are inspired to learn. Not only stem areas benefit. Have known a liberal studies department chair with a doctorate in religion, and a history professor, but both started as astronomy majors, seeking answers to the big questions.

      • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:14

        Until the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner came along with his $100 million for SETI via Breakthrough Initiatives in 2015, most SETI (and METI) efforts were on shoestring budgets. A lot of these efforts were done on the side in the scientists’ spare time or going “piggyback” on astronomical instruments, grabbing whatever table scraps fell their way.

        To give just one example, I will have to search for the actual source, but in 2011 Frank Drake was lamenting that the data they were collecting from the ATA was languishing on computers untouched because they did not have the budget to analyze the data. I don’t know if the situation has improved since. Perhaps the very proof we have been searching for is just sitting there waiting for us to find it, yet for a few dollars we are missing out the great discovery of our time.

        Even Milner’s generous gift will only last so long, and I am not aware if there has been a new infusion of cash since. So saying that SETI is draining the economy is wrong to the point of being a bad joke. We have spent pennies on what should be one of the most important efforts taken by humanity in history, yet for most of that time it has been treated as a joke or worse.

        Time to grow up, humans, and recognize what a small part of such a vast reality you are really in.

        • Charley February 11, 2019, 22:46

          @ljk, no one is ever said that SETI is draining the economy . Perhaps what you seek IS ON un-analyzed data sitting on a computer; but what’s been analyzed up this point does not give encouragement.
          Would it not be better to invest in near-term and perhaps futuristic technologies that we have in hand and use the money there? At least then, NASA, which is now on a pretty much shoestring budget could allocate its limited resources to earth-based technologies that may boost interstellar exploration.

          • ljk February 12, 2019, 10:23

            Sure, I am all for investing in technologies that will get us to the stars. I just know that taking it away from SETI is not a good choice as until recently the money those search efforts received were pocket change.

            We can do both, I just do not understand why people think this is an either-or situation? Especially since these fields are on the same side and will need each other.

            You want to take a chunk of change from an organization that has plenty to spare? How about the Department of Defense for starters. Do they really need over one trillion dollars per year as they have been promised? They already get 670 BILLION dollars annually. Why not go after the big targets instead of the little guys?

            • Alex Tolley February 12, 2019, 13:30

              But apparently the DoD has produced an airplane that is invisible, even when standing next to it. I saw POTUS say so on tv. ;)
              For the sheer cost, the F-35 will cost $1.5tn over its lifetime, each unit currently priced at around $100m. That is just one program. The US military spends a vast amount of money, yet as we’ve seen, cyber defense of the US is very poor, so it is failing in what appears to be a blind spot. Militaries tend to fight the last war, and I recall how shocked Britain was when the Argentinians were able to sink British destroyers with French-made Exocet missiles.

              Bottom line is that just maybe some of that military equipment spending should go on peaceful activities. I would happily see diverting the funds for some of those F-35s used to fund more planetary probes that are always fighting for funding, as well as telescopes, and yes, SETI too.

            • Charley February 13, 2019, 3:45

              @ljk, to brief points here, governments don’t run logically-politicians are led around the nose by various departments and sometimes the loudest kid on the block (such as DOD) gets all the goodies. That’s just reality. So, that being the case, what’s left over, even if it’s paltry, is all you have to work it with.
              And if that’s the case, sometimes you have to rob Peter (SETI) to pay Paul (the rest of NASA). That’s just the reality of the world.

              • ljk February 13, 2019, 11:53

                Again, have you seen most SETI budgets? If you are going to rob anyone, at least do it to groups that have actual money.

              • Alex Tolley February 13, 2019, 15:43

                Nasa’s budget is currently about $19bn/yr.

                Here is a nice breakdown and comparison to other budgets:

                As ljk says, best to aim at the big target[s], i.e. the DoD. BTW, there is no reason why the politicians should vote so much funding for the military. They even voted for more than the military was asking for. It is certainly arguable that the US is now in its “imperial overstretch” phase and that foreign bases should be reduced. Supposedly the new-ish base in Iraq is to be maintained as a spy base for Iran. Paring down the DoD’s budget would allow spending on a host of other much-needed programs, including space science and development.

  • Steve Muise February 8, 2019, 19:55

    Seems to be a fair amount of political correctness inserting itself into the dialogue, if I’m reading this correctly. One wonders if whatever technological species we discover will have the same concepts, or appreciate that we humans have tried to classify “them” in a way that doesn’t offend *us*.

    The same holds true for the semantics revolving around the word “advanced”. Here’s the deal: if we can detect large-scale engineering or coherent signals from light-years away, and we can’t engage in those same technical activities ourselves, then the builders are more advanced than we are, even if they engage in what we perceive to be savage and uncivilized behavior. When it comes to ETI I believe that cultural relativism is an appropriate approach, partly because we’d be dealing with the product of an entirely separate evolutionary history and there may be no common ground between the two species.

    • Nick Nielsen February 8, 2019, 22:12

      An interesting possibility is that of a civilization that builds megastructures that we (human civilization) do not build because they are more ambitious than we are. Human civilization might objectively attain a measurably higher level of technological capability and not choose to employ this technology to build a spacefaring civilization—permanent stagnation by choice. A civilization of lower technological achievement might build impressively large structures that would make it visible over interstellar distances as a result of what I call an early spacefaring inflection point.

    • Doug Loss February 9, 2019, 9:34

      I think it’s important to always be aware of the “F” in Nick’s formulation of “advanced”: “x is a more advanced F than y.” There isn’t any overall axis on which you can determine the level of advancement of a culture/society/civilization/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. You have to define what it is you’re measuring to be able to determine which of two or more objects of observation is the more advanced.

  • Robin Datta February 8, 2019, 21:57

    Biointelligence is an aspect of biology; if such biointelligence develops appropriate technology, it could birth a postbiorogic intelligence, a postbiointelligence. In the realm of astronomy such focus would be aspects of astrobiology, viz. astrobiointelligence and astropostbiointelligence.

    If it is organism based on slime molds or mycelia or both with their networked organizations develops intelligence and technology, human concepts of sociality and society and socialism may not be applicable, nor may there be separate instances of flora or fauna.

    Exobiology has exobiointelligence and implicitly exopostbioinlelligence aspects. If panspermia does not pan out, then the variances in nucleotides, genetic code and chirality can be categorized as xenobiology.

    Unless we can theorise intelligence arising de novo in the absence of biology, it will be a part of biology wherever biology is invoked; and likewise by implication postbiologic intelligence.

    • Alex Tolley February 9, 2019, 11:58

      …nor may there be separate instances of flora or fauna.

      There are many marine microorganisms that are both. Complex organisms may achieve this via symbiosis, or commensalism.
      Fast thinking plants like triffids might be interesting…

      • Robin Datta February 9, 2019, 16:57

        Yes indeed, an entire spectrum from eating vegetables – Caught in the Act – to cultivating an internal vegetable garden has been noted: Watching an Endosymbiont Becoming an Organelle?

        In a syncytial slime mold (or in a mycelium extending many square kilometers) there may be no definable separate organisms.

  • Michael C. Fidler February 8, 2019, 23:49

    Here is another form of “technosignatures”, similar to Avi Loeb’s “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”

    Rare Asteroid Has Been Spotted Orbiting The Sun Closer Than Venus.


    Asteroid from ‘Rare Species’ Sighted in the Cosmic Wild.



    Looks like a good place to keep an eye on Earth! (0)

    • Michael C. Fidler February 9, 2019, 18:32

      What if ‘Oumuamua was the first stage to slow down an arriving ship, although 2019 AQ3 seems to have been imaged back to 2015, this high inclination orbit would be a good location to observe earth. ‘Oumuamua came in at a high inclination to the plane of the solar system and if this was an active probe left in space it may of started as a burn to slow down when indications of a solar system are found. The final orbit of the body would similarly have a high inclination, but the ejected stage would still be going at the high speed and exit the solar system. What would be obvious is high inclination orbits of objects in the solar system that where later stages of the braking of a much larger arriving ship with the final orbit of the craft having an orbit similar to 2019 AQ3. This orbit would also have less impact from solar system debris since most of it has a lower inclinations. The ability to observe the planets while being outside the plane of the solar system the majority of the time would seem to be an advantage. This is especially true of the earth since most of civilization activity is north or south of the equator. An orbit interior of most planets would also preclude easy observation of the final ship. Last but definitely not the least is the historical observations of many objects crossing the sun since the 1750’s. Maybe we should be looking back in time to find traces of ET in historical records.

      The Sun and Solar System Debris.
      By William R. Corliss

      AEX1 Object Crossing the Face of the Sun.
      Page 107 to 117

      But then again all those astronomers can not be right, about the numerous StarShips Vulcan! ;-o

    • Harry R Ray February 12, 2019, 10:48

      “Looks like a good place to keep an eye on Earth!”. Two OTHER recently discovered “objects”(i.e., no OFFICIAL “asteroid” designation YET) are even BETTER suited to do so! ZTFO2Rm has a slightly longer orbital period than 2019 AQ3, but its maxima is at 1.0AU(origionally causing astronomers to assume that it was a booster rocket, but a Parker Solar Probe booster has been ruled out, leaving only Beppo Columbo as a realistic booster rocket possibility). A10bMlz is in a trans-lunar orbit(sort of) around Earth. Origionally tagged as “several meters wide but with a mass of less than a kilogram, it was assumed to be just a piece of metal foil torn off a booster rocket at launch, but since it now appears to never get closer to Earth than ~325,000 miles, it may actually be considerably larger than the original estimate. STAY TUNED!

  • Dmitry Novoseltsev February 9, 2019, 5:14

    Rebranding – something like:
    Search of Estimating Technosignatures Influences

  • Harold Daughety February 9, 2019, 15:45

    How far can a modulated RF signal travel in space before it is too faint or too corrupted to be distinguished from random noise? Anyway, ET may have started with fiber optic communication. Maybe ET self-limits reproduction and has never considered migration from his place of birth. We cannot find ET unless he wants to communicate.

    • Nick Nielsen February 10, 2019, 3:09

      The Voyager 1 spacecraft uses a radio transmitter with 22.4 watts of power, powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator that was producing 470 watts of power at launch (it’s probably producing about half that now), connected to a 3.7 meter high gain antenna. We are still receiving its signals from interstellar space. While this is a very small set up, we know exactly where to look for it, and we can use a large high gain antenna on Earth to receive its signal. The further Voyager travels from Earth and we are able to intelligibly resolve its signals, the more we learn about transmitting signals through interstellar space.

      At the other extreme end of the power spectrum, we know that radio signals can be propagated over inter-galactic distances because we can detect radio loud galaxies, and we have recently started tracking Fast Radio Bursts from deep space, some from 3 billion light years’ distance. In case we can’t measure the degradation of the signal, be we know that the signals get through. If one were to employ a crude method of signaling, such as turning the source on and off at regular intervals, it would be possible to send intelligible radio signals over billions of light years.

  • Charley February 9, 2019, 16:18

    Will somebody on here please explain to me the infatuation with SETI ? I mean, I really honestly don’t get it; there’s always the assumption that if creatures from space come to earth, we’re just going to find them to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. How do we know this in advance? Our films and movies always seem to know this, that they are going to come in a benevolent fashion (and give us their unlimited wisdom) OR they are going to render the planet, desolate and sterile because they hate us, and/or they want our resources.
    How do we know that if they arrive that they might just be looking for answers themselves? They might be as dumb as rocks in terms of handling their social situation, even though they’ve mastered spaceflight. We always seem to give omniscient powers either positive or negative to something outside of ourselves simply because it has technology. We might be dealing with the greatest screw ups that ever existed and we might end up having their problems become our problems. Anybody else ever think like this?

    • Michael C. Fidler February 10, 2019, 3:01

      Well so far they have outsmarted us, so you have to give them some credit!

      • Michael C. Fidler February 10, 2019, 6:18

        Mainly, if they come from nearby and are native they would be a million years ahead of us and a million years smarter!!!

      • Charley February 10, 2019, 15:35

        @Michael C. Fidler, yes indeed, they are smarter than us into believing that they actually exist!

    • Nick Nielsen February 10, 2019, 3:21

      Fiction does generally tend to make aliens into something inhumanly benevolent or inhumanly evil (these scenarios yield the greatest drama, hence are the source for for stories), but there are any number of individuals writing about this topic (not people making movies) who have a more measured assessment of what we might find. And there are, of course, science fiction writers who have examined scenarios in which the aliens are just looking for answers, as we are.

      As for explaining the fascination with SETI, that is one of the points of this essay. I put it to cosmic loneliness, although I don’t assume that everyone feels this, or feels it to the same degree. For some it is a passion, while for others it is a shoulder shrug. If you don’t find the possibility of communicating with other intelligent beings that derive from a unique and distinct origin of life event, and who would have their own unique and distinct history, then you belong to the shoulder shrug demographic.

      We don’t know in advance if aliens (if there are any, or if we ever talk to them) will be wonderful or malevolent or neither, but we definitely want to think through these scenarios, since if we ever make a home for ourselves in the cosmos beyond our homeworld, we need to at least make the effort to understand what it is we may find, and we should think about how we should interact with whatever we may find.

      I think it would make a wonderful premise for a story if aliens were technologically advanced in terms of space flight but were utterly tone deaf in terms of social interaction, etc. I think there is a value in developing any scenario we can conceive, which certainly won’t exhaust all the possibilities with which the universe will eventually surprise us. Making the effort will help us to construct the conceptual framework that will eventually make it possible for us to confront the unknown in a rational and scientific way.

      • Charley February 10, 2019, 15:41

        I’m always reminded of the inane comment that was placed in the book and movie “Cosmos” where the woman astronomer makes what seems to be a profound statement in which she says “if there isn’t any intelligent life out there, then isn’t that a tremendous waste of space ? “.
        As if somehow or another that if space is truly empty than that alone is a justification for the reason that IT MUST BE filled with intelligent aliens. Who in the world goes about connecting one silly statement as a justification to prove another statement?
        It’s kind of like saying I have empty pockets with no money in them, and therefore, because I have empty pockets, I MUST be the next winner of the Powerball drawing.

    • AlexT February 10, 2019, 10:17

      It is more like science-imitating religious beliefs or some type of cargo cult (dreams about savior arrival).
      No logic , no homo sapience experience can explain those hopes…

      • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:50

        It is called starting with an idea, then using our imaginations to develop those ideas, combined with conducting science.

        We are human beings, not computers. Sorry if some illogic gets thrown into the mix along the way that bothers you. The goal is still noble. It is certainly better than sitting on our hands and doing nothing because of a few naysayers with limited imaginations.

        As someone once said, it is the radical out-of-the-box thinkers who make progress for us all.

  • Gary Wilson February 9, 2019, 16:21

    We have barely begun the search, and it’s a mighty big universe (I think we should think along the lines of checking out our own tiny galaxy first). Saying we should give up because we haven’t found anything yet, is a bit like two ants saying “well there surely can’t be anything beyond our mighty empire.”

    • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:54

      Oceanographers used to think that the ocean floors were essentially deserts when it came to life, because what creatures could possibly live down there in the cold and dark with all that water pressure over them? That was their thinking based on “logic” and a paucity of brief expeditions into the deep ocean.

      Then we found hydrothermal vents. Plus there are creatures which can and do live down there, clearly well enough to survive and reproduce for ages.

      And don’t forget, until the 1960s geologists though the idea of continental drift was absurd, because of course things as massive as whole continents just do not move around! It was only logical, after all.

      • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:58

        And, oh yeah, until 1920 most astronomers assumed there was only ONE galaxy in the entire Universe, our Milky Way, of course. Those other smudges of light were just nebulae inside our own stellar island.

        1920. Not 1820, not 1620, but 1920.


        Now we know there are at least 2 TRILLION galaxies in the Universe. Just 25 years earlier, we thought there were between 50 and 100 billion galaxies besides our own. And we are still just getting started.

        If we have been this off about something as large and numerous as galaxies, should we wonder at how clueless we still are regarding alien life?

        • Michael C. Fidler February 11, 2019, 22:25

          Well to one up you, if you look at Halton Arp’s continuous creation of mini big bang and forget about the Big Bang Cult you can throw out all that dark energy, matter or what other BS the great Cosmetologist make up to keep it going. Then you would have a nice infinite steady state universe with a infinite number of galaxies and infinite number exterrestrial civilizations! The rings they see around galaxy clusters or the distant mirages of galaxies is not caused by mass but Time in the sense that the galaxy clusters are younger and newer matter in the universe!

          • ljk February 12, 2019, 10:18

            My main issue with the Steady State idea is that it involves matter being continuously created from “somewhere”. Where is this somewhere and why would and does it keep making matter?

            • Michael C. Fidler February 12, 2019, 23:16

              Sorry, from the cores of active galaxies and that forms the quasars – you have to read his books and think backwards from what you have been taught. Like the Taoist masters.
              These three in this order if you really want to understand;

              Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies (1987)
              Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science (1998)
              Catalogue of Discordant Redshift Associations (2003)

          • Alex Tolley February 12, 2019, 14:00

            There are a lot of unexplained phenomena in the universe. The BBC’s long-running “The Sky at Night” series latest episode is about the discrepancy between the 2 main techniques for determining the Hubble constant.

            RE: Arp’s redshift quantization hypothesis. From Wikipedia.

            Redshift quantization is a fringe topic with no support from mainstream astronomers in recent times. Although there are a handful of published articles in the last decade in support of quantization, those views are rejected by the rest of the field.

            Theories need to explain all the observations, not just a few. Certainly there are occaisional paradigm shifts, but is he really another Galileo, or just wrong? I leave that to the astronomer commentators to wade in if needed.

  • Robin Datta February 9, 2019, 20:18

    An ET visitor may not be discrete faunal or floral individuals, but rather a container of spores to seed a mycelial network and datasets on hardware for download to the network at the appropriate phases.

    Those phases would have to be completed to understand that ET.

  • AlexT February 10, 2019, 9:22

    …SETI’s funding challenges…

    …NASA ban on funding SETI…

    …consider funding projects that mention “technosignatures”…

    SETI is poorly funded

    etc., etc., etc., – summary 13 times we can met word funds in discussed article, so in reality it is a PR company to get more funds.

    …it is space science that is parasitic upon SETI

    Wandering what is the SETI achievements, what is a gain for “parasites” from SETI? (may be the key answer is burrie din deprecated SETI terms: Advanced, alien etc. )
    summary – SETI is not a science.
    In connection to the one of discussed documents:

    Recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee

    ​ SETI … a subfield of astrobiology

    Till now method used by SETI to find ETI did not have connection to biology. In same time , today astrobiology – it is virtual science , because it does not have any object/subject to study.

    Civilization … Technology

    all together – due to objective causes are very anthropocentric, we do not know any non-human technology and civilization… How those terms can be applied to ETI life – none (on the planet Earth) knows.

    Advanced ​(technology, species, etc.)
    Deprecated term…

    Till now the answer to the question:
    “how can we decode a message that we will get from ETI?”
    was answered like:
    “The more Advanced ETI will know some secret algorithm that will allows us (less advanced) to decode message.”
    In addition among positive sequences of finding ETI is main argument that Advanced ETI will teach us good things and will give us Advanced knowledge.
    So I can suppose that due to fact, that this terminology has been deprecated – there is no more hope left among SETI activists to find Advanced ETI.
    So there is no more “long time promised positives” …
    Wandering how can we communicate (using our modern technology) with non-advanced (…deprecated…) civilizations :-)
    As sequence there is left only single last benefit from SETI positive result – knowledge that we are not alone.
    So let suppose by default that we are not alone and better spend funds to more scientific projects, like: astronomy, space exploration, new propulsion engines… etc.

  • Michael C. Fidler February 10, 2019, 10:02

    The Fermi Paradox Is Not Fermi’s, and It Is Not a Paradox.
    Despite what you’ll often read, the Nobel prizewinning nuclear physicist never suggested that aliens don’t exist.

    The Drake Equation is perfectly genuine: it was created by astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake. The Fermi paradox, however, is a myth. It is named for the physicist Enrico Fermi—but Fermi never made such a claim.

    I’d like to explain why the so-called Fermi paradox is mistaken, based on my deep-dive research on the topic, because this mistake has inhibited the search for E.T., which I think is worthwhile. It was cited by Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI) as a reason for killing NASA’s SETI program in 1981; the program was restarted at the urging of Carl Sagan, but was killed dead in 1993 by Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV). Since then, no searches in the U.S. have received government funds, even though thousands of new planets have been discovered orbiting stars other than our sun.

    Enrico Fermi, a Nobel prizewinner who built the first nuclear reactor, never published a word on the subject of extraterrestrials. We know something about his views because physicist Eric Jones collected written accounts from the three surviving people present at a 1950 lunch in Los Alamos where the so-called Fermi paradox had its roots: Emil Konopinski, Edward Teller, and Herbert York (Fermi died in 1954).

    According to these eyewitnesses, they were chatting about a cartoon in The New Yorker showing cheerful aliens emerging from a flying saucer carrying trash cans stolen from the streets of New York City, and Fermi asked “Where is everybody?” Everyone realized he was referring to the fact that we haven’t seen any alien spaceships, and the conversation turned to the feasibility of interstellar travel. York seemed to have had the clearest memory, recalling of Fermi:

    “… he went on to conclude that the reason that we hadn’t been visited might be that interstellar flight is impossible, or, if it is possible, always judged to be not worth the effort, or technological civilization doesn’t last long enough for it to happen.”

    Both York and Teller seemed to think Fermi was questioning the feasibility of interstellar travel—nobody thought he was questioning the possible existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. So the so-called Fermi paradox—which does question the existence of E.T.—misrepresents Fermi’s views. Fermi’s skepticism about interstellar travel is not surprising, because in 1950 rockets had not yet reached orbit, much less another planet or star.

    If Fermi wasn’t the source of this pessimistic idea, where did it come from?

    The notion “… they are not here; therefore they do not exist” first appeared in print in 1975, when astronomer Michael Hart claimed that if smart aliens existed, they would inevitably colonize the Milky Way. If they existed anywhere, they would be here. Since they aren’t, Hart concluded that humans are probably the only intelligent life in our galaxy, so that looking for intelligent life elsewhere is “probably a waste of time and money.” His argument has been challenged on many grounds—maybe star travel is not feasible, or maybe nobody chooses to colonize the galaxy, or maybe we were visited long ago and the evidence is buried with the dinosaurs—but the idea has become entrenched in thinking about alien civilizations.


    So there you have it.

    “Fermi’s skepticism about interstellar travel is not surprising, because in 1950 rockets had not yet reached orbit, much less another planet or star.” He passed away in 1954, so what do YOU think he would say in this day and age when we are seriously looking at interstellar flight to the nearest stars???

    • Paul451 February 10, 2019, 13:19

      Fermi’s Paradox isn’t a claim that ETI doesn’t exist.

      It’s the observation of two seemingly contradictory facts: 1) We exist. There seems to be nothing special about our existence, there’s lots of stars, therefore others should be common. 2) We exist. We were allowed to develop, unmolested by other civilisations, for the entire multi-billion year existence of our perfectly nice planet.

      Our existence doesn’t make sense given our existence. Hence “paradox”.

    • Gary Wilson February 10, 2019, 15:06

      Thank you Michael for clarifying the subject of the Fermi Paradox. I often wondered if Fermi had been misconstrued or misunderstood with his statement. I think Fermi was intelligent enough not to write off the possibility of ETI just because they haven’t visited us! What an amazing demonstration of human hubris. Intelligent species don’t exist anywhere else in the universe because they haven’t come to Earth and displayed themselves in an obvious way to us! Hilarious!

      • ljk February 11, 2019, 11:08


        Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.
        Email: misra@meteo.psu.edu*

        No present observations suggest a technologically advanced extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) has spread through the galaxy.
        However, under commonplace assumptions about galactic civilization formation and expansion, this absence of observation is
        highly unlikely. This improbability is the heart of the Fermi Paradox. The Fermi Paradox leads some to conclude that humans
        have the only advanced civilization in this galaxy, either because civilization formation is very rare or because intelligent
        civilizations inevitably destroy themselves.

        In this paper, we argue that this conclusion is premature by introducing the “Sustainability Solution” to the Fermi Paradox, which questions the Paradox’s assumption of faster (e.g. exponential) civilization growth.

        Drawing on insights from the sustainability of human civilization on Earth, we propose that faster-growth may not be sustainable on the galactic scale. If this is the case, then there may exist ETI that have not expanded throughout the galaxy or have done so but collapsed. These possibilities have implications for both searches for ETI and for human civilization management.

        Keywords: Extraterrestrial life, SETI, life detection, galactic colonization


        • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 13:54

          It may be that civilizations that “live fast” die young. When humans were constrained by Malthusian limits like the rest of the natural world, H. Sapiens survived (possibly barely) for over 100,000 years of prehistory. We survived in a Malthusian state of civilization for 10,000 years of history. Yet within a quarter of a millennium since the start of the Industrial Revolution, we are always on the brink of self-destruction, possibly returning us to that Malthusian state. What is certain, is that the growth we have experienced in the last few centuries is not sustainable once we fill up the solar system and become a KII civilization. Material and energy growth must then come to a virtual halt. Without a major change in our systems, it seems inevitable that civilization will return to those deeply unequal conditions of the past, perhaps punctuated by revolutions to redistribute wealth and restart the accumulation again in different hands.

          I find it hard to believe that any advanced ETI will not understand this and try to expand as fast as possible, knowing the consequences of eventual stagnation on accomplishing its goals.

          If there is to be a galactic civilization started from Earth, either post-humans learn to discard much of their primate biology determined past or artificial intelligences will become the de facto dominant civilization. Maybe it will be a combination of both. Civilizations depicted by Asimov’s Foundation series or Star Wars do not seem attractive to me.

    • ljk February 11, 2019, 11:26

      With all due respect to Enrico Fermi, just because he was a great physicist does not mean he was an expert on extraterrestrial life. This same attitude of genuflecting before an expert no matter what they pronounce upon, even when the subject is way outside their field of expertise, is how and why we end up spending decades fretting over their thoughts on subjects like the motives of alien minds.

      We have a much more recent example that this hero worship of smart people and clinging to everything they say has not gone away: Stephen Hawking declared in 2010 that if advanced ETI found us, they would do to us what Columbus did to the Native Americans circa 1492. His idea that these aliens would use up their whole solar system first, then get in big multigenerational spaceships and go roaming the galaxy to do the same thing to other star systems is essentially the plot to the 1996 science fiction film Independence Day.

      • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 13:35

        Fortunately for us, the alien’s cybersecurity was crap, and they allowed for a single point of failure, and so Earth survived. Ever since Well’s “War of the Worlds” aliens seem to forget some simple thing that dooms their dreams of conquest. Even Vogons were smarter than that.

        • ljk February 11, 2019, 15:20

          Yes, it was indeed amazing that a human-made computer virus written in circa 1996 was somehow compatible and able to infiltrate and destroy an alien computer equivalent and all of its dependent technology. And all this done by two humans in a stolen spacecraft who were able to get inside the aliens’ WorldShip and get back home alive.

          The sequel was just terrible in comparison, by the way.

          Speaking of The War of the Worlds, Wells said that the Martian environment no longer contained microorganisms such as bacteria, so the intelligent Martians “forgot” all about them and were thus unprepared for those little things that God in His wisdom had planted all over Earth ready to take out any alien invaders.

          I have trouble imagining a world where biological evolution took place that would not have their equivalent of tiny little germ creatures and the like. Or is it just because I don’t get off Earth much?

          • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 18:24

            So the moral of the story is that invading aliens should do a lot of due diligence and spend a lot of time collecting data locally. Therefore any invading ETI should have its spies among us long before they send their starships if they hope to be successful.

          • hiro February 11, 2019, 19:55

            Well the Culture decided that Earth was worthless anyway. Banks wrote Excession when he thought about the encounter of “outside context problem” from the Culture’s side. Even though we have expected ETI for quite some time, we’ll probably still receive “culture shock” if something showing up is just too weird to describe.

            • ljk February 12, 2019, 10:10

              Even if there are millions of inhabited worlds and many of them are Earthlike, we will still be unique and of some value in that regard alone. I doubt any two worlds anywhere will be identical, especially in terms of biological natives.

  • Alex Tolley February 10, 2019, 14:31

    It really doesn’t matter what Fermi really thought. The term “Fermi Question” or “Fermi Paradox” is now a label for any speculation on the apparent absence of evidence of ET. Whether they arrive in flying saucers on the WH lawn, or the stars show clear evidence of megastructures or von Neuman replicators are everywhere, that lack of evidence [so far] is a question that needs answering.

    IMO, the Fermi question is not unlike the Loch Ness Question. If Nessie is real, then there should be evidence of a breeding population and abundant skeletons locally since the KT event. For the religious believer, there is the God Question. If God is present, then where is the unequivocal evidence of miracles that are real, prayers that are answered, etc. Nessie is, IMO, easy to dismiss. God far less so, yet it seems to me that the motivation for building telescopes to search for ETI (not just life) is not dissimilar to building cathedrals to better communicate with God (assuming it wasn’t just to maintain the power of priests).

    • Gary Wilson February 13, 2019, 12:49

      Again, it is very difficult to prove the negative Alex, i.e. there is no God. I would say the preponderance of evidence suggests there is no God and as Dawkins has written there is no need for one. Nature itself seems perfectly acceptable as an awesome creation to me, without the need of a hairy thunderer etc.

  • Randy Chung February 10, 2019, 14:34

    Here’s a new idea:
    “Dark matter could be detected by firing microwaves into space”
    This proposed search for dark matter axions could become an inadvertent METI project!

    • ljk February 11, 2019, 11:46

      We already have been conducting several forms of inadvertent METI for decades. Two of them are the radar beams we have been sending into deep space, both for analyzing NEOs and military operations. Three if you count the Moonbounce experiments which began in the 1940s.

      Yes they are randomly targeted in terms of galactic scales, but they are powerful. While they also do not contain any actual information, they would indicate to a suitable ETI that they are artificial in origin.

  • Gary Wilson February 10, 2019, 15:11

    Is it not possible that there are many, many intelligent species in our own galaxy who are not yet capable of interstellar flight? It seems to apply to us so just possibly it applies to others as well? As far as I know no warp drive has been developed by us or even been demonstrated in a practical way to be possible. Possibly alien intelligences are having the same difficulty? Let’s focus on learning what we can of the possibility of both life and ETI and stop arguing semantics or making silly claims that support what is still thought of as the Fermi Paradox.

    • AlexT February 10, 2019, 16:19

      It seems to apply to us so just possibly it applies to others as well?

      There is huge problem in your argumentation – age of stars in our Galaxy very different, there is lot of older than the Sun there is lot of young stars. So supposed unlimited quantity of civilization must have different age, as sequence different technological ability. So where is more Advanced than we are? (remember Advance in SETI is deprecated :-))

      many intelligent species in our own galaxy who are not yet capable of interstellar flight?

      If multiple civilizations have different level of technology – including more advanced than we are – this automatically means that interstellar flight are impossible or advanced civilizations avoid space travels (very frightening “fact”).

      …silly claims that support what is still thought of as the Fermi Paradox …

      It is not so silly, just open your mind to possibility that:
      – intelligent life is not spread widely in our galaxy, or
      – we are alone on a current time scale, or
      – interstellar travel and interstellar communication between intelligent beings are impossible

      • Michael C. Fidler February 10, 2019, 23:54

        I do not know about you, but I would like to live as long as possible and I think any other sentient beings would feel the same way. You forget we live only a short life of less then a hundred years and advanced civilizations could live in the millions of years. The wisdom of that kind of age would seem to preclude a young and inexperienced species such as us. They may let us see things that they or others developed when at our class and age, but not at their advanced age now because as they have found and understood what it can due to a baby cultures. So stop crying about being alone and take what amounts to a given from above, if you can see beyond your short noses!

        • AlexT February 11, 2019, 15:22

          This Your comment is full of faith and far from science.

          … stop crying about being alone …

          To make whole text little bit less religious, word “crying” should be replaced by “indifferent” in this context.

      • Gary Wilson February 11, 2019, 14:35

        My apologies for using the word silly. I still think we are hardly in the position to decide one way or another whether other intelligent species exist in our galaxy (or even a tiny part of it). If we finally are able to effectively look at planets around other stars (by this I mean scan properly for biosignatures) and we get to a sample size of something on the order of 1,000,000 planetary systems (a tiny, tiny fraction of the probable number of planetary systems in the galaxy) and we see no signs of biological life anywhere in our neighbourhood then I might begin to be convinced that extraterrestrial life of any kind is rare. If life is not rare (say we find biosignatures around 100 of the 1,000,000 planets surveyed) then evolution will occur and intelligent life of some kind will eventually arise. I understand that many stars are older than ours and some of those intelligences may already have died off (as we will at some point in the future) but in a galaxy of 400 billion stars there will be concurrent civilizations. Whether we can find any of them and attempt communication is a different matter. If only light wasn’t so darned slow! :)

        • Gary Wilson February 11, 2019, 16:27

          Good arguments AlexT. I think your point that interstellar travel and communication between intelligent beings might be impossible also cannot be proven. It is very difficult if not impossible to prove the negative. We could only hope that it is not impossible, but we will never know unless we find or communicate with someone else whether the positive answer is possible. This is one of the difficulties with the whole SETI, ETI research discipline. You have to love the quest for knowledge and not worry so much about getting negative answers for long periods of time. We may never find anyone out there but we definitely won’t find anyone if we don’t look, and explore and be thrilled by the scope of our universe.

          • AlexT February 11, 2019, 18:09

            It is very difficult if not impossible to prove the negative

            Yes, it is impossible , at least on our current civilization level.

            …This is one of the difficulties with the whole SETI…

            The main problem with SETI, that it claimed to be science, when it is not science. In discussed article SETI propose to be branch of astrobiology :-) When if you will analyze carefully used (till now) in SETI instruments and methods – you will find that it is close to Radio astronomy…

            …ETI research discipline…

            It is hard to research things that are not known exist or not :-)

            • ljk February 12, 2019, 10:37

              Of course, because everything that has happened in the history of science was known beforehand, so no one bothered to search for things if they had no proof of their existence.

              Amazing logic you have there. The scientists who did and do subatomic physics will be amazed and relieved to learn this.

            • Gary Wilson February 12, 2019, 11:33

              Yes, you are right again AlexT. SETI has not yet proven itself, unless you count things like the WOW signal to be genuine data points. This is going to take time. Possibly a very long time. I think we should find biosignatures within the next fifty years if such signatures exist nearby but that may have to suffice for a very long time.

              • AlexT February 12, 2019, 14:48

                I think we should find biosignatures within the next fifty years

                I can agree, probably things that supposed to be biosignatures will be found during this period, but it is not SETI search area, it will be done by astronomers.
                By the way biosignatures do not mean automatically life existence, there is big distance between biosignatures and strong prove of ET life existence.

              • AlexT February 12, 2019, 16:17

                By the way if ETI exists – we will find it, and SETI (in form it existed till now) is absolutely not required to do so.
                Space exploration using traditional scientific methods: astronomical and biologic researches, combined with visiting of distant worlds will do that job perfectly.

                • Gary Wilson February 13, 2019, 12:43

                  I guess we could say that if life exists nearby, we will probably eventually find it AlexT. And yes biosignatures are definitely not proof of life, just a starting point for where to look more carefully. Eventually we will have something definitive for extraterrestrial life but it may take a long time. I hope not as I would like to live to see it!

  • Michael C. Fidler February 10, 2019, 18:56

    Well there’s one way that this could be cleared up quickly and that the public would love. Reopen Project Bluebook without military or Nasa or any other organizations that have written it off. It would have a balanced group of serious scientist, researchers and investigators all of which currently exist with a budget of several billion dollars and would include SETI, Tecno Signatures and any other serious projects concerned with direct contact with intelligent life in the universe. This is what Fermi was talking about, the actual evidence of it.

    • Michael C. Fidler February 10, 2019, 19:06

      Shakespeare in The Tempest (2:2), “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

  • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:25

    Encyclopedia Galactica: How Carl Sagan helped turn an alien obsession into iconic space art

    In the 1970s, famed astronomer Carl Sagan and space artist Jon Lomberg, who contributed art to Voyager’s Golden Record, collaborated on a unique set of images that are now available as an exclusive poster from Astronomy.

    By Jon Lomberg | Published: Friday, February 8, 2019

    How might human civilization be recorded in a galactic encyclopedia?

    Encyclopedia Galactica is the compilation of a series of paintings by award-winning artist Jon Lomberg, in collaboration with the late astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan. Below is the story of Encyclopedia Galactica, told by Jon Lomberg himself.


    • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 13:25

      How might human civilization be recorded in a galactic encyclopedia?

      [mostly] harmless.

      • Antonio February 11, 2019, 17:33

        Hey, I got that reference! XD

  • ljk February 11, 2019, 10:34

    While Americans get lost in their endless little debates and squabbles over semantics instead of doing and supporting actual scientific research, China – with the now largest single-dish radio telescope on Earth – has openly declared their determination to be the first to detect ETI:


    • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 13:23

      Interesting start to an article that eventually wanders of into wild flights of fantasy. Liu Cixin’s views fit well with the anti-METI proponents. However, it is all speculation at this point. We have no idea yet whether there is a forest or a desert out there.

      I think the more interesting point is that China is currently generating enough excess wealth to allow spending on such massive projects like giant radio telescopes and particle colliders. They may turn up nothing and prove white elephants, but it signals to the world that China is a nation to be recognized. During Carter’s presidency it was forecast that we would be in a multi-polar world by now. That didn’t happen. What seems to be happening is that it will become a bi- or tri-polar world in the near term, with China gaining ascendancy again. If China were to put a radio telescope on teh lunar farside, or leave Chinese footprints on Mars, then good luck to it. Maybe that will stimulate some desire to compete in that sphere by other nations.

    • Charley February 12, 2019, 12:05

      @ljk, China – is openly declaring its wanders into wild flights of fantasy.

      • ljk February 12, 2019, 13:02

        What are you talking about? Please provide examples.

        • Charley February 12, 2019, 15:38

          @ljk, I was playing off in part the comment by Alex Tolley right below your initial comment, where Alex Tolley says the following “Interesting start to an article that eventually wanders of into wild flights of fantasy.”
          In short, I was being facetious, and I was also giving a rather mild rebuke to what you been saying about how we’re falling behind China in its search for SETI.
          I seriously doubt that even if China declares it intends to use its radio telescope to do a dedicated search for aliens it’s going to find them.
          I’m in no fashion enamored by China’s space program. Everybody is agog-agog these days by China’s space program. Why? They’re not doing anything that the United States couldn’t or wouldn’t do, but everybody is acting like they’re just wonderful.

          • Gary Wilson February 13, 2019, 13:01

            I think in part people are excited because it is becoming a multi-polar world Charley. There are several powerful space programs around the globe now, not just the U.S. and Russia anymore. It’s a good thing I think as long as we don’t take our aggressive tendencies into space and turn it into another battleground. Personally, I would prefer to see a total international effort to put humans on Mars and make sure no nation claims part of the planet as its own. We should treat it as we do Antarctica. All decisions about what happens on the planet should be governed by an international commission. Eventually naturally some humans would try to subvert the process for their own benefit but we should try. Unfortunately that “subverting the process thing” seems to be very much alive and well in many countries right now. Let’s hope for a return to rational behavior based on evidence based knowledge. Fingers crossed.

  • Gary Wilson February 11, 2019, 14:43

    These discussion bring to mind what I think was a relevant excerpt in one of Clarke’s books in which a group are looking at a holographic representation of the galaxy. In it the number of intelligent, space faring species on planets in the galaxy light up in a time frame proportional to the length of time that particular civilization survived, with 1 second representing something like 100,000 year and so on. The galaxy in the hologram shows only dozens or scores of lights appearing and then growing dark in seconds, and tens of seconds or at least along those lines. How often would those few species actually be able to meet or even learn of each other’s existence? This does not taken into account the concept of long lived artificial intelligences. I don’t know what Clarke thought might have happened to them. :)

    • Antonio February 11, 2019, 17:29

      People seem to take for granted that all ETI species/empires/civilizations will become extinct and be substituted by other unrelated ones and the cycle repeat itself again and again and again… But I never saw anybody stating a good reason why a species mastering interstellar travel and living in hundreds of stelar systems would become extinct, nor any plausible scenario for how it can happen.

      At most, they make vague references to Cold War and the nuclear war danger here on Earth, but truth is, we are not extinct yet, and even current arsenals couldn’t wipe out the entire human race in any plausible scenario.

      • Alex Tolley February 11, 2019, 18:16

        It depends on what you call civilization. If we take classic examples, Egyptian, Roman, etc, these civilizations last few millennia at most and then they are replaced by the next civilization. If we take human civilization as the sum total, then we are taking perhaps 10-15 millennia. But millions of years?

        Animals species last perhaps 1-10 million years before they go extinct. So a civilization that continues for perhaps 100m years might be based on many species, with varying populations.

        Humans are likely to start serious genetic manipulation and speciating within the next millennium unless it becomes taboo. We may even replace ourselves entirely with our creations. So even the “human” civilization would come to an end.

        The galaxy is billions of years old, older by far than all complex life on Earth. It seems improbable that a galactic civilization could retain enough coherence over that time to remain a single civilization, even in the broadest terms of the word. Any civilization thaat needs to keep growing will inevitably reach stagnation and then probably self-destruct, allowing a new, growth orientated civilization to emerge.

        • Gregor February 11, 2019, 21:31

          Toynbee: Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.

        • Michael C. Fidler February 12, 2019, 11:11

          The idea of a civilization or group of civilizations conquering thru the galaxy over relatively short time periods sounds to much like an infectious disease. This might be better profiled under the biological aspects as the example of yeast having enough food will be expanding forever. You could even put it on the human scale that we would not need lightspeed ships because the population explosion will cause us to be expanding at the speed of light in the not too distant future!
          They could be like the mayans or aztecs and just keep building on top of the temples till you have thousands of integrations, that would help keep them from having to reinvent the wheel over and over again. Any advanced species would be curious like we are and would already of found out what caused earlier species to collapse. What really matters is our inability to get a perspective of what alien races would be like. The reality is that any thing we project out for them has already been thought of over and over again possible within the first 1/2 billion years of the universe. ( If it is not infinite) Our scenarios and even the artifacts have been found, studied and probably stored in many places and forms for safe keeping. So we may be dealing with a 14 billion year old legacy and that’s why I bring up the question of time, in both lifespan of the individual and what their culture developed. Even on earth the time capsules or the LEM’s on the moon will far outlive us and possible our culture and species but any other species would be able to learn and profit from it even if we disappear tomorrow. But enough for tonight, just remember that no one has lived outside of the kingdom of the earth/moon system so our perspective is like that of a baby.
          The movie 2001 A Space Odyssey addressed it well and the starchild at the end will actually occur when mankind has complete contact with ourselves! (In the sense of full internet coverage of the planet and what it will eventually mature into.) ;-}

          • Michael C. Fidler February 12, 2019, 11:35

            Getting some perspective on aliens; I believe the average Joe’s net worth over his productive lifetime is something like 1 to 2 million dollars. Now a single alien that lives for a million years net worth would be on the scale of all of the earth’s net worth including every human and any life on earth plus all the mineral wealth including the moon. So now you know why they do not want to dirty themselves with a little backward species on an small planet! We are actual a billionth world on their scale compared to our 1st 2nd and 3rd world! So put that in your pipe and smoke it! :-)

      • Gary Wilson February 12, 2019, 14:43

        Are you sure about that Antonio? There are still about 14,485 nuclear warheads on Earth. If a total exchange occurred we would be back to the Stone Age if we were lucky.

        • Michael Fidler February 12, 2019, 17:09

          Or one large comet!

      • hiro February 12, 2019, 19:46

        A-bug-collapse without any doubt will kill us all.

  • Gary Wilson February 11, 2019, 16:29

    Fantastic article and discussion. Thank you so much Nick (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Nick).

    • Nick Nielsen February 12, 2019, 1:31

      You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it. You’re welcome to call me Nick.

      • Michael Fidler February 12, 2019, 17:14

        Yes, It brings out the best and the worst in us, as such a deep subject should. Thank you, Nick.

  • Gary Wilson February 11, 2019, 16:55

    I see Mars One has declared bankruptcy. It just didn’t make sense from the beginning to me. Some very brave people tried to volunteer to make the trip but who was going to provide the launch vehicle, crew capsule, supply ship, etc. etc. ?

    • Michael C. Fidler February 12, 2019, 10:26

      R.I.P., Who was going to provide the coffins?

      On a lighter note of news of interest:

      A Possible Second Large Subglacial Impact Crater in Northwest Greenland.

      “Following the discovery of the Hiawatha impact crater beneath the northwest margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet, we explored satellite and aerogeophysical data in search of additional such craters. Here we report the discovery of a possible second subglacial impact crater that is 36.5‐km wide and 183 km southeast of the Hiawatha impact crater. Although buried by 2 km of ice, the structure’s rim induces a conspicuously circular surface expression, it possesses a central uplift, and it causes a negative gravity anomaly. The existence of two closely spaced and similarly sized complex craters raises the possibility that they formed during related impact events. However, the second structure’s morphology is shallower, its overlying ice is conformal and older, and such an event can be explained by chance. We conclude that the identified structure is very likely an impact crater, but it is unlikely to be a twin of the Hiawatha impact crater.”


      Two interesting arXiv on the Trappist 1 system:

      Tidal Heating and the Habitability of the TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets.

      Context. “New estimates of the masses and radii of the seven planets orbiting the ultracool M-dwarf TRAPPIST-1 star permit improved modelling of their compositions, heating by tidal dissipation, and removal of tidal heat by solid-state convection. Aims. Here, we compute the heat flux due to insolation and tidal heating for the inner four planets. Methods. We apply a Maxwell viscoelastic rheology to compute the tidal response of the planets using the volume-weighted average of the viscosities and rigidities of the metal, rock, high-pressure ice and liquid water/ice I layers. Results. We show that TRAPPIST-1d and e can avoid entering a runaway greenhouse state. Planet e is the most likely to support a habitable environment, with Earth-like surface temperatures and possibly liquid water oceans. Planet d also avoids a runaway greenhouse, if its surface reflectance is at least as high as that of the Earth. Planets b and c, closer to the star, have heat fluxes high enough to trigger a runaway greenhouse and support volcanism on the surfaces of their rock layers, rendering them too warm for life. Planets f, g, and h are too far from the star to experience significant tidal heating, and likely have solid ice surfaces with possible subsurface liquid water oceans.”


      Stellar energetic particles in the magnetically turbulent habitable zones of TRAPPIST-1-like planetary systems.

      “Planets in close proximity to their parent star, such as those in the habitable zones around M dwarfs, could be subject to particularly high doses of particle radiation. We have carried out test-particle simulations of ~GeV protons to investigate the propagation of energetic particles accelerated by flares or travelling shock waves within the stellar wind and magnetic field of a TRAPPIST-1-like system. Turbulence was simulated with small-scale magnetostatic perturbations with an isotropic power spectrum. We find that only a few percent of particles injected within half a stellar radius from the stellar surface escape, and that the escaping fraction increases strongly with increasing injection radius. Escaping particles are increasingly deflected and focused by the ambient spiralling magnetic field as the superimposed turbulence amplitude is increased. In our TRAPPIST-1-like simulations, regardless of the angular region of injection, particles are strongly focused onto two caps within the fast wind regions and centered on the equatorial planetary orbital plane. Based on a scaling relation between far-UV emission and energetic protons for solar flares applied to M dwarfs, the innermost putative habitable planet, TRAPPIST-1e, is bombarded by a proton flux up to 6 orders of magnitude larger than experienced by the present-day Earth. We note two mechanisms that could strongly limit EP fluxes from active stars: EPs from flares are contained by the stellar magnetic field; and potential CMEs that might generate EPs at larger distances also fail to escape.”


  • Gary Wilson February 12, 2019, 14:40

    Trappist 1-d and e look more and more interesting. Do we have any further studies of the system underway that might give us further clues to the actual type of planets we’re dealing with? It’s only 39.5 light years away. Possibly we should send them some RF messages just in case? :) As long as they have Babel Fish they should understand our communications perfectly.

    • AlexT February 12, 2019, 16:48

      Direct visit and contact with ETI leave change to dual side communication, without elementary knowledge about ET beings – there is no chances to decode distant message from unknown beings with unknown biology and evolution history living on unknown territory in unknown conditions with very slow information exchange rate…

    • Michael Fidler February 12, 2019, 17:21

      Or we could just send them a copy of Google translater. :+)

      • AlexT February 14, 2019, 11:45

        Yes, send them link to this translator, internet connection with 79 years ping will work “perfectly”, ETI will quickly understand us.

    • Harry R Ray February 13, 2019, 10:34

      A symposium dedicated ENTIRELY to the TRAPPIST-1 system will start on March 19’th and run for an ENTIRE WEEK! Before we start to renew our interest in TRAPPIST-1d and TRAPPIST -1e, we need to hear from Ramses Ramirez, who has several times expressed deep pessimism about the possible abundance of water on ANY of the seven planets on this website. I hope that he will present his case IN DETAIL at this symposium so that his arguments can start to undergo scrutiny by his peers.

      • Gary Wilson February 13, 2019, 12:36

        Thank you Harry. I will be looking forward to that.

      • ljk February 13, 2019, 18:57

        TRAPPIST-1 Conference home page:


        TRAPPIST-1 | 11-14 June 2019 | Liège, Belgium

        Towards the comparative study of temperate terrestrial worlds

        Forty light-years away in the Aquarius constellation lies a tiny Jupiter-sized star so cold that emits nearly no visible light, and so little massive that it is barely a star at all. Discovered in 1999, the feeble star remained overlooked until 2015, when an international team of astronomers observing it with the TRAPPIST robotic telescope discovered several Earth-sized worlds around it.

        In 2017, more observations revealed that the star, nicknamed then TRAPPIST-1, is the host of an amazing compact system of seven terrestrial planets. Based on their rocky nature and on the amount of light that they receive from their star, at least three of these worlds are potentially habitable, i.e. could harbor water in liquid form, and maybe life, on their surfaces.

        This miniature planetary system is unique in many ways: its sheer number of Earth-sized planets, their complex resonant dynamics, the very-low mass of their “ultracool” host star, and their suitability for atmospheric characterization. TRAPPIST-1 provides us with the unique opportunity to perform the detailed comparative study of seven temperate terrestrial exoplanets, and, maybe, to reveal the presence of life beyond our solar system.

        This multidisciplinary conference aims to gather scientists involved or interested in the study of TRAPPIST-1, to enable them to share their most recent observational and theoretical results about the system, and to discuss its astrobiological importance and its future characterization with upcoming giant ground- and space-based facilities.

  • wdk February 12, 2019, 22:47

    If this is a rough recap: there are semantic issues about looking for extra terrestrial intelligence and they are very fundamental. Such as, what constitutes intelligence and how do you know a signal or E-M emission demonstrates it?

    What if it is the equivalent of a cosmic frog chorus? That’s not intelligence, but that would be better than an empty universe, right?
    If we are lucky, we might get Cetaceans. Maybe in Cetus?…

    But to a certain extent, we are hoping that we will detect something like us. Someone or something we can communicate with. Otherwise: the good news could be that we detected and communicated with extra terrestrial life – something as massive as Fred Hoyle’s Black Cloud. The bad news is that it is diverting and heading this way, to arrive in say 500 years – and needs a braking mechanism.

    Or civilizations just keep their heads down if they want to survive, because the galaxy might be like a terrestrial jungle – just with slower predatory reflexes.

    Or, you could assume something so close to our nature that the only explanation is that some other aliens kidnapped them millenia ago and that’s why they are trying to contact us via the radio spectrum.
    They are really us. You don’t believe that, but our means of communicating with ET is best adapted for that prospect.

    In between it might be that “they” are like us socially but not physically.
    For example, we might intercept an invoice from a warehouse for some
    home furnishings transmitted between two bat-like creatures ( wings, they hang upside down and use sonar). You look at the signal and you’re really going to have a hard time making heads or tails out of it.
    As they would have with our bills of lading. But it could be worse here too, since we might intercept their discussion of philosophy.

    The absence of signals might mean that the “great civilizations” are all immersed in oceans and therefore seldom look this way… Even if they
    are aware of other planets to go to, they keep their beamed communications tightly directed…

    And don’t forget the proposition of “The Expanse”, i.e., that the civilizations do occur and last and that they expand throughout the galaxy or galaxies maybe for millions of years – and then they die. We just happened to arrive on the scene after all the excitement.

    Other possibilities:
    We’ve got all types of crater fields of great antiquity. If someone visited here, say the moon or Mars and left tracks, there would be erosion, yes, but some traces too. Nobody ever stopped by? If they did, do you suppose they would erase every bit of evidence? How about orbital debris?

    To varying degrees on the moon and Mars we are applying very detailed scans to terrains that change very slowly. Possibly they could be examined a little more from the standpoint of extra terrestrial intelligence having left stone standing on stone, but I’m not optimistic based on the databases thus far.

    But in the absence of our motioning for ET to take note of us, we are allowed to contemplate star ships to visit ET, but it is not acceptable to contemplate ET visiting us because of the issues of interstellar flight….?
    We just don’t want to get caught up in a cargo cult, I guess.

    • Gary Wilson February 13, 2019, 12:53

      There would be a meaningful message encoded within any E-M signal would there not wdk? And yes of course the trick is to decode it. But surely if we receive something like a primer at the beginning such as the first few prime numbers (ala Contact) we can say that the signal is sure evidence of ETI. Even another WOW like signal would be fascinating.

      • wdk February 13, 2019, 17:11

        Gary Wilson,
        Guess I was going from some particular imagined cases in hopes of coming up with general concepts. And I believe there is an element of that in what you have described. Because we could be confronted with intercepting routine traffic among alien entities, intelligent by our criteria or not – and then other communications which have “primers” for the uninitiated. But using Fred Hoyle as an example again, I remember a case he described in “A for Andromeda” in which the message had a double edged sword.

        Getting my compass again, distinctions are made between SETI and techno signatures in space. Large handwriting of presences beyond presumed natural processes. When neutron stars were discovered about 50 years due to their regular radio signals, there was dispute about whether these were techno ( and hence LGMs) or an as yet unknown natural process. The former interpretation seems to have held up better.

        Maybe we look like a natural process rather than a techno signature?

  • Michael C. Fidler February 13, 2019, 7:16

    NASA — “New Science Teams Tackle Detecting Life on Other Worlds”
    Posted on Feb 12, 2019

    “Decades of research have led scientists to look deeply into the nature of life itself — what it is, how it began on Earth, and what other worlds might also support it. A shift in focus is now emerging as NASA scientists recognize that with a strategic push the possibility of detecting life beyond Earth could be on the horizon with the creation of new teams: Center for Life Detection Science, Network for Life Detection, Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures, and Oceans Across Space and Time.”


    • Alex Tolley February 13, 2019, 12:59

      This is the NFold link

      Some coordination of ideas and dedicated conferences is welcome.

  • Michael C. Fidler February 13, 2019, 11:52

    Russian scientists say one of their satellites spotted high-power “light explosions” while flying dozens of kilometers above the Earth. They say the mysterious phenomenon can’t be explained by anything known to modern physics.
    Unusual space phenomena have been detected in the Earth’s atmosphere before, but a team operating the Lomonosov satellite – named after the renowned Russian scientist – say these explosions are something entirely new.

    “We do not yet know their physical nature,” Mikhail Panasyuk, head of Moscow State University’s Research Institute of Nuclear Physics, told the media.

    Luminous flashes like these are normally explained by weather events, but the skies underneath the satellite were clear, with no storms, lightning, or clouds in sight. “What caused the explosions is an open question,” Panasyuk said.

    The Earth’s atmosphere can be lit up by UV flashes and bursts of electricity, but these are usually associated with storm clouds.
    Lomonosov’s UV scope is designed to study powerful cosmic rays, including various light phenomena, gamma rays, and magnetospheric particles in the upper Earth’s atmosphere.

    However, this proved to be a challenging task as the atmosphere is heavily“infested” with miscellaneous flashes, such as city lights or airport beacons, according to Panasyuk.



    UFFO device
    The UFFO device, designed to study gamma-ray flashes, is a twenty-centimeter UV-optical telescope and an X-ray camera.

    What is the idea of ​​the measurement method?
    Three sets of instruments aboard the Lomonosov will provide multi-wavelength measurements of gamma-ray bursts necessary for studying the nature of these astrophysical sources. These are the BDRG , SHOK and UFFO instruments for measuring the parameters of gamma-ray bursts in the optical, gamma, x-ray and ultraviolet ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum.



    • Alex Tolley February 13, 2019, 16:13

      IIRC, back in the 1980s, NORAD once mistook such flashes as nuclear detonations. It tuned out they were meteors in the final stage of burning up in the upper atmosphere. Have the Russians ruled these out?

  • Michael C. Fidler February 13, 2019, 11:56

    Talking to aliens
    Contacting extraterrestrials may be better done with X-rays than by radio.
    They penetrate better through outer space.

    Feb 2nd 2019

    Opinion is divided on whether Homo sapiens should announce its presence to the universe by broadcasting messages to any putative extraterrestrials who may be listening, or should keep schtum, for fear of attracting unwanted attention. But if attempts at contact are to be made at all, then they might as well be done properly.

    Past efforts, including one in the 1970s to a star cluster 25,000 light-years away and another in 2017 to a planet a mere 12 light-years away, have used radio. Hang Shuang and his colleagues at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in China, think this approach foolish. Radio waves spread out quickly, and are also absorbed and scattered by interstellar dust. On top of this there are many sources of radio in the universe, which creates a confusing background. Instead, Mr Hang proposes using x-rays.

    X-rays diverge more slowly than radio waves. They are also better at penetrating dust. And there is little x-ray background to confuse them with. They would therefore be suitable in principle for interstellar communication. Their value as communication tools on Earth, however, has not been obvious, so little research has been done on using them to carry messages. But not none, for Mr Hang and his colleagues have actually built a prototype of an x-ray transceiver that has a particular, specialised purpose. This is to eliminate the communications blackout which a spacecraft experiences during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The blackout is a result of the craft being surrounded by a plume of incandescent plasma generated by the heat of re-entry. Such a plasma is impenetrable by radio waves, but can be pierced by x-rays. Using their prototype, Mr Hang and his colleagues are able to encode messages into x-rays, transmit them through a vacuum, and then decode them at the other end.

    A practical version of this system would not broadcast signals directly to Earth from the re-entering craft. Rather it would transmit them to a satellite that then relayed the message Earthward by more conventional means. The reason for the detour is that, though x-rays penetrate dust, they are absorbed by the sorts of gases that make up Earth’s atmosphere. The re-entry transceiver works because the period of re-entry blackout happens high in the atmosphere, where the air is thin. A signal beamed through the thick air of the lower atmosphere would, by contrast, be absorbed.

    Xcom, as Mr Hang dubs his putative x-ray Aldis lamp, would be a more powerful version of such a spacecraft transmitter. To avoid atmospheric absorption it would have to be put into space to operate. Ideally, it would sit on the far side of the Moon, shielded from interference from Earth.

    By a lucky coincidence, the China National Space Administration, the country’s space agency, has just demonstrated, with the landing of its lunar probe Chang’e-4, that it can position equipment on that part of Earth’s natural satellite. Whether the agency’s research interests stretch as far as the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence remains to be seen. But xcom would certainly be a novel approach to the question.


    • ljk February 14, 2019, 11:03

      Can one relay information with an x-ray transmission? And how do you make it not seem like a natural phenomenon or cosmic background noise?

      This online article about various forms of ETI communications includes a section on X-rays:


      • Michael C. Fidler February 15, 2019, 17:52

        I believe their research papers and patents refer to some type of laser modulation. Just wondering if Short UV (UV-C) would work the same way. As far as I understand the higher the frequency the more information that can be transmitted, since these frqs can not be used in the lower thick atmosphere not much has been developed. Plus the damage to biological systems! The levels that transmission are at may put the receiving end well above background compared to the noisey radio spectrum, especially in a beamed mode. This is also getting down to an interesting part of the quantum structure of the atom, the transition between electron transmissions and transmissions from the nucleus. A little higher freqs in the gamma rays you have the interesting gamma ray electron positron pairs production. This is one area that may have implications for interstellar travel as well as communications.

        • ljk February 20, 2019, 13:43

          NASA set to demonstrate X-ray communications in space

          February 19, 2019 by Lori Keesey, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

          A new experimental type of deep space communications technology is scheduled to be demonstrated on the International Space Station this spring.

          Currently, NASA relies on radio waves to send information between spacecraft and Earth. Emerging laser communications technology offers higher data rates that let spacecraft transmit more data at a time. This demonstration involves X-ray communications, or XCOM, which offers even more advantages.

          X-rays have much shorter wavelengths than both infrared and radio. This means that, in principle, XCOM can send more data for the same amount of transmission power. The X-rays can broadcast in tighter beams, thus using less energy when communicating over vast distances.

          If successful, the experiment could increase interest in the communications technology, which could permit more efficient gigabits-per-second data rates for deep space missions. Gigabits per second is a data transfer rate equivalent to one billion bits, or simple binary units, per second. These extremely high-speed rates of data transfer are not currently common, but new research projects have pushed computing capability toward this range for some technologies.

          “We’ve waited a long time to demonstrate this capability,” said Jason Mitchell, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who helped develop the technology demonstration, which relies on a device called the Modulated X-ray Source, or MXS.

          “For some missions, XCOM may be an enabling technology due to the extreme distances where they must operate,” Mitchell said.

          Perhaps more dramatically, at least as far as human spaceflight is concerned, X-rays can pierce the hot plasma sheath that builds up as spacecraft hurdle through Earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. The plasma acts as a shield, cutting off radio frequency communications with anything outside the vehicle for several seconds—a nail-biting period of time dramatically portrayed in the movie, Apollo 13. No one has ever used X-rays in a communications system, though, so other applications not yet conceived could emerge, Mitchell said.

          Read more at:


  • Michael Fidler February 13, 2019, 18:47

    That’s what I thought also but seems they may have found something different. What suprised me was the name of the detection device – UFFO. Looks like the Russians have been looking for intellegent life a little closer to home! See the next article.

  • ljk February 13, 2019, 18:52


    The Fermi Paradox and the Aurora Effect: Exo-civilization Settlement, Expansion and Steady States

    Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback, Adam Frank, Jason Wright, Caleb Scharf

    (Submitted on 12 Feb 2019)

    We model the settlement of the galaxy by space-faring civilizations in order to address issues related to the Fermi Paradox. We explore the problem in a way that avoids assumptions about the intent and motivation of any exo-civilization seeking to settle other planetary systems.

    We first consider the speed of an advancing settlement via probes of finite velocity and range to determine if the galaxy can become inhabited with space-faring civilizations on timescales shorter than its age. We also include the effect of stellar motions on the long term behavior of the settlement front which adds a diffusive component to its advance.

    The results of these models demonstrate that the Milky Way can be readily ‘filled-in’ with settled stellar systems under conservative assumptions about interstellar spacecraft velocities and launch rates.

    We then consider the question of the galactic steady-state achieved in terms of the fraction of settled planets. We do this by considering the effect of finite settlement civilization lifetimes on the steady states.

    We find a range of parameters for which the galaxy supports a population of interstellar space-faring civilizations even though some settleable systems are uninhabited. Both results point to ways in which Earth might remain unvisited in the midst of an inhabited galaxy.

    Finally we consider how our results can be combined with the finite horizon for evidence of previous settlements in Earth’s geologic record. Our steady-state model can constrain the probabilities for an Earth visit by a settling civilization before a given time horizon.

    These results break the link between Hart’s famous “Fact A” (no interstellar visitors on Earth now) and the conclusion that humans must, therefore, be the only technological civilization in the galaxy.

    Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)

    Cite as: arXiv:1902.04450 [physics.pop-ph]
    (or arXiv:1902.04450v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback [view email]

    [v1] Tue, 12 Feb 2019 15:40:24 UTC (3,052 KB)


    • Michael C. Fidler February 13, 2019, 20:24

      They forget the Prime Directive of the Cosmic Zoo – Do Not Interfere. At least on an obvious large scale, which seems to be what we are seeing.

      • ljk February 14, 2019, 10:57

        We can assume this may be what is happening, but in addition to the fact that we do not actually know what is going on, I wonder how easy it would be to “quarantine” an entire planet and species if there are many ETI species in the galaxy with their own set of values and rules?

        As has been expressed in this thread, there are doubts that alien intelligences would form a sort of Galactic Club or Federation (think United Nations on an interstellar scale), but again, we don’t have a clue on this, do we? As we witness on Earth all the time, the UN’s rules and laws are often treated as suggestions or ignored altogether, so one has to wonder how laws are enforced on a cosmic scale.

        As a result, this Prime Directive would presumably be even harder to enforce if such a policy extends to multiple star systems.

    • kph February 15, 2019, 12:25

      Paper mentions economies required for world-ship construction, estimates of resources, labor requirements, and a supporting population occupying much of a solar system. Critical responses include possibilities of micro scale self-assembly, sci-fi replicator type construction: more in situ, less dry dock mega structures. Unknown scientific advances or rate of discovery for a population of such a size, occupying multiple planets or an entire solar system; is plausible that the pace of advance accelerates greatly with population growth.

  • Michael C. Fidler February 13, 2019, 19:58

    2-Billion-Year-Old Squiggles Could Be the Earliest Evidence of a Mobile Life Form.

    The reported discovery of 2.1-billion-year-old fossilized track marks etched in sedimentary rock is pushing back the earliest evidence of self-propelled movement by an organism on Earth by a whopping 1.5 billion years.

    New research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests ancient life on Earth had acquired the capacity for self-propelled locomotion at least 2.1 billion years ago, and not 570 million years ago as previous research suggested. The evidence for this apparent locomotion, also known as motility, was presented in the form of tiny fossilized wriggle marks embedded within ancient sedimentary rocks.


  • Michael C. Fidler February 14, 2019, 10:56

    A limited habitable zone for complex life.

    The habitable zone (HZ) is defined as the range of distances from a host star within which liquid water, a key requirement for life, may exist at a planet’s surface. Substantially more CO2 than present in Earth’s modern atmosphere is required to maintain clement temperatures for most of the HZ, with concentrations of several bars required at the outer edge. However, most complex aerobic life on Earth is precluded by CO2 concentrations of just a small fraction of a bar. At the same time, most of the HZ volume resides in proximity to K and M dwarfs, which are more numerous than Sun-like G dwarfs but are predicted to promote greater abundances of CO in the atmospheres of orbiting planets, a highly toxic gas for complex aerobic organisms with circulatory systems. Here we show that the HZ for complex aerobic life is significantly limited relative to that for simple microbial life. We use 1-D radiative-convective climate and photochemical models to circumscribe the Habitable Zone for Complex Life (HZCL) based on known toxicity limits for a range of complex organisms. We find that for CO2 tolerances of 0.005-0.05 bar, the HZCL is only ~20-28% as wide as the traditional HZ for a Sun-like star and that CO concentrations may limit complex life throughout the entire HZ of the coolest M dwarfs. These results cast new light on the likely distribution of complex life in the universe and have important practical ramifications for the search for exoplanet biosignatures and technosignatures.

    What about ocean life? CO2 absorption by oceans, iron and calcium carbonate in sea life. (Seashells) Apparently brains require oxygen and could animals like octopus survive if the atmosphere that has high CO2 levels? What about fast plate tectonics and planets with different chemical makeups then earth? Could there be planets with the correct makeup that could promote complex life, a goldilocks planet? After all all stars vary in their chemical makeup so will their planets rocks and geologic processes also vary??? What if we melted the large ice moons in the outer solar system, would they be dominated by co2 atmospheres? We see our two nearest planets dominated by CO2 so now all the planets except around sun like stars are co2 toxic, sounds a little bias to me. Can’t wait to get the first good atmospheric readings from Trappist 1.

    • Alex Tolley February 14, 2019, 16:41

      Seems like further evidence that most life in the universe is anaerobic and probably unicellular.

  • Michael C. Fidler February 14, 2019, 10:56
  • Gary Wilson February 14, 2019, 14:13

    I’m not convinced by any of the arguments I’ve read so far about why “the aliens aren’t here yet”. We need data on the amount of life and intelligent life in the galaxy. We have one data point so far (Earth). So I should only have to wait a few thousand years for the data if we become an interstellar species I hope? :). I think Jason Wright and his colleagues Carroll-Nellenback, Frank, and Scharf have added significantly to the conversation however. The time frames involved, movement of stars and varying attitudes of theoretical aliens to concepts of exploration and expansion (especially into already occupied solar systems such as our own)are major difficulties in making any sort of prediction. It seems we have had the misfortune of being born thousands of years too early (if our species survives that long).

    • AlexT February 15, 2019, 11:34

      Other words, if we will find ETI after

      a few thousand years

      , so, there is no need to spend any resources (money, energy etc.) for futile searches now, we will find ETI when there will be correct moment to do so (after few thousands years) …

  • Gary Wilson February 15, 2019, 20:52

    But we might need lots of practice and we don’t know how long our civilization will survive AlexT. Better start looking now while we can. An environmentally induced crash could set us back many years. Time to clean up our act and protect our only home. We’re not going to find one we’re as well adapted to anywhere out there.

    • AlexT February 16, 2019, 3:47

      …we might need lots of practice…

      All practice used by SETI till now – it is well known radio engineering efforts on the level of Amateur Radio , there is lot specialists around the globe, nothing new to practice here.

      …we don’t know how long our civilization will survive…

      It is not important in connection to this issue, meanwhile, our “till now” experience show that SETI is done by wrong manner , only spends funds , but by default (search target and methods) cannot give any valuable output.
      I am sure if ETI exists – we will automatically find them , but only in conditions if we will continue space exploration, expansion and colonization, SETI (in the form as it is today) – will not help to speed up this task.

  • Gregory Benford February 16, 2019, 3:13

    “We could go a long way toward improving the situation by offering a precisely defined scale by which civilizations could be rank-ordered, but I doubt that this would quell the misgivings of those whose concern is addressing the grievances claimed to follow from ethnocentric bias.”
    Their misgivings arise from yet another ethnocentric bias, too.
    A quantitative measure seems best to avoid biases, though some sucxh as wrote that document seem biased themselves against quantitative means. How about energy? Or information? Something countable at least?

  • Michael C. Fidler February 16, 2019, 9:55

    S. P. Colombano, NASA Ames Research Center, MS
    269-2, Moffett Field CA 94044

    New opportunities.
    The recent Kepler discoveries of Earth-like planets
    offer the opportunity to focus our attention on detecting signs of life and technology in specific planetary systems, but I feel we need to become more flexible in our assumptions. The reason is that, while it is still reasonable and conservative to assume that life is most
    likely to have originated in conditions similar to ours,
    the vast time differences in potential evolutions render
    the likelihood of “matching” technologies very slim.

    Conclusions and recommendations.
    In light of the challenges described above I propose a
    more “aggressive” approach to future SETI exploration, in the following directions:
    1. Engage physicists in what might be called
    “speculative physics”, still grounded in our
    most solid theories but with some willingness
    to stretch possibilities as to the nature of
    space-time and energy.
    2. Engage technologists in futuristic exploration
    of how technology might evolve, especially
    w/r Artificial Intelligence, “Evolvable Robotic Systems” and symbiosis of biology with machines.
    3. Engage sociologists in speculation about what
    kinds of societies we might expect from the
    above developments, and whether and how
    they might choose to communicate.
    4. Consider the UFO phenomenon worthy of
    study in the context of a system with very low
    signal to noise ratio, but nevertheless with the
    possibility of challenging some of our assumptions and pointing to new possibilities for communication and discovery.
    Additional Information:
    (A) The proposals of this white paper relate to
    questions 2 and 3 of the Alien Mindscape article (how intelligent life communicates and how it can be detected) in that it addresses the
    fundamental issue of the potential nature and technological age of intelligent life.
    (B) (B) One of the recommendations made is to
    study UFO reports as a low signal to noise ratio phenomenon. Big Data Analysis could approach several existing data bases such as 130,000 pages of declassified U.S. Air Force documents, National UFO Reporting Center Database and several other international data



  • Michael C. Fidler February 16, 2019, 10:22
  • Michael C. Fidler February 17, 2019, 21:52

    Final fiscal year 2019 budget bill secures $21.5 billion for NASA.

    The report also rejects a proposal for NASA to work with others in the search for “technosignatures,” such as radio transmissions or other evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations. The House version of the 2019 spending bill included $10 million in astrophysics for NASA “to partner with the private sector and philanthropic organizations, to the maximum extent practicable,” on such searches. The final bill “does not adopt House language regarding certain work with private sector or philanthropic organizations.”

  • Michael C. Fidler February 17, 2019, 21:53
  • ljk February 18, 2019, 12:26

    February 15, 2019, 12:57 pm

    Archaeology On Mars – From The Fantastical To The Real

    David Anderson


  • ljk February 18, 2019, 12:38

    Breakthrough Listen and UC Berkeley SETI Research Center Announce Open Format Data Release

    February 6, 2019

    Researchers at the UC Berkeley SETI Research Center and Breakthrough Listen, in collaboration with DeepSig, a company that uses AI to learn models from data, have released data from observations on the Green Bank Telescope in an open-source format called SigMF. Additionally, the SETI Institute has released data in SigMF format from some of their observations with the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). It’s expected that more SigMF data will be made available from both telescopes in the near future.

    Nathan West of DeepSig announced the availability of the data at FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting) in Brussels on Sunday.

    “We’re hopeful that releasing raw data in this open format will encourage more collaboration between SETI researchers and experts in the tech and RF industries,” said Steve Croft, astronomer working with the Berkeley SETI Research Center and also supporting work at the ATA. He continued to note “that we’ll be able to work together on algorithms to identify a wide range of signals both in our data, and in similar data from other sources, in search of that elusive signal from a technological civilization beyond Earth.”

    Full article here:


  • ljk February 18, 2019, 17:38


    A Proposed Method for a Photon-Counting Laser Coherence Detection System to Complement Optical SETI

    David M. Benton

    (Submitted on 14 Feb 2019)

    The detection of laser radiation originating from space is a positive indicator of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI). Thus far the optical search for ETI (OSETI) has looked for enhanced brightness in the form of either narrow-band spectral emission or time correlated photons from laser pulses.

    In this paper it is proposed to look for coherence properties of incoming light in a manner that can distinguish against atomic emission lines. The use of photon sensitive detectors and a modulating asymmetric interferometer has been modelled.

    The results suggest that the sensitivity of detection for continuous laser sources would be better than current spectroscopic approaches, with detection thresholds of order 10-20 photons/s against a background with a spectral bandwidth of 0.1nm over an observation time of 750s.

    Comments: 13 pages, 5 figures

    Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

    Cite as: arXiv:1902.05371 [astro-ph.IM]
    (or arXiv:1902.05371v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: David Benton Dr [view email]

    [v1] Thu, 14 Feb 2019 14:27:30 UTC (207 KB)


  • ljk February 19, 2019, 10:23

    New mission given the go-ahead to search for beginning of universe and possibly life

    by Laurel Kornfeld

    February 17,. 2019

    A new space probe designed to observe hundreds of millions of galaxies to gain a better grasp on how the universe evolved has just been given the greenlight. This new spacecraft is also being developed to search for water and organics, the elements necessary for life as we know it.

    Following a detailed review carried out by both NASA as well as independent scientists and engineers, the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) has been selected. SPHEREx was selected by NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program, with is currently scheduled for a 2023 launch.

    Full article here:


  • Harry R Ray February 19, 2019, 11:37

    Not much talk about Boyajian’s Star recently, since the progenators of the dimming are clearly the cause of the dimming is dust and NOT megastructures. I admit, I gave up on the non-natual solution when it was determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that the “companion” M dwarf star was NOT associated with Boyajian’s Star. To me, this meant that any NON-NATURAL activity had to come from ETI’s NATIVE to Boyajian’s Star. Being a F3 star, this could not be the case, because, using the Earth as a STANDARD MODEL, ETI’s would not have time to evolve to the fact that Boyajian’s Star is MUCH YOUNGER than the SUN! Enter dois:10.1073/pnas.1815721116! “Organism motility in an oxygenated shallow-marine environment 2.1 billion years ago.” by A Al Albani. My take on this is that on Earth, multicellular life formed and then died off SEVERAL TIMES before it became established enough to survive extinction level events. BUT: In light of this paper, who is to say whether this is STANDARD or just UNLUCKY! If the latter, this could have a MAJOR IMPACT on the Drake Equation!!!!! Even if Earth is still the STANDARD MODEL, a habitable planet orbiting Boyajian’s Star could have gotten LUCKY, and multicellular life could have taken hold the first opportunity it had! Then the UV flux at Boyajian’s Star might have ACCELERATED the evolution of technologically based life!!!!! So, even though it is still hanging on by a thread to to this new revelation, the “magic dust” causing the flux differentials at Boyajian’s Star may yet be produced by some kind of asteroid mining operation! STAY TUNED!!!!!

    • ljk February 19, 2019, 16:27

      Why would an ETI making a Dyson Shell around Tabby’s Star have to be natives of that system? Why couldn’t they have come from another star system and set up shop at TS because conditions there were more favorable for building such a megastructure.

      What might be a “favorable” condition? How about using star systems that do not already have intelligent residents, however one might define intelligent.

  • Harry R Ray February 19, 2019, 12:59

    And now the INEVITABLE first `Oumuamua BOOK(either amazon.com/dp/B07NDXRD1/… or amazon.com/dp/BO7NDXRD1/…)! “Interstellar Spaceship Oumuamua” by Steven Charles Herschfeld. Paul: a possible review in a future post?

  • Michael C. Fidler February 20, 2019, 3:58

    The SOPHIE search for northern extrasolar planets. XIV. A temperate (Teq∼300 K) super-earth around the nearby star Gliese 411.

    Periodic radial velocity variations in the nearby M-dwarf star Gl411 are reported, based on measurements with the SOPHIE spectrograph. Current data do not allow us to distinguish between a 12.95-day period and its one-day alias at 1.08 days, but favour the former slightly. The velocity variation has an amplitude of 1.6 m/s, making this the lowest-amplitude signal detected with SOPHIE up to now. We have performed a detailed analysis of the significance of the signal and its origin, including extensive simulations with both uncorrelated and correlated noise, representing the signal induced by stellar activity. The signal is significantly detected, and the results from all tests point to its planetary origin. Additionally, the presence of an additional acceleration in the velocity time series is suggested by the current data. On the other hand, a previously reported signal with a period of 9.9 days, detected in HIRES velocities of this star, is not recovered in the SOPHIE data. An independent analysis of the HIRES dataset also fails to unveil the 9.9-day signal.
    If the 12.95-day period is the real one, the amplitude of the signal detected with SOPHIE implies the presence of a planet, called Gl411 b, with a minimum mass of around three Earth masses, orbiting its star at a distance of 0.079 AU. The planet receives about 3.5 times the insolation received by Earth, which implies an equilibrium temperature between 255 K and 350 K, and makes it too hot to be in the habitable zone. At a distance of only 2.5 pc, Gl411 b, is the third closest low-mass planet detected to date. Its proximity to Earth will permit probing its atmosphere with a combination of high-contrast imaging and high-dispersion spectroscopy in the next decade.

    So a temperate super-earth around the 4th closest star system to our sun at 8.31 light years also called Lalande 21185!


    • Michael C. Fidler February 24, 2019, 10:41

      They should be calling it by its older orignal name: Lalande 21185

      The celestial coordinates of Lalande 21185 were first published in 1801 by French astronomer Jérôme Lalande of the Paris Observatory in the star catalog Histoire Céleste Française. The catalog sequence numbers for majority of the observed stars, including this one, were introduced in its 1847 edition by Francis Baily.[17][18] Today this star, along with a few others, is still commonly referred to by its Lalande catalog number.[19]

      In May 1857, Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander discovered high proper motion of the star. Sometimes it was called “Argelander’s second star”.[20][21][22] (The “first Argelander’s star” is Groombridge 1830, whose high proper motion also was discovered by Argelander earlier—in 1842).

      Friedrich August Theodor Winnecke is reported to have made the first measurement of the star’s parallax of 0.511 arc seconds in 1857–58 and thus first identifying Lalande 21185 as the second-closest-known star to the Sun, after the Alpha Centauri system.[21] Since that time better measurements have placed the star further away, but it was still the second-closest-known star system until the discovery of two dim red dwarfs, Wolf 359 and Barnard’s Star, in the early 20th century using astrophotography.[23]




  • Michael C. Fidler February 20, 2019, 4:00