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SETI as Exploration

Early exoplanet detections always startled my friends outside the astronomical community. Anxious for a planet something like the Earth, they found themselves looking at a ‘hot Jupiter’ like 51 Pegasi b, which at the time seemed like little more than a weird curiosity. A Jupiter-like planet hugging a star? More hot Jupiters followed, which led to the need to explain how exoplanet detection worked with radial velocity methods, and why big planets close to their star should turn up early in the hunt.

Earlier, there were the pulsar planets, as found by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail around the pulsar PSR B1 257+12 in the constellation Virgo. These were interestingly small, but obviously accumulating a sleet of radiation from their primary. Detected a year later, PSR B1620-26 b was found to orbit a white dwarf/pulsar binary system. But these odd detections some 30 years ago actually made the case for the age of exoplanet discovery that was about to open, a truly golden era of deep space research.

Aleksander Wolszczan himself put it best: “If you can find planets around a neutron star, planets have to be basically everywhere. The planet production process has to be very robust.”

Indeed. With NASA announcing another 65 exoplanets added to its Exoplanet Archive, we now take the tally of confirmed planets up past 5000, their presence firmed up by multiple detection methods or by analytical techniques. These days, of course, the quickly growing catalog is made up of all kinds of worlds, from those gas giants near their stars to the super-Earths that seem to be rocky worlds larger than our Earth, and the intriguing ‘mini-Neptunes, which seem to slot into a category of their own. And let’s not forget those interesting planets on circumbinary orbits in multiple star systems.

Wolszczan is quoted in a NASA news release as saying that life is an all but certain find – “most likely of some primitive kind” – for future instrumentation like ESA’s ARIEL mission (launching in 2029), the James Webb Space Telescope, or the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will launch at the end of the decade. These instruments should be able to take us into exoplanet atmospheres, where we can start taking apart their composition in search of biosignatures. This, in turn, will open up whole new areas of ambiguity, and I predict a great deal of controversy over early results.

Image: The more than 5,000 exoplanets confirmed in our galaxy so far include a variety of types – some that are similar to planets in our Solar System, others vastly different. Among these are a mysterious variety known as “super-Earths” because they are larger than our world and possibly rocky. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

But what about life beyond the primitive? I noticed a short essay by Seth Shostak recently published by the SETI Institute which delves into why we humans seem fixated on finding not just exo-biology but exo-intelligence. Shostak digs into the act of exploration itself as a justification for this quest, pointing out that experiments to find life around other stars are not science experiments as much as searches. After all, there is no way to demonstrate that life does not exist, so the idea of a profoundly biologically-infused universe is not something that any astronomer can falsify.

So is exploration, rather than science, a justification for SETI? Surely the answer is yes. Exploration usually mixes with commercial activity – Shostak’s example is the voyages of James Cook, who served the British admiralty by looking for trade routes and mapping hitherto uncharted areas of the southern ocean. Was there a new continent to be found somewhere in this immensity, a Terra Australis, as some cartographers had been placing on maps to balance between the land-heavy northern hemisphere and the south? The idea was ancient but still had life in Cook’s time.

In our parlous modern world, we make much of the downside of enterprises once considered heroic, noting their depredations in the name of commerce and empire. But we shouldn’t overlook the scope of their accomplishment. Says Shostak:

Exploration has always been important, and its practical spin-offs are often the least of it. None of the objectives set by the English Admiralty for Cook’s voyages was met. And yes, the exploration of the Pacific often left behind death, disease and disruption. But two-and-a-half centuries later, Cook’s reconnaissance still has the power to stir our imagination. We thrill to the possibility of learning something marvelous, something that no previous generation knew.

Image: The routes of Captain James Cook’s voyages. The first voyage is shown in red, second voyage in green, and third voyage in blue. The route of Cook’s crew following his death is shown as a dashed blue line. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Jon Platek. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Shostak’s mention of Cook reminds me of the Conference on Interstellar Migration, held way back in 1983 at Los Alamos, where anthropologist Ben Finney and astrophysicist Eric Jones, who had organized the interdisciplinary meeting, discussed humans as what they called “The Exploring Animal.” Like Konrad Lorenz, Finney and Jones saw the exploratory urge as an outcome of evolution that inevitably pushed people into new places out of innate curiosity. The classic example, discussed by the duo in a separate paper, was the peopling of the Pacific in waves of settlement, as these intrepid sailors set off, navigating by the stars, the wind, the ocean swells, and the flight of birds.

The outstanding achievement of the Stone Age? Finney and Jones thought so. In my 2004 book Centauri Dreams, I reflected on how often the exploratory imperative came up as I talked with interstellar-minded writers, physicists and engineers:

The maddening thing about the future is that while we can extrapolate based on present trends, we cannot imagine the changes that will make our every prediction obsolete. It is no surprise to me that in addition to their precision and, yes, caution, there is a sense of palpable excitement among many of the scientists and engineers with whom I talked. Their curiosity, their sense of quest, is the ultimate driver for interstellar flight. A voyage of a thousand years seems unthinkable, but it is also within the span of human history. A fifty-year mission is within the lifetime of a scientist. Somewhere between these poles our first interstellar probe will fly, probably not in our lifetimes, perhaps not in this century. But if there was a time before history when the Marquesas seemed as remote a target as Alpha Centauri does today, we have the example of a people who found a way to get there.

I’ve argued before that exploration is not an urge that can be tamped down, nor is it one that needs to be exercised by a large percentage of the population to shape outcomes that can be profound. To return to the Cook era, most people involved in the voyages that took Europeans to the Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand in those days were exceptions, the few who left what they knew behind (some, of course, were forced to go due to the legal apparatus of the time). The point is: It doesn’t take mass human colonization to be the driver for our eventual spread off-planet. It does take inspired and determined individuals, and history yields up no shortage of these.

The 1983 conference in Los Alamos is captured in the book Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience, edited by Ben R. Finney and Eric M. Jones (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), an essential title in our field.

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{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Jean Schneider March 29, 2022, 10:19

    Another book on a similar subject is
    “Frontiers and Space Conquest ”
    Where Ben Finney and Eric Jones have each one a chapter:
    https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-94-009-2993-7

    • Paul Gilster March 29, 2022, 15:40

      Thanks for the tip on this one, Jean. It’s new to me.

  • Alex Tolley March 29, 2022, 11:44

    IDK how natural the “urge to explore” is in humans. It doesn’t seem to be obvious in our ape cousins. Human migration across continents seems to take a very long time, and the motives are unclear.

    Cook didn’t explore for his own reasons, but under orders from the British admiralty – and did his duty. His crew didn’t have any choice. Did the Polynesians “explore” the Pacific, or were they pushed, being in need of new places to live. The Vikings, perhaps the best known of the early European explorers, pushed westwards in search of new lands to live in as the available lebensraum was reduced. The western migration across North America was not exploration as much as seeking new places to live, away from the constraints of their old lives, and the hope for something better.

    Natural explorers, seeking knowledge and not wealth or fame, are very rare. The vast amount of exploration in the last few centuries is not physical, but intellectual. Exploring space by the telescope is not a physical exploration, putting one’s welfare at risk, or to improve one’s circumstances, but rather an intellectual pursuit, which I would suggest is rather different.

    “Wanting to see what is beyond the next hill” is a phrase taken from the past. It refers to the need to physically move to achieve to discovery. So much easier today to fly a drone, look at a map, observe through a remote camera, to obtain the knowledge of what lies beyond. Science Fiction maintains the idea of physical exploration – of humans traipsing through jungles on distant worlds, like Livingstone in some exoplanet Africa. But reality will likely be so much different. Our telescopes will provide the safe, remote viewing, while our probes will deliver the instruments to those worlds, and bring back the exotica that surely can be found there.

  • Henry Cordova March 29, 2022, 11:47

    Maybe we DO have a pre-programmed urge to explore, to conquer, to visit new lands and distant shores. “To go where no man has gone before.” Then again, maybe not. The propagation of humankind across the surface of the earth may be just as easily explained as Brownian motion, a random Drunkard’s Walk. Maybe we just leave the safe confines of our home, village, valley, nation, continent, planet when we absolutely have to; when food or mates get scarce, when we’re harassed by bullies, attacked by strangers, when we get tired of sharing with our own kin. Then again, maybe its just a combination of the two.

    In our business, we love to adopt the heroic image of the intrepid explorer astride the deck of his little ship, staring off at the ever-receding horizon. It makes us feel good to think WE are that brave sailor, that bold horseman, the noble tribesman and his band of brothers striding purposefully into the unknown. The obvious conclusion, those who don’t share our views must be closed-minded, hidebound, parochial, conventional–timid. Then again, maybe we’re just the misfits who couldn’t make it in our own community and were pushed out by fear, hunger and neighbors fed up with our unsociable ways.

    Was N America settled by folk seeking religious freedom and political liberty? Or possibly, by intolerant fanatics and seditious rabble-rousers? Did Cortez and Pizarro come as missionaries and civilizers, or were they the second sons, failed aristocrats and unemployed mercenaries who heard rumors of El Dorado, populated by innocents, ripe for the plucking? Was it the urge to explore, or a Smaugian lust for precious metals? I know its not all black and white, and I loved “Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience” too. I’m an amateur xenobiologist as well as a sailor and navigator, I’ve fantasized about this all my life. Its why I’m here.

    But I get very uneasy when I hear this starry-eyed view of our own motives, I wonder if it describes us, or simply justifies those of us who feel that way. And I certainly fear when we project those motives and fantasies onto other civilizations and other species we know nothing about.

    No, I’m not being deliberately contrarian. I’m just trying to be objective and enthusiastic. And it’s really hard. And in our business, objectivity, as well as enthusiasm, are really necessary.

    • Robin Datta March 30, 2022, 3:33

      Yes indeed, the geographical dispersion of humans (and all life) may be attributed to Brownian motion or a Drunkard’s Walk. Variant environments are an impetus for adaptation by evolution, even amongst Homo sapiens races. The upshot of it all is that organisms trend towards spatial dispersion and come to occupy every available ecological niche. Conjecture has it that panspermia spans otherwise insurmountable limits.

      In any group of organisms, there are outliers, physiological, cultural, behavioral, etc. Those better adapted to variant environments will populate them. Those with a tendency to wanderlust will seek ways to explore new frontiers.

  • Ron S. March 29, 2022, 13:22

    A couple of thoughts occur to me on reading this. The first is that SETI is not strictly science, as Paul says, but exploration, and yet we most often attempt to fund SETI from budgets and funds allocated to science. However they are not so easily disentangled since the best SETI efforts require the same instruments that science uses. Conflict is inevitable and, as we’ve seen, SETI almost always loses since it is judged on its merits as science, not exploration.

    The second is that many astronomers are interested in SETI, but mostly keep that interest separate because it can interfere with their scientific work and requests for funding of experiments and studies. Of course there are exceptions, and it is possible to do some SETI by requesting and using data that has been collected from instruments dedicated to science.

    Instrument time is precious and so it is carefully allocated on the merits of proposed science projects. What I wonder is whether there is an appetite to mark a small percentage of instrument time for other pursuits. I am thinking of the model used by Google and a few other technology companies for allowing their talent to allocate ~10% of their time to personal projects, to maintain team energy and for the possibility of interesting or useful results.

    Yes, it’s a long shot, but one that can recruit talented scientists with the requisite interest, knowledge and instrument access who would otherwise keep it outside of their work. Bringing more of the SETI effort from the “outside” to the inside, if the barriers can be overcome. I don’t know if this is really worthwhile but it could prove interesting.

  • Henry Cordova March 29, 2022, 16:22

    Frankly, I am surprised at how much my fellow contributors here seem to agree with my comments…

    My cousin, only a year older than I, came here from Cuba at the age of 16 escaping political repression, and we too have had this conversation. Why do people leave the comforts of home and leap out, Bilbo-like, into the dangers of the unknown? His take on this might be relevant.

    “In North America, the Anglo-Saxons came here to build a new life away from the Old World. They meant to stay, and they brought their families with them. In South America, the Latins came to plunder. And they came alone. Their hope was to acquire a fortune and then go back to Spain and live with the gentry; as quickly as possible.”

    In both cases, going back home simply was not an option, but for different reasons.

    Bilbo Baggins had his adventure, and eventually returned to the comforts of hearth and home. I don’t believe that option will be available to us, either.

  • Geoffrey Hillend March 29, 2022, 17:33

    Science and physics includes empiricism, so that intellectual discoveries like Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Einstein’s Special and General relativity still used thought experiments which involved images of the physical environment. As long as there are still unknowns both mental and physical, there still will be that need for the feeling of discovery. The same feeling applied and still applies to the discovery of first principles and intellectual discovery.

  • Robin Datta March 30, 2022, 2:41

    One can look back to the origins of “explore”, and also the origins of “search”: to explore is to “cry out”, while to search is to wander or encircle: shouting vs. circumambulating. But in a modern sense, exploration may imply wandering, whether in person or by proxy of robots.

    In either case there is an underlying motivation for discoveries. SETI and astronomy are the poor man’s exploration.

  • Edwin March 30, 2022, 5:29

    Hi Paul

    A very interesting post, I enjoyed an evening with Seth Shostak in 2018 at the observatory here and in November 2019 I was able to watch the transit of Mercury from where Cook observed it in 1769. Living down under in NZ The history of the pacific is well taught here.

    Cheers Edwin

  • Michael Fidler March 30, 2022, 6:00

    Astronomers Come up With a New Message to let the Aliens Know we’re Here.

    https://www.universetoday.com/155061/astronomers-come-up-with-a-new-message-to-let-the-aliens-know-were-here/

    A Beacon in the Galaxy: Updated Arecibo Message for Potential FAST and SETI Projects.

    https://arxiv.org/abs/2203.04288

    Is anybody listening???

  • ljk March 31, 2022, 16:00

    We need more diverse perspectives in order to have a chance to find, understand, and communicate with alien minds…

    https://astrobites.org/2022/03/30/settler-science/

  • Scott Guerin April 2, 2022, 9:12

    The NGAT (Next Generation Arecibo Telescope) planning document includes this nice tidbit:

    2.16 Searching for Advanced Life in the Universe We now know that our Galaxy, and indeed the Universe, is awash with oases for life. As such, one of the most profound questions of this century is the search for life beyond Earth. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), more recently known as the search for ‘technosignatures’ is a viable method for uncovering evidence of advanced (technological) life, particularly because it probes many simultaneous targets over large volumes of space (Margot et al. 2019, Grimaldi and Marcy 2018). Radio emission at centimeter wavelengths is an especially promising tracer of advanced life, both because radio waves easily permeate the interstellar and intergalactic media and because they are easily generated, as demonstrated by our own use of radio waves on Earth (Grimaldi and Marcy 2018). As the Terrestrial Microwave Window, the portion of the radio spectrum from 1 to 10 GHz, is largely free of naturally generated cosmic and terrestrial noise sources, it is therefore ideal for technosignature searches (see, e.g., Fig. 5.2 in the Cyclops Report by Oliver et al. 1971), and this range will be fully covered by NGAT. The relative probability of successful technosignature detections compared to other search methods depends on both the likelihood that life evolves technological capacities and the length of time 29THE FUTURE OF THE ARECIBO OBSERVATORY: THE NEXT GENERATION ARECIBO TELESCOPE over which it produces technosignatures (Grimaldi and Marcy 2018). Maximizing sky coverage, sensitivity, frequency coverage, and spectral resolution are the most effective means to increase the probability of a detection. Over the coming years, the enormous FAST telescope in China will be one of the premier instruments for technosignature searches on the planet due to its large collecting area. NGAT will have a field of view 58 times larger than the current 19 element L-band system (centered at 1.2 GHz) on the FAST telescope. Thus NGAT (centered at 1.5 GHz) will have a Drake f igure of merit ~37 times that of FAST assuming similar processing bandwidths for both telescopes. The detection of technological life beyond the Earth would represent the most profound discovery in the history of humankind. The significantly enhanced performance of NGAT over most available instruments in the current and next generation of technology will also constrain our estimates of the prevalence of advanced life in the Universe, an important result that reinforces the rarity of our own species. Even in the absence of a technosignature detection, null results serve as quantitative and specific evidence of the need to carefully care for our home planet and boldly plan for extending our own reach beyond the bounds of Earth. See: http://www.naic.edu/ao/ngat

    • Alex Tolley April 2, 2022, 16:28

      It is almost as if the debates on the Fermi Question were just ignored and that ETI would naturally communicate just assumed.

      I am also getting very tired of Jill Tartar’s analogy that we have done no more than take a glass of ocean water to look for fish. No one looks for fish that way. [The modern way is to analyze DNA in that water sample to detect fish and other larger organisms, but what would be the appropriate analogy IDK.]

      I’m glad that we have broadened our approach because clearly, traditional SETI has found nothing to date.

      • Scott Guerin April 5, 2022, 8:50

        Alex,

        Provocative question re finding life in the sea or by extension, Covid or drugs in waste water. Sift broadly. Span all possible environments and technologies. On Earth, we have an idea of what we are looking for: specific natural and unnatural chemicals so our tools are tuned to those. But what could we be missing here? Exobiology, nanotech?

        Our generally electromagnetic SETI search tools presume an ecosystem – even motivations – like ours: digital, analogue, explore, reach out, communicate, study. Our physics are likely modest in comparison to older civilizations, and ones at our level are remote in space and time.

        Still our search reveals nothing obvious. Oddities like WOW! here and there but otherwise, the “ocean” is bereft.

        Expand our listening “net”, Europa and the ocean moons should be prioritized as search locations and mission targets. The asteroids are as numerous as grains of sand and it would be trillion to one odds of finding a lurker, dead or alive, there but look and ping when we can.

        Sry to ramble.

        • Alex Tolley April 5, 2022, 13:11

          The search for life (starting with unicellular organisms) vs. technological intelligent life is somewhat different. The assumption that the former implies the latter, because of humanity) maybe true. but also very rare. There is also no requirement that any such ETI will signal their presence. While it has been argued that technosignatures may be far more common than life as ETI can colonize the galaxy, we then run into the Fermi Paradox. ETI may be so rare that we are not inside any of the light cones were any signs or signals or detectable. It is even possible that searching for ETI is a snipe hunt, an article of faith.

          The search for life is hopefully a different matter. While it would be very important if we found life that was very different from our biology in our system, we would still be very interested in the close-up observation of exoplanet life. It would tell us much about evolution if we had catalogs of life from many different worlds.

          As for different signs of life (shadow biosphere) on earth, we have not seen any “wiggling” organisms that are demonstrable of different biology. Nanotech is different, and while it is fun to speculate that it may exist, even in the geology of our planet, I think in reality this is a snipe hunt, and a very expensive one if a determined search was made. Looking for live/dead Bracewell probes or Lurkers is an easier search, but unless this can be done cheaply, then it would suck funds from other endeavors with a higher likely payoff.

          If we are to do such searches, I would prefer doing it with swarms of cheap probes that can spread out and look. It is the difference between putting all your search eggs in one basket of an expensive expedition versus using lots of amateurs to report what they find. The latter approach is far better at finding rare species or artifacts and benefitting from serendipity. The first coelacanth finding is a classic example of serendipity and distributed “search”, i.e. local fishing. In the book and movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the buried lunar monolith was found because it conveniently emitted a strong magnetic field inviting detection. But more likely any dead alien probes are just laying on the lunar surface, partially or fully buried in dust. The only way to find one would be an extensive search using large numbers of cheap vehicles on or close to the surface. Best they were doing something else for the cost, and any probe found being a serendipitous event. With the lunar surface having about the same area as Africa, a careful search will require a lot of vehicles with sensors. We can see Mars rovers planning the cost of equipping an expedition. We hope that they will find something – Perseverance is one such bet, but if it is searching in the wrong place… It would be ironic if an advanced, autonomous rover just trundled past an alien artifact oblivious to its pattern detectors. [It is why I favor the suggestion of putting 3D video cameras on any rover and sending the data back to Earth to compile a full 3D Mars map for all interested humans to explore and maybe find something of interest that was missed.]

          I hope this is all rambling enough.

  • Mike Serfas April 2, 2022, 10:23

    One of the more interesting explanations for the lack of signals is simply that radio is a bad way to send information. Perhaps “anyone” who knows how to use a radio, knows how to use some better technology. In this regard, I suspect the recent paper on the “quantum hair” of black holes might be interesting. (See https://arxiv.org/pdf/2202.02584.pdf for news and views, https://journals.aps.org/prl/pdf/10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.111301 for the open-access paper on the details, which I don’t pretend to understand much of.)

    I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but I suspect that the ability of the path matter takes to affect the shape of a black hole event horizon and measurements far from the hole should imply that there ought to be some self-propagating quantum gravitational phenomenon – akin to gravitational waves but perhaps not identical, since those are pure general relativity?? – that people might tune into somehow to make another go at SETI. If so, it should pass right through dust clouds and might well have less interference, and the aliens may figure that any culture that understands radio will understand gravity before they would be likely to pick up a good radio signal.

  • wdk April 2, 2022, 13:06

    Cook’s voyages of exploration spanned the globe, obviously. So, it is very difficult to summarize their consequences. But maybe we can focus for a moment on one continent. A book which I had meant to read after it came out in the 90s, I finally picked up several years ago.

    A couple of decades back Australian born art critic Robert Hughes in a book titled “The Fatal Shore” provided a comprehensive history of Australia for those like myself who had not studied it in school. It summarized in such a way for us outsiders used to shrugging off or ignoring paradoxes of its development before Cook and after: The aboriginal inhabitants turned out to be among the most ancient societies on the globe, migrating there as much or more than 50,000 years ago. And its subsequent colonization was principally as a penal colony on a much larger scale than what had been attempted across the Atlantic. Not very profitable as a plantation system and yet it made circum-navigation or nearly such something rather routine. “Transport” was preceded by arrest, criminal trial and sentencing for a range of minor to serious crimes – or just being politically inconvenient.
    Confinement was very effective, not that there were not plenty of places to go. Nonetheless, Australia somehow transformed into a much more
    civil society from one that could well have illustrated the notions of Hobbes. And that’s a remaining mystery about which Robert Hughes could have written another volume.

    Voyages that followed that of Cook illustrated other harsh facets of this era of exploration. The Bounty mutiny we have come to know in part from the historical fictions and also from Captain Bligh’s diaries. Then there was also the efforts of the Royal Navy to track down the mutineers all over the South Pacific. The inhabitants of Pitcairn Island definitely had close calls.

    Reading Roman histories such as those of Tacitus, one finds that noted figures in the capital could find themselves in ill favor with the emperor for reasons and exiled to an island in the Mediterranean. It sounds a little like refuge, but the problem was that the Empire had consumed the Mediterranean entirely. In many cases, these protestors or dissidents were shelved – until a naval vessel was dispatched to deliver a death warrant.

    These are bleak observations, of course. But there is some connection to consideration of future Cook voyages and their consequences. If people of the future set out toward these distant shores, then it is likely that they are dissatisfied with the nature of our future society, perhaps for reasons that are evident even now. It might be as fundamental as
    distancing oneself from pervasive artificial intelligence.

    For which reason, I think it would be prudent for our present day international laws and conventions provide some measures of security for future colonists or explorers: Let it not be the case that pilgrims or refugees from tyranny in one century be tracked down and domesticated by same in another after terraforming a distant world. The Star Trek notion of a Prime Directive might need to be applied first and principally to our own descendants.

    There are several off-shoots to the Cook voyages that I can think of which might warrant examination as well. Especially if we consider the impacts of techno-signature or the effort to establish a beachhead of our own.

    Dissent could have many forms. Many of the issues we are likely still ignorant of the particulars. Others we would understand but not necessarily agree or disagree with so passionately as to expel ourselves so remotely from civilization. But the security of such ventures would be the price of entry into a larger human society. After all, the Roman world with all its orth9doxies swallowed the Mediterranean – and then died.

    A couple of decades back Australian born art critic Robert Hughes in a book titled “The Fatal Shore” provided a comprehensive history of Australia for those like myself who had not studied it in school. I say that in the sense in that it summarized in such a way by us outsiders in such a way that ignnores paradoxes of its development before Cook and after. Au

  • Gary Wilson April 5, 2022, 14:52

    Thank you for that link to the article in astrobites ljk. I think it’s a very important commentary and Breakthrough Listen should be paying very careful attention to what they have to say.

    • ljk April 11, 2022, 16:38

      You are welcome, Gary. For most of SETI’s history, it was conducted by a small group of astronomers (older white Judeo-Christian males, of course) who confined their parameters to radio waves and altruistic beings living on Earthlike worlds around Sol-type stars.

      There were of course the few token women, biologists, historians, and even the odd psychologist who were invited to meetings, but the emphasis was on what I said above. Forget a lack of social diversity: They didn’t even let optical SETI happen until the late 1990s. Dyson Shells and other technosignatures were also given the token treatment.

      Thankfully that is starting to change, but SETI needs more funding and a much wider range of practitioners. I have noticed that Breakthrough Initiatives is moving back towards the old clique style of who is in charge of SETI and METI. I also have to wonder who is now funding things since this was started by a Russian billionaire with ties to Putin?

      Maybe an American-Western European academic consortium can finally start treating SETI with the proper respect it has long been denied by the professional community. Because it is only a matter of time before we do find alien intelligences and we need to reduce the amount of chickens-running-around-with-their-heads-cut-off reactions that are going to happen when we do finally prove not to be alone.

  • ljk April 14, 2022, 16:03

    Skepticism regarding an interstellar meteor:

    https://gizmodo.com/interstellar-meteor-2014-scientists-skeptical-1848782995

    This very subject was covered in this blog almost three years to the day in 2019:

    https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2019/04/17/detection-of-an-interstellar-meteor/

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