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back to article Space brains resign over efforts to attract ET attention

A pair of noted space thinkers have resigned from an international body in protest at plans to send out powerful radio signals to alien civilisations. The two men feel that the risks of contact with extraterrestrials - who would need to be much more technologically advanced than humanity in order to visit us - have not been …

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Alien

When they find us

they had better watch out.

Any alien life form doing a 'First Contact' in this neck of the (interstellar) woods should know that the Prime Directive is laughed at by most of humanity.

So ravening alien hordes when we find you, and we will, then we'll all have a single enemy to concentrate upon. And we're GOOD at war, VERY GOOD!

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Coat

If they do show up,

and they ARE pissed, I hope we can all remember to keep an old powerbook around just in case all else fails.

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Alien

"they could spot it 1,000 light-years away"

In 1,000 years time as the signal will travel, funnily enough, at the speed of light!

Its pretty academic whether we actively beam "Hello sailor" messages out there as we've already been transmitting radio signals for about 100 years, so anyone within 100 light years already knows we exist and might already been on their way. Mind you when they get to a couple of light years out and start getting Pop Idol and X-Factor they might turn their Battlecruiser dreadnoughts around and head home as they will have realised that there is in fact no intelligent life on Earth.

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Xmas list

Well at least i know what to get them for Christmas - Tin foil hats and a subscription to 'They'r coming to get you' monthly.

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Stop

We're all DOOMED ...

As soon as the aliens find out we're made of chocolate coated mint fondant, we've had it!

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Alien

I for one welcome our new alien overlords

But really, I would imagine that we're already making enough electomagnetic noise to attract the attention of anything nearby. All these Active SETI people are doing is just shouting a bit louder.

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Alien

As if.

As if we should worry. We still have a very long time before any messages reach the Romulans et al. Like everything from deficit spending to global warming to pollution, it's something our kids and great kids will have no problem coping with.

Besides, this is one case when those things might work in our advantage. Who would want to rule a red hot, toxic planet where all the people are too poor to pay attention?

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Phew

"As an example, the people at the Allen Telescope Array - a new, dedicated SETI detection rig built with the aid of $25m from zany Microsoft megawealth figure Paul Allen - reckon that if another race were fooling about with an Arecibo-type setup, they could spot it 1,000 light-years away."

... In a thousand years time. One for the chldren's children's children's children's children etc to worry about.

Oh wait, if we deal with it like we deal with climate change et al. then we'll be lobbying for the 'Radio Silence Act' in 950 years time with treaties on the amount of potentially interstellar war instigating radio noise emitted by the planet. Presuming we haven't all drowned in molten polar ice caps by then, or been eaten by murderous cyberloos, or contracted MRSA, or indulged in euthanaisa due to the pensions shortfall etc.

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Alien

Sign me up

I for one would like to volunteer my services for our Space Battlefleet & Interstellar Colonisation programme. A sound policy for a better Britain. Do I get an attractive jumpsuit? (No red, thank you).

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The real issue

Surely the real issue isn't so much being obliterated/enslaved by aliens, as the ridiculous waste of money. Surely it would be better to shut down all the SETI operations and spend the cash on something slightly more useful? Or is that just me?

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Pirate

i'm trying to imagine ...

... a bunch of Red In^H^H^H^H^H^H Native Americans all sitting by the beach arguing about whether they *really* ought to build a fire *quite* that big. And the "your mother smells like fish" smoke signals were a definite no-no ...

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Syd

We come in peace

I reckon that any alien civilization which has the vast intellectual resources required to come looking for us, will have long outgrown war and conflict, and will therefore be coming in peace

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Paris Hilton

Time to notify the NRA

Methinks. These space transmitters are clearly a homing beacon for the Lizard Army and as such must be destroyed forthwith. I'm going to get my bunker ready in Iowa (oh bugger, it will have to be Yorkhsire moors for me)

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Alert

Does that mean...

That the whole planet willl have to do silent running drills?

Red lights everywhere, and Jurgen Prochnow lookalikes sweating and motioning for silence... das planet LOL

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Thumb Up

@Ross

Personally I'd rather see my tax money spent on SETI than on more discussions about the acceptable radius of curvature of an EU-standard banana, or whatever. If we're going to have aliens immigrating to us in hordes anway, we might as well have *real* aliens. With luck they won't want to pinch your cellphone, and it would make Saturday nights at the pub a lot more interesting...

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Alien

@Peter Fielden-Weston

Yeah, we're pretty good at war. Been doin' it for a long time!

I doubt, however, that the fast approaching alien hordes will feel intimidated by our ikkle nukes!

Naa, they'll probably toy with us for a while until boredom sets in. Then they will naff off to a safe distance of lets say a million miles or so and blast the shit out of us! A nice big flash and lots of pretty colours later.... ...and off they go to the next planet full of silly beings!

I say "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!" :O)

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Unhappy

If TV has taught me anything...

... it's that Aliens, no matter how advanced their technology, only know how to communicate by putting blunt metal instruments into your backside. So forget sending radio waves, lets just go straight for the intersteller nukes, yeah?

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@ Roger Kynaston

There is all ready a bunker on the Yorkshire Mores. The ultra top secret RAF Fylingdales. http://www.raf.mod.uk/raffylingdales/

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on the plus side

given that it seems likely aliens are going to destroy the planet we don;t need to worry about global warming anymore.

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Go

Let them decide

If a far superior race deems us totally beyond help and chooses to exterminate us then I, for one, would probably agree with their decision!

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Paris Hilton

@Syd

I think that one of the points made by the guys in questions is that your hippy tree loving opinions and wishes don't alter reality. If aliens do exist (which is a big if) then we have no idea at all and no basis to make predictions as to their psychology.

What does the ambassador for the human race Miss Hilton thing of active SETI, that's what we all need to know (and does it involve being naked and covered in gold paint?)

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Alien

hmm..

..paints a picture of a universe full of sentient life but everyone attempting to remain stealthed (planet sized faraday cage perhaps?) because they are scared that the next race over might drop by and eat/mate/probe/shave them. And that's why the SETI guys are wasting their time.

also... isn't beaming out "fancy a fight / hello sailor etc." a kind of attempted "death by cop" or rather "genocide by alien bastard".. can't we all sue them for reckless endangerment?

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Saying it doesn't chagne much misses the point

Those, ElReg included, who say or imply it's not a problem because it changes nothing or almost nothing to the probability of being detected are missing the point in a shamefully flawed logic.

You can't justify, from a logical point of view, an action that would be bad if it succeeded simply based on the fact it won't succeed.

You have to compare each outcome (succeed/don't succeed) for each situation (send, not send).

Assuming sending the beam won't succeed (meaning that won't be what gets us detected, regardless of whether we are detected for some other reason or are not), then the only difference between sending the beam and not sending it is a waste of money.

So No increased proba of detecting -> wastes taxpayer's money

Then if it can in any way be justified to do it, it HAS to be that it CAN do something, and that if it does, it's something that justifies spending money on.

Now assuming it can do something, then obviously it can mostly gives humanity a random chance to get destroyed utterly so I guess it qualifies as not really worth spending money on

Increased proba of detection -> should kill the bastard who willingly risks being responsible for the most efficient genocide that can be conceived. We should probably even call that ADNocide.

So it leaves us with two choices: either it's the most political decision that can be imagined, or it's pointless and is misusing public money.

More precisely, it's 99% chance of a waste of money, 1% chance of deserving immediate execution for deciding to stake the existence of humanity on the gamble that ET would be benevolent.

Plus, whatever the actual chance of having consequences, the beamers clearly have the INTENT to stake humanity's existence if he just can get the occasion to do so, which should be enough to warrant being caged somewhere cold and isolated.

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Alien

Already here...

... and buzzing and probing rednecks for fun, coz they know nobody will believe them.

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Paris Hilton

Interplanetary, quite extraordinary

It's been a long time since I played Frontier, so my understanding of macro-orbital mechanics is rusty. I assume that the aliens will be able to work out which planet the signal came from, given that the Earth will have moved through the sky in the intervening centuries (let us assume that they pick the nearest planet along the radio beam, having run their universe simulator backwards a thousand years).

Couldn't we therefore stick one of these stations on Mars instead, beaming a signal out into space? It could play a boastful loop, with CGI shots of an imaginary Martian empire, and an imaginary Martian emperor. "Come, and have at us! We Gods of Mars defy you! Look upon the Martian Empire, and Despair! We spit on the weak people of Earth, who also challenge us!"

That kind of thing. The aliens will come to visit Mars, find that it is barren, and they will think that we conquered the Martians for them. And they will give us chocolates etc. The UN can have that idea for free.

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@Ross

Define "more useful".

Signal processing that has introduced better and faster mobile services was paid for by the needs of SETI.

Grid computing: seti@home.

And since we're all going to die in a thousand years (or millions or decades, as per preference) and at some time the Sun will burn itself out meaning the end of any life on this planet rendering anything we do a pointless exercise, why not do another pointless thing just to find out if we really are alone.

And, unless they are so far ahead of us that travelling 500 light years is feasible in a few months and that the energy cost of getting out of their own gravity well makes it a useful proposition to wipe us out, then they'd be able to tell us apart from the other planets because in the radio spectrum, earth outshines the sun. Noting the parallax change in visible vs radio wavelengths will show that something weird at the very least is happening here shows that we're already boned if someone wants to play safe and be the only entrant in the space race.

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Bronze badge
Alien

Build it on Mars

There's a simple solution to all this. Just build the enormous radio beacon on Mars instead of Earth and keep an eye out for huge fleets of alien ships arriving en masse at the red planet.

If they blow the shit out of it, no harm done. Just keep radio silence till they get bored and go home. In fact, this will save us a load of money, as we won't have to explore Mars any more.

On the other hand, if they turn out to be peaceful-yet-foxy space vixens in skimpy silver outfits (and lots of cool alien technology to share with us), a quick phone call should put things straight in no time.

I can't believe the combined boffinry of Russia and America didn't think of this already. Intelligence and common sense are not the same thing at all are they?

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Why worry?

The window of opportunity between them being advanced in enough to detect us and too advanced to think we're worth bothering with is probably tiny anyway.....

Kinda like that brief period of your childhood when you found the chucklebrothers funny.

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Paris Hilton

Where's the Paris angle...

If they are going to beam any message it should be 'One Night in Paris'

That should get the aliens attention and make them come and have a look at what we're up to.

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I say we broadcast loud and clear

Everyone knows security through obscurity is no security at all.

Or does not apply in the real world?

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@Mark

>Define "more useful".

Signal processing that has introduced better and faster mobile services was paid for by the needs of SETI.

Grid computing: seti@home.

That's irrelevant.

You don't pursue objectives that are groundless in and of themselves (or worse, possibly fatal to our species) just on the hope that it will lead to useful by-discoveries.

If scientists think it would yield so many discoveries doing Active SETI, then just spend the would-be budget on research on precisely the issues that Active SETI would require solved, without actually sending any signal.

You'll still get results, and you'll even spare some money.

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Alien

When they arrive in the uk...

..no doubt our government will give each alien visitor £3k of taxpayers money, send them back to where they came from and show them how to set up there own business!!!!

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No future Federation..

but a Terran Empire! If the aliens are peace-loving we'll just kill them and take their tech and turn it into phasers, warp drive and transporters; if the aliens are warlike we'll take a while longer to kill them and take their tech and turn it into phasers, warp drive and transporters. It'll take about as long as it takes the aliens to die of 'flu or for Jeff Goldblum to upload a virus on a Mac (it would've been Windows but the alien hardware isn't man enough for Vista)

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Pirate

They wouldn't stay. . . .

Any extraterrestrial bunch coming here wouldn't stay. We have made too big a cock-up of our world and it would be too much for them to renovate it. Besides what we have done to our planet would most likely kill any extraterrestrials anyway. Of course, that just well may be why they stay away now...

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sue
Coat

Maybe I missed it.......

but I can't believe no one has said that should the arguing win around to sending out these beams, and let's face it, that in itself will probably take millions of various currency and decades of political/scientific bods to just come up with a firm decision, and E.T. decides to pay a visit, the first thing we should all remember is 'Don't panic!'

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its a bit late

As Carl Sagan already pointed out, the first visual images beamed into space were a broadcast of one of Hitlers speeches.

If any race followed that one up and watched our signals for a few more years, chances are they'd never come near us.

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They are waiting

They know we are here, they are just waiting until we reach a nice round figure, ripe for harvesting. With obesity levels the way they are, it won't be long.

I wonder if the Turkey's have this discussion before Christmas? "But these humans are so advanced in comparison to us, so much more intelligent, they must be serene friendly creatures?"

As we wait for an answer from space, minds immeasurabley bigger than ours are writing the "Human cookbook".

Look thin people! be the last turkey in the shop!

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Tim
Stop

Hubris

Interesting how most people have one of two opinions on alien contact: either an attempted war of conquest or a cultural and technological exchange enabled by our sheer worthiness in some kind of post-conflict, co-operative, Star Trek vision of the future.

It's pretty arrogant of us (humanity) to assume either really. What'll probably happen is that the aliens will pop over and harvest us for food. Our weapons will be as about effective as a turkey flapping at Bernard Matthews. They'll treat us with the same consideration a sweaty Norfolk slaughterman up to his arse in giblets a week before Christmas gives his birds. Jeff Goldblum could save us about as easily as Dolly could engineer a rootkit - on BSD.

As we're filleted by the green-skinned, bug-eyed Heston Blumenthal-alikes we will die indignant that the aliens never even gave a second's thought to conquest and enslavement. To prolong our existential agony futher it'll probably turn out that the aliens have long mastered sustainable farming; we won't even have the eternal sleep of extinction as comfort.

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Silver badge

Re: When they arrive in the uk...

Nah... they'll promptly be issues with speeding tickets for travelling through deep space at speeds in excess of 60MPH.

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Well, I think we're safe.

Our TV transmissions have now reached any civilisations within 50 light years or so. I can see any hostile ones watching Star Trek, and deciding not to f**K with the Federation of Planets.

Look at how two of their starships disgused as comets have reacted lately.

I'll get my cloaking device.

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Stop

Why my post looked almost exactly like Ashley's...

...is not because I copied him.

It is because I am already on Mars building a massive transmitter - and as any fule kno, it takes 8 minutes for my posts to arrive on El Reg's comments page.

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Anonymous Coward

Why all the talk of fleets of battleships?

Sending robotic guided interplanetary missiles is much more cost effective.

In fact, an aggressive species might use a barrage of them as their standard greeting to other planets. It makes a certain grim sense-- any race sufficiently advanced to build potentially planet-destroying weapons would be forced to assume that since they can do it, any race they might come in contact with also could.

Therefore, the most logical strategy would always be to deliver the first attack in all situations, to preempt any chance of the opposing species doing it first.

For all we know, there might already be a missile on the way, scheduled to arrive at Earth some time in the next hundred years.

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Alien

re: Space brains resign over efforts to attract ET attention

>I reckon that any alien civilization which has the vast intellectual resources

>required to come looking for us, will have long outgrown war and conflict, and will

>therefore be coming in peace

Like any race that has the vast intellectual resources required to split the atom? Need we go into the first use of atomic energy in the Sol system by the primitive hew-mons of Terra?

Any race capable of intersteller travel would be capable of wiping us out, even if not by having weapons technology they could still drop asteroids on us.

Considering our complete inability to coexist with other people of the same species I think we are pretty much doomed if it comes to any alien contact.

And graham, if someone turns up and has a look at mars don't you think they might notice the artificial satellites in orbit around earth?

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Human beings aren't born, we are grown

Of course, they *could* decide to utilise our biological energy as a sustainable power source...

We were probably discovered ages ago and alien races have chosen to ignore us because we'd prove a liability if they got involved with us!

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alien motives

Re: radio signals.

Most radio signals are attenuated or reflected in the atmosphere. We're not as noisy as you might think. Only particular frequencies make it out into space. And the inverse square law makes the signal ridiculously weak. Radio telescopes are able to pick up the emissions of whole stars and galaxies undergoing energetic events. Picking up the TV7 news is a whole other thing.

Re: alien motives

Warp drive or no, coming here is going to be expensive. If "they" come, they're going to want something. Something important and valuable. Friendship? Yeah right. When was the last time you walked to Timbuktu to make a new friend? Search for knowledge? Yeah right. Non-commercial exploration only happens when it's cheap. Most exploration in history was about laying claim to valuable real estate, and subjugating the aboriginal population or wiping them out, either through genocide or accidentally through disease.

8,000 years of recorded history has seen a lot of technological growth, but we're still the same bloodthirsty savages as ever. No amount of watching Star Trek reruns is going to make us less avaricious any time in the foreseeable future. So, unless we assume that aliens handled evolutionary pressure very differently, why shouldn't they be as greedy and zenophobic as we are?

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Would you like to see our puppies?

Aliens detect signals from Earth.

Alien 1: "What the hell are they doing letting everyone know where they are?"

Alien 2: "It's a trap!"

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Say no to stupid Hippies

"I reckon that any alien civilization which has the vast intellectual resources required to come looking for us, will have long outgrown war and conflict, and will therefore be coming in peace"

Why exactly ? War advances technology faster than anything else and sadly for all the hippies in the world even if we all grew our hair and ate flowers people will still have disagreements. In any dynamic free society different people have different goals, Why will space be any different.

I think if active SETI goes ahead the ROW should start bombing america, I for one see no need to start shouting about our place in the universe before we have any idea what else is out there just because a collection of rich nerds watch too much star trek.

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Dam

Signal: Light years

You're all talking about us being already 50-100 light years in.

But errr...

Now, seriously, you're aware that *radio* signals *don't* travel at the speed of light ?

RADIO

SIGNALS

DONT

TRAVEL

AT

THE

SPEED

OF

LIGHT

Sigh...

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Anonymous Coward

Don't think it matters

After all, aliens killed the dinosaurs, who didn't transmit any radio signals.

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Anonymous Coward

good alien / bad alien

technologically superior does not equal morally superior, as many many examples in earth history show. If we look at earth history a rough rule of thumb is: draw a line equi-distant between two cultures, whoever crosses that line second gets it in the shorts. given our current level of technology our only hope is to offer up our leaders as sacrifice. currently i have a fiver on the first message received being "ALL YOUR BASES ARE BELONG TO US"

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