back to article Forget SETI, this is how you find aliens: Hefty prof speaks

A top alien-hunting boffin has said that current efforts seeking extraterrestrial intelligent life are unlikely ever to work - not because there couldn't be any aliens out there, but because the methods themselves are wrong. He proposes several radical new means of finding out whether we really are alone in the universe. …

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If there is other life out there.

If there is other life out there and religion has taken hold then I can assume that their religion makes them supreme and any other life form that can think and build things is blaspheme.

Or maybe aliens once knew us and visited but stopped communication because of some galactic occurance.

In either case they may regard us as cattle and will want to eat us.

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Black Helicopters

I'm a bit worried what "shadow biospheres" might dredge up.

"In dead Ryleh, great Cthulhu waits dreaming."

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Black Helicopters

Shadow Biospheres

I can assure you that the entity you know as Ctulhu remains effectively banished as of now but humanity as a whole still does not learn from its past mistakes.

In the past week, we have, in fact, contained a major daemonic incursion in south-eastern Australia and are still in the process of mopping up. Said incursion is likely to have been precipitated by injudicious dalliances with the paranormal, on part of some individual, or group of individuals, usually self admitted "pagans, or witches" but we are still working on determining the exact details of the precipitant. This is marred with some difficulty, as it is believed, as it usually happens, said individuals were likely consumed in the process.

I would warn humanity again. Do not dabble in the 'occult'. Do not attempt contacting other planes or opening any such portals. You may get a response. Without proper protection, you will be overwhelmed and may die or worse. You also make things more difficult for us, our numbers are already stretched as it is.

And I would also warn you: if we identify you, we will find you ... if you still exist in some shape or form on this plane of existence.

Lieutenant-General-Inquisitor X

Ordo Malleus.

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Stop

Plagiarist!!

Is it just me, of has the prof just rifled through the average SF fan's bookshelf and pinched a load of the material found therein? Granted much of SF is inspired by 'proper' scientific research, but either way this guy is saying nothing (at all!) I haven't read in fiction over the years (e.g. the shadow biosphere in 'Behemoth', or the ephemeral nature of civilisations in, oooh, a shit-load of places).

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Megaphone

Yes.

Even Scott "Dilbert" Adams proposed one of the plans --- he remarked that "junk dna" may contain the creator's signature, so dna based life might turn out to be a show&tell project for some stellar student. [Ok Ok, junk DNA doesn't exist anymore.]

The "beacon" approach seems to suffer from its high success rate --- if it's likely to strike a planet with the signal, it's equally likely to miss the planet hidden behind. [And the gassy giants have a good chance of covering the rocky, inhabited worlds.]

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It's not just you, Marky W

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke wrote about all of this, and more (communications satellites, anyone?), starting in the mid 1940s. Some is science fiction, but he wrote a lot of science fact, too. This cat is hoping today's yoof doesn't know about Clarke, with big dreams of making money selling his rip-off book.

If any of you youngsters have never heard of Clarke, get to the library. While you're there, look at the rest of the science fiction/fact from the 1940s-70s ... Worth a read. Will probably put you right off today's television shows, though, when you discover it's all derivative ;-)

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It's also quite possible

That some of the SF writers read Davies. He has been around publishing since the 70s.

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"make more sense to look for such a thing on the Moon"

Such as a monolith?

There's nothing new in this article.

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Alien

Evidence closer to home

Yes he's right, and the evidence has been here all along. SETI is a waste of time. Even the Appollo astronauts saw structures, and there are plenty of photos of Moon and Mars artificial structures.

Buzz Aldrin: http://video.anomalies.net/video/205/buzz-aldrin-reveals-existence-of-monolith-on-mars-moon

http://www.anomalies.net/object/io_1174463581917.html

Square craters, pyramids, towers...

http://2012changesarenow.blogspot.com/2009/05/great-moon-mars-anomalies-by-mike-singh.html

Just some of numerous sites. Enjoy. Intergalactic civilisation is alive and well !

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Alien

Twin cyclone.

Glad you clarified the Dyson Sphere thing, thought it was a planetoid that was easier to manouvre around the solar system.

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Dyson spheres

The footnote about Dyson spheres misrepresents the concept somewhat -- like many popular uses of the term. A Dyson sphere is not a uniform sphere surrounding a star with people living on the inside surface. This won't work for several reasons:

- The inside of a hollow sphere does not have any gravitational force towards the surface. So you wouldn't "stick" to the surface.

- Such a sphere would not be stable -- it would tend to drift relatively to the star, so the star would not stay in the center. Eventually, the star would get close enough to the surface to burn its way out.

You can, of course, postulate pseudo-scientific technology such as artificial gravity as solutions to this, but such concepts lack foundation in real science.

Dyson's original description of his eponymous sphere was of so large a multitude of objects orbiting the star that no visible light would escape.

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And?

"so large a multitude of objects orbiting the star that no visible light would escape".

From a gravitational standpoint, that would be different from a single continuous sphere how?

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Alien

more on dyson spheres

Also, from my memory of the respective book, the Dyson sphere was only there to imprison a rather nasty race of aliens so they could not run amok eating up all the resources, as opposed to providing more land etc.

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Alien

A dyson sphere sounds like more work

than a Klemperer Rosette. Apparently this would also be unstable, so probably wouldn't last beyond the life of the civilisation that built and maintained it.

In his novels, Larry Niven's Ringworld got progressively more complicated as various spods came up with reasons why it needed this or that or wouldn't work because of somesuch.

Of course, if these ascended aliens are so awesome, their artifact probably hangs in space using technology so advanced to our eyes it would be akin to magic.

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Re: And?

"From a gravitational standpoint, that would be different from a single continuous sphere how?"

These objects orbit the star in different orbits, so they would be in free fall. Any gravity would be from the surface of each object to its centre of mass. Alternatively, you can use rotation to emulate gravity.

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Start Small At First

I think a 'ringworld' would be much easier to build at first (and very much easier to get planning permission for). Then you could get the builders in, to make extensions on the edges and so work your way towards a Dyson sphere.

If the extensions were small enough, you wouldn't need planning permission for each one and so you could sneak your way to having a Dyson sphere over a long period of time.

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RE: More on dyson spheres

"Also, from my memory of the respective book, the Dyson sphere was only there to imprison a rather nasty race of aliens so they could not run amok eating up all the resources, as opposed to providing more land etc.".

That sounds like "Pandora's Star" by Peter F. Hamilton. In this case, the sphere was "just" an energy field generated from an orbiting satellite, so it did not have any significant mass, and hence would not be unstable, nor allow anyone to stand on its inside or outside.

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Sphere

A Dysons Sphere is just a way to collect energy, a huge grid of satellite in space which absorb the energy from the Sun to be used on Earth, possibly at a time when our energy demands far outstrip what is available.

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@Torben Morgensen

"These objects orbit the star in different orbits, so they would be in free fall. Any gravity would be from the surface of each object to its centre of mass. Alternatively, you can use rotation to emulate gravity."

If they are in different orbits, they have different periods and would therefore not block light except on those rare and special occasions when everything just so happened to line up.

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Alien

F*ck yeah!

Get Alastair Reynolds in here!

YOU DETECTED ERADICATION WOLF IN INTERSTELLAR SPACE. FORGET GLOBAL WARMING. YOU NOW HAVE THE FOLLOWING OPTIONS:

1. PANIC/SUICIDE

2. DENIAL

3. STEALTH CIVILIZATION

PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE

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Anonymous Coward

Left out one

The not too uncommon 'Life on earth is in fact the very message left by visiting aliens aeons ago'

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Grenade

But, _if_ you find life out there...

When the signals come from quadrant QBR 157, 052 just nuke the site!

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Fermi Paradox?

There is nothing terribly paradoxical about the 'Fermi Paradox', since it starts from the assumption that interstellar travel is feasible enough to be worth doing in the first place.

Most people who discuss traveling between stars have underestimated the scale of the problem, by mere dint of the fact that they actually discuss it. It is quite possible that a civilisation can become as advanced, as it is possible for a civilisation to have become, and still be totally incapable of interstellar travel.

Einstein wasn't joking about that 'going faster than light' stuff, you know? All the evidence suggests that, it is not only impossible to move faster than light, but that it is impossible to *have* moved faster than light: i.e., that you cannot occupy a point, in space, more remote than your starting point, at any time sooner than it would take, for light to undertake the journey between those two points in space. Not if you still be made out of matter, at least.

'Hyperspace', 'space-folding', 'wormholes'... These are words, written in books and spoken in movies. You may as well debate the physics of Tolkien.

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Joke

Joking?

Einstein? The "God does not play dice" guy? I'll believe his theories about causality when he explains quantum entanglement and works it into his model of gravity.

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Yes...

He may have a hard time doing that these days. I hear it's hard to think when your brain has been preserved and sliced up into wafer-thin pieces.

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Megaphone

Your forgetting something

Current thinking in cosmology is that for the cosmic background radiation to be as uniform as it is the early univese had to have expanded faster than light propogates. Its called "Inflation".

Einsteins equations allow for the fabric of space to expand faster than light, just not for objects to move faster than light relative to their local frame of reference. And Einstein's numbers also allow for an object to travel faster than light IF it isn't moving relative to its space-time location, that is instead of moving the ship you move the bubble of space-time AROUND the ship by expanding space on one side and collapsing it on the other. Look up " Alcubierre drive" for the details.

So, FTL drives are not possible using current tech, but in a thousand years, who knows.

Also, your comment makes the classic assumption that Einstein is 100% correct, which he isn't, since his theory's can't account for gravity at the quantum scale, or things like singularities without some fancy number dancing.

Your right in the following, IF interstellar travel is impractical then the 'Fermi Paradox' ceases to be a paradox. After that you start making assumptions that are just as suspicious as those you criticize.

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All a matter of time

It's not really a paradox. Aliens may well have visited or may well be ready to visit, but as humans in the time scale of this planet, and even the universe, have only been here for a blink of an eye and have been looking for a femto-second of that time.

It's all a matter of perspective, and expectation..... something I have to explain to my teenage children all the time!

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Alien

Worm holes

OK - I do not believe that they exist but I think that current theory has them as being possible - so 'speed of light' MIGHT mean nothing.

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I think you're forgetting something (or simply haven't heard about it yet)

Alcubier was engaging in what is known as a 'thought experiment' - one which completely falls apart once you add in calculations about the quantum effects of attempting to create a warp wave, or stick anything made out of matter, inside one (in particular, the fact that the stress-energy would immediately cause any such wave to collapse).

I say again, the evidence is growing, that it is impossible to be made out of matter and be moved - by any means that can be thought about - from one place, to another place, in this universe, faster than light can make the journey. It's not possible. You can cook up any crazy idea for how it might happen, but some other element always comes along and shows that it cannot be done. This is not just coincidence. Stuff that is made out of particles cannot be moved faster than light. Time would be better served, working out exactly why that is, than trying to find out how to evade it, because it is becoming increasingly apparent, that it cannot be evaded.

I agree, that living in a world where there are no flying dragons is potentially much less exciting, than living in one where there are - and if you want to believe in flying dragons, all you have to do is disprove Newton's theory of Gravitation. if you want to believe in the Starship Enterprise, all you have to do is disprove Einstein. Different scientist; same approach; very similar motives.

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Alien

Lets hope we can find them soon...

And we can borrow money off them :-)

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Joke

Hello honorable ET

My name is Sir Wilhelm Schlock III, Esq, MBA. I represent a small group of humans that have came into possession of $24,093,201,932.43, through the untimely death of our father. Unfortunately we are unable to move the money off of the Earth in due the poor health of my brother-in-law, his royal highness Chief Wambat IV and illegal law that was put into place to punish my poor mother and ill sister. We believe that with your help we will be able accomplish this task. All that you would need to do is to supply your bank account number and PIN such that we can transfer the money. For your help, we will offer you a 10% finders fee. Please reply in haste.

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Concentrate the search

We should start by focussing our effords on Alpha Centauri- if our local planning department is there it would be smart to know about any planning applications that might affect Earth.

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Book plug alert!

I don't agree that SETI is a waste of time. The point of it is not to detect some broadcast beacon sending out prime numbers in the intergalactic equivalent of Morse code, but to identify anomalous radio sources, that might be associated with technologies like our own.

An astronomer observing the solar system from alpha Centauri would be struck by the amount of radio energy being received in the 0.2MHz-2GHz frequency range - hard to account for by any natural process. He probably couldn't decode it in order to receive BBC1 (for which he would need a licence, of course) or, even worse, Fox (in which case he might well conclude that there was no intelligent life on Earth).

He could, however, watch for Doppler perturbations and conclude that the signals were emanating from a body in orbit around the sun at 1AU. Of course, if the astronomer were 200 light years away, he'd see nothing unusual - since the results of Marconi's first experiments would not yet have reach him.

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would they?

"An astronomer observing the solar system from alpha Centauri would be struck by the amount of radio energy being received in the 0.2MHz-2GHz frequency range - hard to account for by any natural process."

Would they? I was under the impression that at that distance, the amount of radio noise we make would be so small as to be indistinguishable from the background noise. Especially considering we're not aiming anything in that direction, just some random scatter bouncing around. Hence his point about needing to beam (use directional) radio.

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Fermi paradox

Given two caveats, the answer is very simple. They never come here because it would take them too long to get here.

Caveat 1. We are right about special relativity, and there are no get-out clauses (warp drives, usable wormholes, etc.) They get here at a smallish fraction of the speed of light, or not at all.

Caveat 2. Their idea of a long time is similar to ours. Chemistry is universal, which may mean that any workable biology runs at a similar rate to ours. There are get-outs we can't exclude, such as downloading their intelligence into a computer, and then clocking it five orders of magnitude more slowly to turn a 100,000-year journey into one year subjective.

But they aren't here, so either they can't do that, or they don't want to embark on a one-way journey with no possible return.

@zef: if life on Earth is the aliens' Von Neumann machines, we should start looking for a coded message in our DNA. Most especially, in the parts of our DNA that are common to all known forms of life.

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Boffin

or maybe Hanson is right

http://hanson.gmu.edu/greatfilter.html

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42

"downloading their intelligence into a computer" -- I hope they remembered to make backups.

"we should start looking for a coded message in our DNA" - What, like writing 42 everywhere?

@ the rest: lets get out there and find that monolith before it cooks Jupiter.

This prof sounds like he's been reading some serious science fiction.

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Odd inclusion

This prof says SETI is doing it wrong, but then includes the 'lighthouse' theory, which would actually tie in quite nicely with the 1977 Wow! event, right?

I also don't buy the 'can't leave a message on Earth bit'. It doesn't have to be some static monolith plopped in the ground... Then again, maybe there's some poor little rover stuck on Antarctica going "I knew I should've taken that left turn 250 million years ago"

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It is simple

They do not visit us because we play cricket!

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One day...

we will get in touch with an advanced civilization, and they will come to Earth and sue everyone for patent infringements ;-)

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Think Bigger, and it's Easier when Real Good.

"The old and excellent science fiction gag of TV broadcasts being picked up and avidly watched by aliens isn't realistic,...." To Think Not is a Powerful Misunderestimation of Alienating Virtual Reality Plays in Live Operational Virtual Environments ...........LOVE, Long Time Stay.

"or becomes enervated by spending all its time in immersive artificial game/entertainment environments and dies out because it can't be bothered to breed." ..... With Multi Dimensional Hard XSSXXXX CoredD Porn, is that an Unlikelihood.

"Einstein wasn't joking about that 'going faster than light' stuff, you know? All the evidence suggests that, it is not only impossible to move faster than light, but that it is impossible to *have* moved faster than light:" ....Daniel 1 Posted Wednesday 3rd March 2010 15:01 GMT

Ah, but Einstein wasn't aware of Time Travel and Virtual TelePortation to a Place where Space is AITerminus ...... Space Travel Centre Spoke and Vital Virgin Supply Line for Core Energy Raw Source.

It can also be considered that many beings are already here in popular diguise/humanised phorm....... and Communicating Sublime in the Registers that Chronicle and Share Posts.

Incidentally, passports are practically an alien identity card .

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Pirate

Eh?...

"Beaming an active-SETI radio message at these positions, speculates the prof, might awaken some aeons-dormant machine left behind by the aliens"

Why does that have "BAD IDEA" written all over it? The good Prof assumes too much in assuming that such aliens were benevolent...

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Only ...

You have a valid point, only if they had any kind of "life hostile" outlook wouldn't they just nail the planet with some big asteroids and not bother putting the machines in the Larange points in the first place.

And if they just wanted to keep intelligence from arising then could just set it up so the Earth got nailed by a big rock every 65 million years or so to wipe out almost everything but not destroy the planet.

Hang on ...

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Any really intelligent lifeform

Would send a robot first.

Any self respecting robot would look at what we're doing to rescue our Mars rover.

I think we're boned if we're waiting for some kind of galactic benefit scheme to rescue us.

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Coat

#include.std

Monty Python Universe Song Quote here

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Alien

Where to look for aliens visiting Earth

Personally, I rather like Banks' idea in "Transition". What might Earth have to offer that might tempt alien tourists to visit, of all planets they could reach with a similar amount of effort? His conclusion was that the perfect solar eclipse (due to exact ratios of Moon and Sun size and distances) is probably rare enough to qualify.

So if you want to find aliens, look for suspicious types (or suspiciously empty-looking regions?) at solar eclipse events...

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none of the geeks got it

>enervated by spending all its time in immersive artificial game/entertainment environments and dies out because it can't be bothered to breed.

New keyboard sentence of the week for El Reg. Lewis takes a lot of hits about his defense opinions from loud mouth bloggers out there but he tends to be the most entertaining writer on the Reg imho.

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I got it

but did not have anything to except for

"HEY! I resemble that remark!!"

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"send a robot first"

I remember a rather good little short story, where a couple of robots from Earth visit Jupiter to sort a peace treaty with the residents, who are building a weapon which would exterminate all life on Earth. Through various incidents and accidents, the Jupiter guys find that it's completely impossible to hurt the robots, including with the weapon they're building, and are awed enough to sue for peace. The gotcha at the end of the story is the robots saying to each other, "Do you think we should have told them we're only robots?" "Nah, don't worry about it."

Re the Dyson sphere, a thick enough sphere certainly *would* create gravity for anyone standing on the inside surface. The stability is a problem though - although it's also worth adding light and cosmic rays into the mix, bcos those will tend to push things away harder as they get closer to the Sun, so maybe it's not quite as unstable as it looks if you only consider gravity. And whilst passive stability might not be achievable, there's nothing wrong with using active stability, assuming your civilisation stays around to maintain the systems (or creates some self-replicating robots which can do the maintenance, and of course mine the rest of the Solar System for resources to use).

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I could be wrong

But I think it's by Fred Saberhagen. Brilliant author.

Some interesting points made in this thread!

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