back to article ET hunter: We will find SPACE ALIENS in 20 years

First contact between man and extraterrestial life may be imminent and set to take place within the next two decades, according to the top astronomer at the SETI Institute. Testifying before the US House of Representatives committee on science, space, and technology, senior astronomer Seth Shostak predicted that life will soon …

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Anonymous Coward

Translation

1. It's budget negotiation - i.e. funding - time in Congress.

2. NASA wants more budget.

3. The Mars bullshit is wearing thin.

4. NASA needs new and improved bullshit.

Solution: Space Aliens In Deep Space, 20 years from now.

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Re: Translation

What do you think Congress has to do with SETI? The correct answer is not a god damn thing, but I would like to know what you think. I'm also quite curious as how you think NASA is involved with SETI. Again, the answer is the same, bit I want to know what you think.

Whatever you say is bound to be hilarious, but this is the Internet. Here no one can hear others laughing at them.

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Re: Translation

I wanted to say that. I pout, therefore I am.

Sending toy trucks to Mars wore thin for me a long time ago. A whole lot of money for very little return.

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Joke

Re: Translation

Don Jefe, wouldn't that be: on the internet, no one can hear you laugh

LOL?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Translation

It's sad and funny at the same time when someone believes that they are smarter and more knowledgeable than they really are, and are not afraid to show it. It's like a corporation believing their own press releases.

Have you actually read the Register article?

The article mentions testimony from some SETI Dude in front of Congress. Right at the time when Congress negotiates next fiscal year's budget, including NASA's. It must be a fortunate timing coincidence.

So what does SETI Dude promise in his testimony? Aliens in 20 years. Promise comes from an Industry Expert In Searching For Aliens who hasn't found a single Alien yet. Iron-clad credibility.

Remember the original Mars Bullshit story about fossilized bacteria in a Mars meteorite? NASA sold that story in the mid-late '90's. It worked for a while - funded a few Mars missions. Now they need a new bullshit because the fossilized bacteria story turned out to be false, the Mars missions didn't yield any new information about Mars that we didn't already know, the scientific value of analyzing Mars rocks is close to zero, and the funding for these pointless Mars missions - which are nothing more than a jobs program for NASA staffers obsessed with Mars - has dried up.

Do I need to draw a picture for you?

This reply of yours, and your previous one about Apple's cost of retooling for hardware manufacturing, when Apple doesn't manufacture one single part of any of the the Apple-branded hardware they sell - everything is outsourced. Therefore, Apple's cost of manufacturing retooling is zero.

But you seem to have earned a lot of respect on the Internet. I'll take a wild guess: you must be an independent IT Consultant. Your Bullshit-Fu Is Strong.

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Re: Translation

If you bothered to check how (e.g.) SETI@home is funded you'd discover that it receives a grant from NASA.

No one of clue doubts that NASA would love to have SETI back under its own roof, just as it did before Congress and that idiot Proxmire forced it to outsource the research back in the 80s.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Translation

"Sending toy trucks to Mars wore thin for me a long time ago. A whole lot of money for very little return."

I agree, in my mind Mars One has the right idea, a one way colonisation attempt.... sure some people will die, but that happens with every attempt to colonise a new land....

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FAIL

Re: Translation

You know what's even more sad, but hilariously funny? Is when individuals are so certain they are wrong they have to hide themselves, in shame I suppose. If you're so certain you are wrong the correct thing to do is not open your fucking mouth.

The SETI guy wasn't providing testimony, he was providing a non government perspective on the current state of looking for intelligent life (as an aside, if you hadn't chosen to cower in fear I could have told the SETI folks where not to bother looking).

You can petition to speak to Congress too you know, if you've got anything relevant to add. I spoken, voluntarily, to various Congressional committees a total of nine times, your last performance review at work was probably a bigger deal. The chairperson sends proxies all the time and everybody else is talking to others or playing games on their phones. It's a formality, the decisions have already been made. Nothing said at those committee meetings means a fucking thing except they've got great records so we can look back and see how wrong they were.

As for the manufacturing bit, child, you are way, way out of your league. Your contract manufacturing partner only owns the equipment that cranks out industry standard goods. Specialized Pick and a Place machines for PCI cards are a good example. There's no reason to but a full featured, adaptable, PnP machine if you're going to be turning out large volumes of the same basic thing with different decals. Contract manufactures own stuff like that, full feature PnP machines for small(ish) runs of their clients products. Sometimes they'll own component inventory as well, caps and resistors and such, but their inventory is usually kept for generic, low expectation products like inexpensive TV's and home theater systems.

If you've got an oddball product your manufacturing partner does not usually own the equipment. The brand owner, Apple in your example. The same is true for tooling and QA equipment as well as responsibility for maintenance and service of the equipment, the brand owner owns the equipment, tooling, any specialized tools for servicing that equipment and more often than not, they'll also own their own inventory of board level components so they can ensure QA isn't negatively impacted by counterfeit parts.

See, contract manufacturers sure as fuck aren't going to assume liabilities for extremely expensive specialized equipment that will be worth fuck all if you go out of business or your product doesn't sell. On the other side, you aren't going to risk others discovering how you do this or that. So companies like mine design and build your specialized equipment here, make it tamper resistant, and lug it over to China and set it all up. Sometimes we'll take on service contracts, but we generally sub those out, we just make the equipment and the parts, it's on somebody else to fuck it up.

You want to take a guess at who pays those invoices? Those millions and millions worth of invoices for designing, building and retrofitting manufacturing equipment, tooling, QA equipment and spare parts? Here's a hint, it sure as fuck isn't Foxconn or Pegatron or CWWM or Celestica. It's the brand owner we send the invoices to, and it's the brand owner that sends checks back.

You have absolutely no idea what's involved in making your world work. I suspect you've spent your career thus far in contract roles doing outsourced work and you think that's how things operate. It isn't. You're being taken advantage of but don't have the sense to know it. Before you embarrass yourself further it would be best if you broadened your horizons a bit. The world is much, much larger than you know and if you want to learn about it you should do less talking, more listening.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Translation

Tell-tale characteristics of an Internet Clown - yes, that means you, Mr. Don Jefe: inability to accept facts. To wit:

You state:

<QUOTE>

The SETI guy wasn't providing testimony, he was providing a non government perspective on the current state of looking for intelligent life (as an aside, if you hadn't chosen to cower in fear I could have told the SETI folks where not to bother looking).

</QUOTE>

The El Reg article states:

<QUOTE>

Testifying before the US House of Representatives committee on science, space, and technology, senior astronomer Seth Shostak predicted that life will soon be found in our own cosmic backyard, within the solar system itself.

</QUOTE>

The word "Testifying" in the El Reg article is actually a hyperlink to:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?319504-1/astrobiology-extraterrestrial-life

In this video, we can all hear the Chair of this particular Congressional committee describing the committee proceedings as "testifying".

But thanks to your clarification, SETI Dude wasn't testifying. Just like Apple manufactures every single part for its Apple-branded hardware products, and incurs retooling costs.

Feel free to substitute Internet Clown with Bullshit Artist, if you prefer.

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Re: Translation

I suggest you read the source material and quote that instead of quoting me. Again, you're talking but doing no listening.

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I've heard that before...

Funny, I seem to remember people saying this sort of thing 20 years ago.

Extraterrestrial life - almost certainly, sooner or later, although to pin it down within 20 years is a bit of a stretch. We'll be doing well to have retrieved samples from Mars in that time frame, let alone explored Europa or Titan or Enceladus or any of the other moons that also might harbour life.

Extraterrestrial intelligence - now that's a big ask. Especially if we expect that intelligence to be broadcasting radio waves. When you consider that only once in 4 billion years has Earth itself produced life capable of this, said life has only been able to broadcast radio for the past 100 years at most, and with the way technology is going, we'll have no need for powerful broadcast radio within the next 100 years. Low-powered wifi links acting as relays seems to be the way we are going in this area, and if this becomes the norm the radio shouts from Earth will soon drop to a whisper - one that is unlikely to be detectable from light-years away even with the most sensitive equipment. So the window of time in which such technology may be in widespread use is likely to be vanishingly small.

Furthermore, the environmental conditions required to produce intelligence are incredibly specific. Anyone who has seen or read Jared Diamond's excellent documentary series Guns, Germs and Steel will realise how specific the combination of geography, climate, ecology, and sociology have to be in order for advanced civilisation and technology to emerge. When you consider the specificity of those conditions, and the resulting tiny time window in the vast sweep of this planet's history, it is easy to see that while life in the universe is probably commonplace, intelligence almost certainly is not.

Even though there are potentially dozens of billions of life-bearing planets in our galaxy alone, which does improve the odds for there being intelligent civilisations at some stage of evolution, the chances are that such civilisations are spread so far apart that by the time the signals from one reach the antennae of another, the sender will have long since ceased to exist, or will have changed beyond anything the receiver might recognise as intelligence.

That's not to say we should stop searching, by any means. But we do need to face the realities of such a search, and citing time frames of 20 years, every 20 years or so, isn't being realistic about it.

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Re: I've heard that before...

In all likelihood it will be aliens that discover us, not the other way around. As a single planet our chances of finding another planet with 'intelligent life' on it are stupidly slim. For the reasons you point out, and a bunch more besides.

But the chances of something from one of the billions of other planets finding us are greater simply because of volume. Of course that assumes that a huge percentage of those other planets are looking for extraterrestrials and that they would want to let us know they had found us. If scientific exploration is their mission then, assuming the science of methodic observation is near universal, they would learn more about us if they were hidden.

If it's resources they're after then we're all just fucked unless they'll accept our surplus of fat stupid people.

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Re: I've heard that before...

It doesn't really matter if we discover them first or if they discover us first, because actually travelling from one star system to another is, and always will be, impossible without a VERY long journey in a generation ship. The barrier to any form of FTL drive is the impossibly huge energy source required.

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Alien

Re: I've heard that before...

"and with the way technology is going, we'll have no need for powerful broadcast radio within the next 100 years. "

I actually sent a similar objection to Seth Shostak a via mail around 10 years ago, in response to some web article of his. He answered that while the normal radio traffic of advanced civilizations will use techniques that makes it hard to detect, they will also send hailing signals meant to be heard over interstellar distances.

I think this is a bit too optimistic. Why would a civilization keep broadcasting its existence "in the clear", given that it might actually be risky to do so? (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Star, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berserker_%28Saberhagen%29). Maybe that is why SETI has picked up nothing... and never will.

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Joke

Re: I've heard that before...@Don Jefe

"But the chances of something from one of the billions of other planets finding us are greater simply because of volume."

So what you're saying is...the chances of anything coming from mars, are a million to one?

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Re: I've heard that before...

Why does everyone buy into the "the sender [alien civilisations] will have long since ceased to exist, or will have changed beyond anything the receiver might recognise as intelligence"?

Good grief. Frogs and crocodiles have been around for 100+ million years, and we're a lot smarter than them. And change into something not recognisable as intelligence? What, a flower? Someone has been watching too many episodes of Babylon 5.

We are alone. Any civilisation even slightly more advanced than us could populate the galaxy in 10,000,000 years. That fact that we are still here speaks volumes.

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Alien

Re: I've heard that before...

quote: "Furthermore, the environmental conditions required to produce intelligence are incredibly specific. Anyone who has seen or read Jared Diamond's excellent documentary series Guns, Germs and Steel will realise how specific the combination of geography, climate, ecology, and sociology have to be in order for advanced civilisation and technology to emerge. When you consider the specificity of those conditions, and the resulting tiny time window in the vast sweep of this planet's history, it is easy to see that while life in the universe is probably commonplace, intelligence almost certainly is not."

The environmental conditions required to produce us are pretty specific, I grant you. However a truly complete study would have to cover all potentially possible biochemistries, and include the viable environmental conditions that those biochemistries would require for continued function.

We have armoured metal snails that live next to geothermal vents, and humans obviously can't survive there. It would be a somewhat unscientific stretch to claim that those conditions are therefore incapable of supporting intelligent life though, given they demonstrably can support multi-cellular life already.

Also, Mr. Diamond's work was not a study of the conditions for emergent intelligence, it was a study on why Eurasian culture became dominant over other indigenous cultures (African, American, Australian) that it migrated to. Intelligence had already emerged, and is in fact a pre-requisite for the study. So while the laid-back PanzerSchnecke culture of the Pacific Rim might end up dominated by the more prolific and technologically advanced PanzerSchneken from the Atlantic, you still end up with technologically advanced PanzerSchnecken pootling about in the volcanically active oceans of <insert exoplanet here>, regarding this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drawing their plans against us....

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Re: I've heard that before...

@GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

Totally agree with everything you said, except "We are alone. Any civilisation even slightly more advanced than us could populate the galaxy in 10,000,000 years" even the slowest SciFi fuelled craft requires close to light speeds to get anywhere.

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

- Douglas Adams

So imagine there is another civilisation, imagine it exists in a similar time-frame to us, imagine it built spacecraft several factors faster than anything we have ever created, imagine it even happened to point it at our solar system, imagine the craft survived decades of space travel, would we even know? with 100,000,000,000 galaxies each with 100,000,000,000 stars I wouldn't be surprised if some could have life, and further not surprised if some actually could/had/will have life, some of that life could even be massively intelligent, and having a whale of a time in it's own bit of the universe, hell, I get lost in Tescos (and have a particular problem finding the Bovril), just because we may never find it, doesn't mean we are alone.

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For 20 years of gravy...

I'll promise you anything.

Perpetual motion flying cars that also power your home and at night fly over to Africa to help plough the fields? Sure, no problems.

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Re: For 20 years of gravy...

Especially if you're less than 20 years away from retirement.

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Re: For 20 years of gravy...

Yes, where are the flying cars damn it... and the sharks with head mounted lasers.

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What are the chances?

A million to one, I'd say.

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Re: What are the chances?

Yes, but those happen 9 times out of 10.

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A million to one, they said ..... but a million is as nothing today

Extraterrestrial intelligence - now that's a big ask. Especially if we expect that intelligence to be broadcasting radio waves. ….. Steven Roper

Hmmm? ……. Howdy, Steven Roper. Talking of intelligent broadband casting radio waves and big extraterrestrial asks, is it akin to a phorm of HyperRadioProActive IT Command and Control Operating System which is also an intangible weapon system of Mass Administrative Disruption ….. for a CertifIED Control of Advanced IntelAIgent MADness?

The difficulty the Pentagon has, or the opportunity which presents itself to competent smart civilians and disciplined military and/or para-military forces of any ilk, in any land and theatre of operations, …..for it is in IT and AI development fields, a universal singularity, ……. is that the necessary innovation required to effectively deal with, and therefore lead future scenarios, is wholly cyber based and it renders traditional and conventional government and presidential executive office and banking systems fiat currency command and control leverage, subservient and catastrophically susceptible and vulnerable to cyber command based exploitation and total systems takeover by such novel special forces/virtual terrain team players.

And it should be fully expected, for all of the normally touted reasons of preserving and promoting national and international, and now internetional security and virtual protection, that the likes of a DARPA or a Qinetic or an Academi or a Unit 61398, be fully engaged in the provision of leading intellectual property for realisation of critical tactical advantage and overwhelming superiority with the express laudable purpose of supplying a product which cannot be bested in attack and is attractive to all as a proxy maintained weapon of ultimate defence ….. with an HyperRadioProActive IT Command and Control Operating System …… Virtualised SCADA Attack System.

And there be no funding supply worries for suppliers of those systems, given the fact that they can easily flash crash fiat currency provision/debt accumulation systems.

amanfromMars at 5/22/2014 11:32 AM ….. commenting on http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1509

And Bland Blithe Blighty appears to have no sensible government providing the likes of a DARPA or a Qinetic or an Academi or a Unit 61398, and dear oh dear, is that a treasonous omission if not corrected in the full light of the failing exposed, or just crass serial systemic incompetence indicative of a lack of necessary leading future intelligence and current awareness?

Given the systems in place, Shostak believes that discovery of exterrestrials will occur in our lifetimes, should governments provide scientists with the necessary funds.

Err …. do not banks provide creative supply funding, and governments supply novel destructive debt as they try to keep themselves in positions of remote proxy power over the will of the masses, aided and abetted by a colluding media? Is that not how things really work down on Earth?

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Re: A million to one, they said .....

... but still amanfromMars came!

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Re: A million to one, they said ..... but a million is as nothing today

But still, he came.

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Re: A million to one, they said .....

Ahhh - beat me by seconds!!!

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Space is big. Very big...

More than 100 billion galaxies x 100 billion stars in each one presents a lot of opportunities for life to arise throughout the universe. It wouldn't surprise me if – in the time it takes you to read this sentence – several new civilisations have flourished and a similar number have perished. Carl Sagan's hunch was a rate of about once every ten years in our galaxy alone, which would scale up to around 1kHz for the universe as a whole.

Less optimistic speculators think that number might be zero. Who knows, but it's fun to speculate.

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DJO

Re: Space is big. Very big...

More than 100 billion galaxies

That's the "observable" universe the debate over is the universe finite or infinite is still unresolved, if the universe is infinite then other life is guaranteed, even if it's just a duplicate of us.

"A duplicate?" - It works like this: there are only so many ways to combine atoms to form a galaxy, it's a big number, very big, vastly incredibly big, but it's not infinite so in an infinite universe there must be another Milky Way galaxy with another Earth and another George W. Bush - damn, it's not all good then.

Personally I doubt if the universe is infinite because of the Pauli exclusion principle, but that's a whole different barrel of quantum weirdness.

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Re: Space is big. Very big...

There are other forces at work.

Even in an infinite universe, I cannot imagine Wayne Rooney being crowned Miss World, even though the technical possibility might exist in a theoretical sense.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Space is big. Very big...

"so in an infinite universe there must be another Milky Way galaxy with another Earth "

or it might be infinitely large and the only infinitesimal region where there are stars or planets is the part we can see........ infinity does not mean everything must be.

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Boffin

Re: Space is big. Very big...

err yes it does. No version of infinite space (assuming uniform mass distribution) would lack everything that would be, and also every other possible variant. But only based on the local physics.

On a biological note, it is not known what the current genetic code can produce, so just imagine the possibilities with slightly different physics and infinite time to evolve....

Does this sound right?

P.

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Black Helicopters

...what the...?

Two weeks ago, the Pope went on record saying that of course the church would be happy to welcome extra-terrestrial life into the fold. http://global.christianpost.com/news/pope-francis-talks-about-aliens-says-he-would-welcome-martians-to-receive-baptism-119630/

Now we are being told contact with extra-terrestrial life is likely to happen in the next 20 years.

Are we being softened up for something...?

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"Are we being softened up for something...?"

Higher taxes and more frequent circulation of the collection plate.

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Re: Are we being softened up for something...?

Buttered with crushed garlic and a sprig of rosemary more likely... the 'Drake' equation has been doing the rounds again on the TV and the sci-fi movie 'Jupiter Ascending' due for release this summer has present day Earth in a far more crowded universe, with any similarities to the plot line of 'Men In Black II' being purely co-incidental - allegedly

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ...what the...?

Of course we're being softened up. Intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, searching for ways how they could obtain benediction from the one and only catholic church. They've just not taken the Earth by force yet because that would be against the fifth (after catholic counting) commandment.

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Stop

What preceded telecommunications?

Easily obtained and exploited fossil fuels drove the Industrial Revolution, leading to large-scale capitalism. The discoveries necessary for radio communication mostly came from the country where the Industrial Revolution arguably began: Britain. Without railroads running all over, and global shipping commerce, telecommunications would have been unnecessary. So another factor in determining a planet's suitability as a coherent radio source is, does it have easily-exploitable energy sources? There may well be billions of intelligent societies in the universe, but most of them may be stuck in pre-industrial agricultural civilizations. We'll never hear from them and they won't be listening for us.

Assuming that alien civilizations not only looked a little like us, but also functioned economically and socially in the same way, was okay for 1950s s-f movies. But it seems very hubristic today. They may be out there, but we may never contact them. All in all, knowing what we know, they probably wouldn't mind.

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Anonymous Coward

Seems unlikely...

...That the funding will come through never mind the desired outcome in the time-frame he's providing.

But overall, its a worthy endeavour no matter what the actual outcome. But to the little problem of funding, where are all the Tech Billionaires and Russian Oligarchs when you need them?

Private funding could probably do a better job anyway, just look at Musk right now. Its also better to be answer free of a country that seems hell bent on re-enacting the next Fall-Of-Rome...

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Re: Seems unlikely...

"where are all the Tech Billionaires and Russian Oligarchs when you need them?"

Shopping for a new luxury yacht, or the 21th addition to their collection of sports cars they never actually drive.

With rare exceptions, the hyper-rich tend to spend their wealth in depressingly stupid and tasteless ways.

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Stop

"within the solar system itself"

That's a typo, isn't it?

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Re: "within the solar system itself"

Not if all you're hoping for is, say, bacteria. He said life, not intelligent life...

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Re: "within the solar system itself"

Mr Auditor, I noticed that too, but no-one else has mentioned it. The Reg quotes Shostak as saying there are "at least half a dozen worlds . . . in our solar system . . ." and then reverts to planets and galaxy.

Maybe The Reg got it wrong; maybe Shostak is trying to excite congresspersons.

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Re: "within the solar system itself" @DropBear

Indeed, he said life. But the article went on all about exoplanets and also intelligent life, and no word about the likeli- or unlikelihood of finding life in our solar system. Unfortunately, I cannot access his testimony.

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A good thing he was meeting the House of Representatives committee.

The Senate committee has the.. hmm...err...ah... gentleman. Yes that's it!. the gentleman who believes the universe is only 6000 years old and that we're it for life because the Bible tells him so. Helluva way to run a space committee which determines funding.

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Yag

Sounds like a fallacy...

"It is like buying trillions of lottery tickets and none of them is a winner; it would be very unusual."

And most winners of lotteries only bought a few tickets, not trillions.

In this case, mankind is a winner of the life lottery. We could had trillions of tickets or only one of them, the actual number of tickets we had is irrelevant...

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While the raw numbers fairly insist upon intelligent life elsewhere, the odds of finding it would appear to be rather slimmer.

The thing that gets me is that for each potential populated planet, there is a window in history during which that proposed civilisation would have to have been of a technological sophistication sufficient to broadcast signals we can pick up.

If a planet is 30,000ly away then a civilisation would have had to inhabit it 30,000 years ago and had the technology to send data into space. So, if that planet IS inhabited but its civilization reached that stage only 29,900 years ago then no one alive today would know.

Repeat for every other potentially inhabited planet - you are banking on not only there being intelligent life out there but it having reached a certain technological sophistication at a time dependent on its distance from us. If those things don't match up then we get no signals.

I've often said that the disappointing bit is not that we might be alone in the universe but that we likely aren't alone but must live that way anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

or the planet that's 30,000ly away might have been inhabited by a civilisation that reached our level of technological advancement 30 million years ago and ever since then has been transmitting signals, and will continue to do so for however many millions of years it takes to get a reply.

Repeat for every other potentially inhabited planet.

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Linux

reply...

so we get a message that's 30,000 years old.

How do we reply in the knowledge that is longer than all of human history...?

P.

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Unhappy

"I think it will happen in the next 20 years, depending on the financing"

So...not in the next 20 years, then.

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I am pretty certain we are not the only Intelligent species that will ever exist, whether we are the first, the last or in the middle I do not know...

We have only been broadcasting loud enough to be heard for the past 60-70 years, and rather than continuing that, we are trying to reduce power needs and thus out radio signature will quieten, give it 30 years and our noise will be barely noticeable...

yes keep listening, but the chances of detecting any other intelligent life is minimal by radio waves, we are better off looking for evidence of intelligent life itself, such as light pollution.

What we need is bigger, better optical telescopes, capable of seeing extrasolar planets directly rather than indirectly as we do now.

but most of all we need research into FTL communications, sure it might not be possible, BUT the key thing is that if it exists that is what advanced civilisations will be using... Imagine the benefits too, the end of bad pings!

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