back to article After years of listening, we've heard not a single peep out of any aliens, say boffins. You think you can do better? OK, here's 1PB of signals

After years of listening to the cosmos, scientists have failed to pick up any sign of alien civilizations. So, the experts have dumped online a petabyte of signals picked up from the Breakthrough Listen project so nerds like you and me can rifle through the readings and have a crack at finding E.T. A staggering $100m (~£79,6m …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They gave up after 3 years? The SETI Institute has been going at it for 35 years now. Though, (according to Wikipedia at least) the SETI Institute only blows through $2M per year instead of $30M+. Still, it seems pretty silly to just give up and go home after only 3 years, when they even acknowledge there's more they could do.

    1. Saruman the White

      I think what they are actually saying is that they have gathered this vast amount of data and, having done some form of analysis on it, have turned up nothing. By releasing the data to the wider community they are probably hoping that someone, somewhere, will dream up an analysis technique that they have not thought of, and turn up the grain of wheat hidden in all of the chaff.

      To miss-quote Eric Raymond: "Given enough eyeballs, all problems become shallow".

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        By releasing the data to the wider community they are probably hoping that someone, somewhere, will dream up an analysis technique that they have not thought of, and turn up the grain of wheat hidden in all of the chaff.

        Well quite. Any project has to pick an approach to the problem, and in SETI there are competing theories about where we should be looking, what frequencies we should be scanning and what sort of signals we should be looking at. No doubt Breakthrough Listen had many long meetings about what was the most interesting/plausible data collection and analysis campaign that they could afford with their budget (probably hedged against what would also provide useful data for other cosmology work, or what data they could purloin from other projects/observing campaigns).

        The SETI Institute for instance has taken the view of investigating the Hydrogen Line (a.k.a "the water hole") on the basis that it's a physical constant, same as sticking lots of fundamental mathematics on the Pioneer and Voyager plaques. But there are people with other ideas, or who think the analysis should be done in other ways.

        Releasing the data to the world offers the opportunity of "Well go on, we didn't find anything via this methodology, but have at it with the thing you proposed".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I've been running SETI* as it's a pretty screensaver** - (and some of the World Community ones as well, but only the ones with graphics). I don't pretend to understand all the maths, but did strike me that SETI was making a lot of assumptions by just doing that narrow frequency.

          *working in IT - find it relaxing to watch my PC searching for intelligent life, as there are days I look around at my place of work and think there is none here. (Apart from me of course - I read El Reg!)

          **better than the corporate screensaver we have, and it annoys the domain admin!

      2. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Eric Raymond's aphorism fails when asked to prove a negative (like everything else).

        Posit: there are no other technological lifeforms capable of transmitting any sort of signal that we could detect with current instruments, or with any instrument conceivable in, say, the next three decades. IF that were the case, how long should we continue searching before concluding the odds of finding anything are now so low as to make further searches unnecessary?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "IF that were the case, how long should we continue searching before concluding the odds of finding anything are now so low as to make further searches unnecessary?"

          I'm sure the Boffins three million light years away thought exactly the same thing 2.9999 million years ago...

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Where do you get 2.999etc million years from? There was no possible detection signal from earth of intelligent life until agriculture covered and deforested enough of the landscape to change the gas composition of the atmosphere including upping the methane signal from all those domestic animals, compost heaps and environmental disturbances.

            BUT everything but the methane could have come from natural climate change. Methane is the killer, along with artificial radionuclides from atmospheric nuclear tests, 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl. But good luck detecting those from all those light years away.

            Methane is why the output from Mars is of such interest in the search for remnant microbes deep in the crust. Except we haven't ruled out geochemical processes and if it's life there ain't very much of it to give such an ambiguous signal.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I admit, I went the wrong way with my math. Should have said "Boffins 2.9999 million years in the future" D'oh...

              1. moiety

                Depends whether the alien boffins were broadcasting or receiving.

              2. Mark 85 Silver badge

                There's the fallacy in this. Time, distance, and the speed of light. Seems the speed of light part gets overlooked in these things.

                1. Bernard M. Orwell

                  Another flaw is discounting Legacy Technology, which is something the famous Drake equation doesn't account for.

                  Have you read Rendezvous with Rama?

                  An ancient ship, abandoned for no one knows how long, stumbles into our solar system....

                  I agree with Arthur C. Clarke; I suspect our first contact scenario will be with a robotic probe of some kind. So, whilst we think of SETI scanning distant worlds/stars for signal origin, its not beyond reason that the signal will come from something that's moving. Hopefully, closer.

                  1. Saruman the White

                    The spacecraft in Rendezvous with Rama was not abandoned; it was definitely travelling between two points, and was using the Solar System (and more specifically the Sun) as a refuelling point.

                    1. HelpfulJohn

                      Yerp, and the Rama II and III cylinders were also specimen jars collecting samples of the local pond-life as they fell through alien star systems.

                      It's an inefficient and terribly unlikely way of sampling space-going critters as timing is most definitely an issue but in the fictional Rama-verse, it did work a little.

                      I did find that timing exceedingly improbable.

                  2. HelpfulJohn

                    Re. "Rendezvous With Rama", I've sometimes idly wondered whether the famed "WOW!!" signal could have been the Earth stumbling through a tight-beam call home from a probe. That would neatly explain its brevity, its unrepeatability and its power.

                    "Rama" missed Sol but reported home from a nearby system and we just happened to intercept it for a few seconds as we fell past.

                    Earth bumbling across a tight-beam between two worlds could also do but I'd suspect that in that case the beam would have been wider.

      3. ibmalone Silver badge

        To miss-quote Eric Raymond: "Given enough eyeballs, all problems become shallow".

        Except for, "How do I escape from drowning in eyeballs?"

        1. moiety

          Make your variable $enough=1

    2. Annihilator

      Did you read the article? They haven't given up.

      "Although there isn’t much to see here, the Breakthrough Listen project is soldiering on. It hopes to study one million nearby stars, 100 nearby galaxies, and the entire galactic plane in radio and optical wavelengths. "

      All they've done is present a paper on the (lack of) findings for the first 3 years, and shared the data to allow others to see if they've missed something.

      Also, the length of time searching isn't important on its own. I could have sat in my back garden looking at one point in the sky with my eyes for 40 years - wouldn't make me 'better' than the SETI Institute. From what I'm reading, this project looked at a far wider range of locations and wavelengths than SETI Institute have done.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      "After years of listening to the cosmos, scientists have failed to pick up any sign of alien civilizations"

      Ans after spending dozens and dozens of seconds looking at the sky I have failed to see even a single airplane...

      doesn't matter if it's these 3 years or the 35 years SETI has spent, it's still an infinitesimal snapshot compared to cosmic timeframes. There could be a burgeoning Galactic Empire across half the Milky Way, that was already 10,000 years old when we were still living in mud huts, and we couldn't know about it for another 10,000 years or so.

      It's never been so apt to say that you need to be in the right place at the right time.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Completely right, but we are currently assuming that advanced civilizations are communicating using radio and we'll detect them that way.

        Had we have been having this discussion 130 years ago (just before radio was invented) then how would we have been considering that we would detect aliens? To judge from "The War of the Worlds" they might have been looking for a visual green flare through a telescope. Radio was outside of their worldview.

        For all we know, communicating via radio may be something that's only done for a few hundred years before a civilisation discovers some form of "subspace radio" that's dramatically better and abandons the electromagnetic spectrum so even if a Galactic Empire spanning half the galaxy does exist it might not actually be emitting radio signals at all. (which doesn't mean it's not worth looking, but it does mean that we should moderate expectations)

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Whilst I agree, and we are almost stopping radio comms...

          There is a significant chance of accidental RF emissions still being a thing.

          The most likely thing for us to spot is the equivalent of our use of Arecibo as a radar dish

          1. adam 40 Bronze badge

            No RFI type approval

            If in deed the aliens have stopped using radio, then their equipment would not be type approved to suppress RFI - no need any more.

            So it would probably be spewing out all sorts of spurious, should be easy to pick up.

            1. Joe W Silver badge

              Re: No RFI type approval

              Nah, any unwanted EM emissions are wasting power... Unless every alien is carrying around their personal cold fusion plant they will want to conserve energy.

        2. Jaybus

          "...even if a Galactic Empire spanning half the galaxy does exist it might not actually be emitting radio signals at all"

          It indeed seems likely that a civilization more advanced than ours would at some point progress beyond the use of radio. It is only logical that a space faring civilization would transmit in the x-ray or gamma band, since that would allow much tighter beams and sending much more data for the same transmission power over far greater distances. Perhaps there are FM modulations all around us at wavelengths far shorter than what we call gamma. We don't even know what the theoretically shortest wavelength is.

          Since NASA is already experimenting with x-ray comms, it would seem logical to assume that a civilization's radio comms period would last only around 100 years. Also, nearly all of those radio transmissions would be, like ours, unfocused. Far away signals would be extraordinarily weak. Tight, very short-wavelength beams should stand out more, once we have the tech to look for them. I believe SETI has the right idea, but perhaps were ahead of their time.

    4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Of course if they did find something they would definitely let us know. Yes sir.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge
        Alien

        "they would definitely let us know"

        Indeed. My masters would order them to tell us.

    5. tmTM

      Funding

      Maybe the funding just ran out?

      Especially if it's academical research where any money left after the grant ends has to be handed back.

      3 years is a pretty short length of time for a grant that big though.

  2. sisk Silver badge

    They're looking in the wrong place. They should be checking their own systems for something trying to phone home.

    1. Schultz
      Angel

      "They're looking in the wrong place. "

      No, they make a much more fundamental mistake: Everyone knows that you first have to believe in extraterrestrials and then start looking at the sky. If you go at it with scientific skepticism, your chances are (probably) very close to zero.

    2. Cavehomme_ Bronze badge
      Alien

      Discovery

      To the contrary, I think they may have been looking in the RIGHT place. I’ve analysed a tranche of the data overnight and amongst all the noise out there i can make out a string including these letters:

      ....N a n u N a n u S h a z b a t.....

      What do you code breakers reckon?

      1. ForthIsNotDead

        Re: Discovery

        Mork calling Orson. Come in, Orson!

        1. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: Discovery

          If alien life is extremely small, will they be nano, nano.

  3. Woza
    Joke

    "only if the source appears to move in the sky."

    Filtering out GSVs, then?!

  4. Michael Hoffmann
    Unhappy

    Stunned silence

    ... is what they are "hearing". I.e the disbelief and head-shaking (*), jaw-dropping (**) "did you see what those primates are doing now?!" reactions.

    We should be listening for the sound of interstellar facepalms

    (*) yes, provided they have heads

    (**) mandibles, suction cups, etc

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Stunned silence

      As a biologist I wouldn't absolutely rule out intelligent life being agnathans (jawless) or having non jaw like feeding apparatuses like lophophores. So you should perhaps include lophophore drooping in with jaw dropping.

      And of course feeding apparatuses which have not been discovered in morphospace by life on earth, yet, are also possible. If special effects and cgi budgets were not so constrained someone might have thought some up. But we tend to go straight to tentacles to portray alienness. Either that or the blob.

      I am obviously discounting Star Trek and it's cheapskate 'make aliens humans with different sorts of head prosthesis' thing. The cantina scene in Star Wars has rarely been equalled. Jaba's lair had too much of the air of Jim Hensen about it.

  5. defiler Silver badge

    A significant part of the problem

    A significant part of the problem is that the radio signals from an advancing society are only really clear for a brief time.

    There's the 1936 Olympics when Germany pushed out enough Watts on a broadcast to conceivably be detected off-planet. Since then, AM and FM signals have proliferated, analogue TV signals have swamped the airwaves, and then all of as sudden been replaced by digital signals. And the encoding on them becomes more and more fiddly, the compression more and more dense, until finally it starts to look like radio noise unless you know what you're looking for. Comms become frequency-hopping, and gradually tighter and tighter beam in the name of efficiency (yes, there are still broadcasts, but see how TV is gradually being shifted to online services delivered down a cable).

    So from a European standpoint there's ~100-year window of clearly structured, widely broadcast signals that could be picked up from afar and recognised as an orderly data stream. Taken globally, I don't expect that figure to reach 150 years, In the evolution of an intelligent species, that's merely the blink of an eye.

    Hell, I struggle to get HD DVB-T2, and all my equipment is designed to manage it.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: A significant part of the problem

      DVB-T2, 5G etc. is still easily recognized as an artificial signal even if an alien race would have no hope of decoding it.

      The big problem is that alien races may use something totally different than radio to communicate. We didn't know it existed until the 20th century, so we might have imagined a race on Mars communicating with us using flashing lamp semaphore signals like navies use.

      Unless we want to believe we've discovered all there is to know about how physics works, who know what we might discover 1000 years that opens us up Vernor Vinge's galactic Usenet. Hopefully with an easily decoded FAQ that tells us how to post / upload and etiquiette / code of conduct!

      1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        What intelligent species would want the average YouTube/Facebook/Twitter user posting on their internet ?

        1. brainyguy9999

          Re: A significant part of the problem

          Humans: Plz send alien nudez.

          Aliens: Who gave them the password?

      2. veti Silver badge

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        5G can barely reach the next street, let alone the next star system. Broadcast signals get weaker with every generation - which is a good thing, they waste a lot of power.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        "DVB-T2, 5G etc. is still easily recognized as an artificial signal even if an alien race would have no hope of decoding it."

        Given the trend of more and more transmitters covering smaller and smaller areas (and therefore lower and lower power), it's quite probably that such signals would be completely undetectable beyond a few light-days away.

        I think what's much more likely to be detected is the huge amounts of visible light that leak out from our street lighting and that light up the whole dark side of the planet like a giant bulb every night

        1. Annihilator

          Re: A significant part of the problem

          "that light up the whole dark side of the planet like a giant bulb every night"

          To be brighter than our sun?...

          Although thinking about it, our drive towards low-energy bulbs may actually make our lights look more like a signal. The emission spectrums (spectra?) from incandescent bulbs probably looks natural, whereas low energy or LED will look very artificial/notched.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: A significant part of the problem

            "To be brighter than our sun?..."

            Of course not, but we can detect the output of a star dimming when a planet passes in front of it, particularly when we can notice the said dimming happening at regular intervals. It's not too far a stretch to imagine that variations in the amount of dimming could be measured.

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: A significant part of the problem

          Is that even 10 LY away any signal is below the noise.

        3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: A significant part of the problem

          I think what's much more likely to be detected is the huge amounts of visible light that leak out from our street lighting and that light up the whole dark side of the planet like a giant bulb every night

          This is less bonkers than people are suggesting. If we're using the transiting method to spot a planet, then a lit night side means the dip in the light curve won't be as deep as it would for virgin night. That would cause us to underestimate the radius of the planet and so overestimate its density. So a planet that looks suspiciously dense might actually have a lit night side.

          Ideally, you'd want to get at the radius in some other way (onset time? duration of transit?) and compare the result. And any discrepancy would still probably look like noise. But it's certainly worth doing some calculations.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: A significant part of the problem

            The artificial light on the night side isn't uniform, if the Americas and Europe are facing you you see a lot of it, if the Pacific is facing you you see very little of it. So if you're basing estimates on size by the amount of light captured, you'd see a planet with a varying size, and Occam's razor would tell you it is the amount of light that is varying.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A significant part of the problem

              "The artificial light on the night side isn't uniform"

              Maybe, maybe not, but it would need to be measured over years to an external observer (to an Alpha Centuarian, Earth would transit our star only once every year, and (broadly) would show a quarter rotation of the earth each time (given there's roughly 365.25 days in a year) it transited. So three of the transits would look rather similar from a dimming perspective - assuming it's not cloudy.

              Besides, they'd more likely see Jupiter.

          2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

            Re: A significant part of the problem

            Aliens certainly won't notice the streetlights of Britain. Too fucking cloudy.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        It might be easily recognisable, but the point is that they're so low powered today that they likely as not don't even make it through the atmosphere, let alone retain enough strength to travel interstellar distances. The trend of communications is moving to lower and lower power levels.

      5. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        The big problem is that alien races may use something totally different than radio to communicate.

        Either way, it's still just a matter of advancing the state of technology - a lot of the heavy research at the moment for space-comms is going into free-space lasers or clever beam-forming techniques. SpaceX's StarLink constellation will have sat-to-sat communication, and use beam-forming ground antennae that don't need to be physically steered or pointed, as will the OneWeb user terminals and various future lunar/martian satellites.

        As far as free-space lasers go, those will simply not be visible to anybody other than the receiver, unless you miss you target receiver and bounce it off into space or someone physically MitMs the signal (what are the odds that the Wow! signal was a simple config error in an alien system!? We saw the splurge of output from a transmitter where someone had fat-tentacled the target coordinates?).

        It's entirely probable that a civilisation even just 50 years more advanced than us - if they're using communications recognisable to us at all, will be using point-to-point lasers or efficient, tight-beamed radio.

        The days of using moar power to blasting out broadcast signals are gone. 100years is a startlingly short period to be "discoverable" in galactic terms.

      6. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        so we might have imagined a race on Mars communicating with us using flashing lamp semaphore signals

        I'm tempted to sit down and work out the strength of optical light signal that would be required for a late-19th century telescope to pick up a message from Mars. Fortunately for our putative Martian friends, a first-approximation analysis suggests that it needn't be a nuclear explosion.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A significant part of the problem

        "Hopefully with an easily decoded FAQ that tells us how to post / upload and etiquiette / code of conduct!"

        I just hope they aren't anal about top-posting. Judging by how some of the primates here get all out-of-sorts about it, I truly hope an advanced race with really advanced weapons isn't bothered by it at all.

        1. Robert Moore
          Pint

          Re: A significant part of the problem

          "Hopefully with an easily decoded FAQ that tells us how to post / upload and etiquiette / code of conduct!"

          You know the first reply will either be: "Frist Post!!!!" or "TL;DR"

        2. Bernard M. Orwell
          Alien

          Re: A significant part of the problem

          It'll be a EULA and, collectively, humanity will just click "we accept" without reading it....

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: A significant part of the problem

      <= This.

      Even if we extend the strong broadcast period of a technological society to 200 years, this 200 years would have to coincide with our listening period. That's the tiniest fraction of time compared to the timeline of even just our solar system during which a technological society could have evolved. When looking for such signals we'd have to be within range and looking for such a signal and incredibly lucky to be looking at the precise frequencies involved at the right time.

      It doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep listening... if we do so for tens of thousands of years then there is a reasonable chance of detecting something. Or we could be really lucky.

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Wrong wavelength?

      Visible light might be a better giveaway?

      Granted, at out level, our tech does little to change the wavelength of the light reflected on the earth. But geologically and biologically speaking, it is vastly different from say Mars or Venus.

      Personally I observer there are no trees on the Moon, and no lakes on Mars, and conclude we are alone in the universe (the chance/appearance of life being 1 in a solar system appears true, and nothing states in cannot also be 1 in a Galaxy, or 1 in a universe event). However, I still accept the science of looking for other life out there is sound, but think the analysis of visible light passing through atmospheres on exoplanets is a better tell. Locally at least, as I don't think the ranges on that will give us an exhaustive search.

      Icon. Because some events happen simply in physics (the sun is nuclear), but only specifically for humans/lifes interactions (only we cause nuclear bombs).

  6. redpawn Silver badge

    A very low priority project

    $30m per year? I bet as a country we lose more than that much pocket change per day. In 2017 the federal government spent $75m on abstinence only education.

    1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: A very low priority project

      While they could have provided 375m condoms for free instead...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A very low priority project

        How will you get a virgin birth if you offer condoms?

        Abstinence is essential for the second coming. Or lying, everyone seems okay with that too. Just clean up the story when your writing the history in the future...

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: A very low priority project

          Are you saying the second coming is going to have to be done by hand?

  7. Archtech Silver badge

    Misleading headline

    The whole point is that they have found nio signals.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Misleading headline

      Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

      Keep searching, it's a big universe, there must be something out there.

    2. Twanky
      Alien

      Re: Misleading headline

      You weren't supposed to have discovered Nio signals yet!

    3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Misleading headline

      Yes in the tiny subset of star/frequency combinations they looked at, they found nothing they could interpret as an artificial signal.

      Our own galaxy is believed to have at least a billion stars, never mind the bilions of other galaxies. Maybe there's nothing out there, but they've barely scratched the surface.

      Signals could be too weak to detect, could be disguised to appear natural (why advertise?), maybe not using radio. Some species must be the first to achieve radio comms - statistically it's as likely to be us as it is any other species that might exist.

      Galactically speaking searching for 3 years, even 35 years (SETI) is a blink of an eye. It's a very, very narrow observation window - we could so easily miss the few decades of high-powered broadcasts before emitters become more directed and efficient.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Misleading headline

        "Galactically speaking", the whole of recorded history - about 10,000 years - is the blink of an eye, though. Exactly how much work should we put into this effort, on the basis that it will continue forever and will very likely never turn up anything even then?

        Maybe the others never used radio comms. After all, why would you need it, once you discovered slood?

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Misleading headline

          That only works for planets that have slood, in one or two they forgot and the slood stayed in the depot when the planets where created.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Misleading headline

          Personally, I think that we ought to keep a low level of effort going pretty much forever. It's not something worth throwing massive amounts of resources at though, simply because as you say it's an effort that you may have to run for a few hundred thousand (or million) years before receiving any signal.

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: Misleading headline

      ... So how do you feel misled, exactly?

    5. Anonymous Cowtard

      Re: Misleading headline

      I, for one, welcome our new Nio overlords.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    If we are alone

    We'd better try not to nuke ourselves or turn our life support machine into a greenhouse. For some reason we seem to be hell-bent on achieving what should be common sense to avoid doing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If we are alone

      well, this is apparently one explanation for no advance civilizations out there, they've already got to the point where humans are now: getting better and better at sawing off the branch they s

    2. GX5000

      Re: If we are alone

      We will, it's inevitable.

      The Human animal is stupid and competitive to the point of madness.

      If we don't Genetically modify ourselves soon to be able to survive out there we never will make it past year 3K.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After years of listening, we've heard not a single peep out of any aliens

    cause you're deaf n dumb, that's why

    Yours sincerely,

    Lizzard of Oz

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: After years of listening, we've heard not a single peep out of any aliens

      You will be hearing from our lawyers shortly. Illegal distribution of "Game of Spawning Pools" is a serious crime.

      Otherwise, would a lack of response mean a lack of alien lawyers?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: After years of listening, we've heard not a single peep out of any aliens

        You will be hearing from our lawyers shortly. Illegal distribution of "Game of Spawning Pools" is a serious crime.

        Otherwise, would a lack of response mean a lack of alien lawyers? ... Jellied Eel

        Probably Yes Definitely, Jellied Eel. It is not a field for just anybody, is it?

  10. Mage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Physics and Mathematics

    Even if the Galaxy is chock-a-block with tech civilisations we won't hear them. The Inverse Square Law, Shannon-Nyquist Law (noise vs information speed vs power) and the distance to the stars. It's dubious that any beamed transmission pointed straight at us would be strong enough even from the nearest stars. That's a nothing distance. Even 100x distance isn't much for our own galaxy, but needs 10,000 x the signal.

    What if it's just ordinary broadcasts? Well only VHF & UHF is much likely to leak into space. Any civilisation will design aerials to maximise the signal where it's wanted. So maybe a millionth of the signal of one beamed direct?

    The only way to detect Aliens is Spectroscopic analysis of how their sunlight is affected by their atmosphere. We don't quite have good enough gear yet, maybe the James Web telescope will detect something not explained except by industrial pollution?

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Physics and Mathematics

      Well only VHF & UHF is much likely to leak into space.

      Even that is doomed to failure, each frequency on those bands is in use in hundreds of locations around the globe, they don't interfere with each other because of the distances between transmitters.

      Signals leaking into space will be from all transmitters and as such isolating a single signal from the noise of all the others would be pretty close to impossible, even identifying a signal as non-random & synthetic might be impossible - locally it might be possible if you know the coding and protocols but doing the same from a distance of 10s or 100s of light years with no knowledge of the underlying principles - forget it.

      Well don't "forget it" but don't expect to be watching the equivalent of "Coronation Street" from Alpha Proxima.

    2. Twanky
      Pint

      Re: Physics and Mathematics

      A question I've asked before and not been able to find a satisfactory answer: Is Earth detectable from (say) Alpha Centauri now*? If the local small furry creatures had been regularly observing Sol for the last 35 years (SECI project) would they have actually noticed us - their closest** neighbours? Then apply that same question to not just observing Sol but trying to scan all observable planetary systems.

      Our space engineers efforts to maintain communications with various probes and rovers is impressive but not highly reliable even when they know exactly where the signals should be coming from. The comms from the first Moon landing only 50 years ago were heavily distorted - or was that caused by the trans-Atlantic television signal I was watching? They seem to have cracked near-Earth and interplanetary comms but... 'space is big'. We need more research.

      * Yes, I know, Simultaneous is not a thing at interstellar distances - but you know what I mean.

      ** I don't actually know if any other planetary system is closer to the Alpha Centauri system than Sol.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Physics and Mathematics

        The Alpha Centauri system is the closest to us, however it's a mess as it involves three stars which means that the likelihood of favourable conditions for any form of life is pretty low.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Physics and Mathematics

          Million-to-one chance low? Probably happens 9 times out of 10

        2. Twanky

          Re: Physics and Mathematics

          'The Alpha Centauri system is the closest to us'. Yep, about 4.5 light years, I knew that. What I don't know is if there's another system closer to it than ours.

          I'll also admit that the triple star system thing might make snooping on the neighbours more difficult than in a simpler system - but are we even detectable at that distance if there is anything looking - or have we been detectable in the past 35years or so?

          Our intra-system exploration has mostly been in the plane of the ecliptic so our comms have mostly been directed that way. Given that exo-planets are usually* discovered by us as they transit their local star how difficult would it be to detect our planet looking from perpendicular to the ecliptic - let alone tell if it had intelligent** life?

          * Dunno if it's 'exclusively' - not 'usually'.

          ** For a given value of 'intelligent'.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Physics and Mathematics

            > What I don't know is if there's another system closer to it than ours.

            There isn't, Alpha Centauri contains Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our system, and is also the nearest planetary system to us

          2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Physics and Mathematics

            Currently we can pretty much only detect planets in other star systems through one of two ways:

            The gravitational wobbles these cause their star (not strictyly true as the bodies orbit around each other therefore the centre point of the orbit is not the centre of the star, although it will be close - same way that the centre point of the earth/moon orbit is not the centre of the earth) - however this is only currently detectable for large mass planets and requires a reasonable timeframe of measurement to record and detect the change in position over time - complicated by our own orbit. For example to detect a large mass such as Jupiter it would have to be closer to the star than Jupiter and rather faster moving because otherwise we would need to observe the plantary system for a sizeabable fraction of the planet's orbit period - Jupiter has an orbit of 12 years which gives an indication of the time periods required for observation.

            The transit of a planet between the star and ourselves. This relies on both the system being aligned such that the planetary system is side on to ourselves (most won't be) and happening to being observing the star during the relatively short transit period and being able to measure the decrease in the star's observed output during this period and to perform this measurement a few times in order to remove any other reasons for the difference in the star's observed output.

            We are getting better at such measurements and observations and as time goes by we are discovering, and confirming, the existence of more and more planets in other systems; and the size of these planets is getting smaller and smaller too as our measurements are getting more accurate and are over a longer period.

          3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Physics and Mathematics

            Given that exo-planets are usually* discovered by us as they transit their local star how difficult would it be to detect our planet looking from perpendicular to the ecliptic - let alone tell if it had intelligent** life?

            Pretty damn difficult really - a species would have to be looking specifically at our system in order to observe it and to target it with rather better and more sensitive equipment than we can reasonably deploy - and to do so over a longer period of time.

            As for intelligent life... the jury is still out on that one.

    3. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: Physics and Mathematics

      As the signal from Voyager 1 with a 22.4 watt transmitter using a 3.7 meter diameter dish (0.6 degree beamwidth) can be read on earth at 20 light hours, it would be easily within current earth technology to produce a signal that could be read at 10 light years (and detectable for 100 light years) - a 25MW transmitter with a 0.1 degree beamwidth would suffice (and produce a higher signal at 10ly than Voyager 1 does at 20lh).

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Physics and Mathematics

        10 LY is 4,380x the distance of 20 light hours. So if everything else was equal that would need 19184400x the power. However even 100 LY might be a 1/10th of the distance of a neighbouring civilisation. And they'd have to be at the right stage of development and motivated to point a dish etc at us. Not likely.

        So is someone 10 LY away going to point a giant dish (about 25m) at us just when we point a giant dish at them?

        Then if the nearest tech civilisation was operating 100 LY away, 100 years ago, pointing a 25m dish at us they'd need 2500 MW!

        No, in terms of any likely density of tech civilisations at the right time, the probability that they are near enough and pointing the big dishes at us is very close to zero. Physics and mathematics say it's not likely.

        Any advanced civilisation looking for life elsewhere will use a big optical telescope in space and use spectroscopic analysis. The sending a radio signal idea is simply too expensive, short range and time consuming. You'd wait a long time for a reply even if it was plausible. In comparison the spectroscopic analysis is dramatically "cheaper", nearly instant and allows a survey of a huge portion of the sky in a few years.

        Then what do you do if you find life? Unless someone has discovered that stargates / jump drive / hyperspace / synthetic wormholes / <insert fictional physics> is possible and can make them, a visit isn't possible. Laser / Radio communications only plausible for 100% likely already identified target planet some 10s of LY distance. That's barely the doorstep. Our galaxy's disc diameter is about 150,000 to 200,000 LY across. Even if technically advanced civilisations are 1% of stars (which seems a madly high figure) there might not be any other current tech civilisation within a 1000 LY. That needs 10,000x the laser or radio power of a 10 LY away "neighbour". Also 1000 years ago.

        As Douglas Adams pointed out, Space is really big.

        1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

          Re: Physics and Mathematics

          Use a 250m disk (or bigger) or a large phased array - reducing the beamwidth from the 0.6 degrees of Voyager to 0.1 degrees has the same effect as raising the power in the beam by a factor of 36 - this coupled with a factor of over 1 million by replacing the 22.4 watt transmitter of Voyager with a 25MW transmitter on the ground gives an overall boost of over 36,000,000 times. With the inverse square law this gives a range increase of a factor of 6000. At a distance of 13ly (6000 times 20lh) the signal strength would be the same as earth receives from Voyager.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Physics and Mathematics

            A 25MW transmitter on the ground will have a fair amount of atmospheric loss, I'd think

            1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

              Re: Physics and Mathematics

              The loss (in dB) should be about the same as the loss Voyager signals encounter going through the atmosphere in the other direction so the 6000x range increase still holds.

              1. JetSetJim Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Physics and Mathematics

                fair point

  11. smudge Silver badge
    Alien

    Equidistant Letter Sequence

    Have they tried ELS? There's bound to be a section where every nth bit spells out "If you can read this, you're too damn close".

    1. TechDrone
      Joke

      Re: Equidistant Letter Sequence

      Or they could try ELO, but that would require some Mr Bluesky thinking.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: Equidistant Letter Sequence

        This is a search to find some Livin' Thing.

  12. tullio

    SETI@home project

    I often see the Breakthrough Listen logo on data coming from Green Bamk when I run the SETI@home BOINC project on my PCs. I have't seen any data coming from Parkes. I am running also data from Arecibo, which BL does not use.

  13. Richard_Sideways
    Stop

    Will no-one think of the legal?

    Wonder what the GDPR compliance implications are of capturing and publically distributing potentially billions of off-world communications without the sender/recipients prior knowledge? Do we really want our first contact to be via Zarquon, Zarquon & Hive-mind Legal Associates, with a class action suit?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Joke not a joke.

      The lovely thing called the "speed of light" means anything we discover, will be long out of the protected period of use. Unless there is an Alien equivalent of Disney's copyright extensions... cannot have Green Mickey Mouse cartoons copied!!!

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Joke not a joke.

        Minor technical details aside, speed of light, food, oxygen and so on - largely because experts are worthless and just sneer, we should pre-empt an alien lawsiut by firing off all our own lawyers now. Via any form of rocket type device into the general direction of Alpha Centauri.

        We should probably also broadcast a galactic apology because some of the buggers are likely to survive.

  14. tip pc Bronze badge

    Anyone wonder where static comes from

    We normally dismiss static as being generated by random natural events like lightning or a dodgy alternator etc, maybe it’s noise from alien planets or activities?

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Anyone wonder where static comes from

      I understand that it is an echo of the big bang or something,

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Anyone wonder where static comes from

        Yup - Radio static is Cosmic Background Radiation which as you suggest is the remnant of the Bang of Bigness.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe proof will be more physical ?

    Given our own trajectory of technological advance, how long before we can push a few planets around to make a clearly artificial orbit detectable from another solar system ? Centuries ?

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Maybe proof will be more physical ?

      The only way to have an "artificial" orbit is to have the body under power. Any orbit than can be maintained with out needing external forces can be a natural orbit.

      As for planets moving about, well the Sol system is reasonably mature but in its youth the planets were zipping around all over the place, enough for a Mars sized body to slam into the proto-Earth to form the Moon.*

      * Probably.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Maybe proof will be more physical ?

      "Given our own trajectory of technological advance, how long before we can push a few planets around to make a clearly artificial orbit detectable from another solar system ? Centuries ?"

      Playing pool with planets? Watch out for the black hole!

  16. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Sorry folks...

    Sorry to break it to you but we're all alone. No one's going to come and save us. We'll have to do it ourselves.

    Even with FTL technology the distances and physics are just too big of a problem.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Sorry folks...

      We thought we knew all there was to know about physics in about 1915 or so. Then Einstein came along and disrupted things with General Relativity. He even fudged it with lamda because we all through the universe was in a steady state until Hubble came along and disrupted that too.

      Who's to say what might come out of Cern and the LHC or elsewhere. Are dark energy/dark matter just more fudge factors?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Sorry folks...

        Are dark energy/dark matter just more fudge factors? .... John Brown (no body)

        :-)Those and that easily led to be fooled by the allusions of the delusional rely on one thinking and believing that to be so, John Brown (no body)

        However, it is what it is and once created can never be destroyed? The secret to be learned and administered then, is to master absolutely its sublime remote programming with almighty overwhelmingly powerful applications/SMARTR Advanced IntelAIgent Projects.

        And it is extremely wise of one to fundamentally realise, for the consequences of serial failures can very suddenly become catastrophically dire and extremely destructive, words/strings of informative intelligent communications have created, commanded and controlled and destroyed worlds since forever?

        You might like to ponder on why some of them are classified TS/SCI and who/what they are designed to protect when information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause "exceptionally grave damage" to the national security

        Those who think that they know, but are mistaken, and act upon their mistakes, are the most dangerous people to have in charge. — Margaret Thatcher

        The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. ... Edward Bernays

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Sorry folks...

        Who's to say what might come out of Cern and the LHC or elsewhere. Are dark energy/dark matter just more fudge factors?

        While there is some evidence of sparse matter/energy that doesn't interact with much... the entire dark energy/dark matter fascination does feel like a huge fudge to fill in some glaring inconsistencies between observations and models. There are some interesting, and not entirely whack-job, alternatives to the dark energy/matter fudges too, but all effort seems to be towards investigating dark energy/matter - which isn't a bad thing in itself as we are bound to discover some interesting things along the way regardless.

  17. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    El Reg ?

    It was hoped the astro-geeks would find some confirmation that there are ̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r forms of intelligent life out there [that had the technology to emit radio waves x or more years ago, where x is the number of lightyears separating us from the emitter].

    Fun thought: on the other side of the milky way, there probably is a life form that has been capable of emitting radio waves for 90 000 years, yet, we will not be able to listen-in before another 10 000 years, when the waves reach us.

    Maybe there is a planet 1000 lightyears away from us that had emitted radio waves for almost 200 years, yet ceased 250 years ago because they believed big business and became extinct due to planetary climate change.

  18. shanklin

    An oldie but goodie

    When I read about aliens I'm reminded of this classic by Terry Bisson.

    http://www.terrybisson.com/

    "They're made out of meat."

    "Meat?"

    "Meat. They're made out of meat."

    "Meat?"

    "There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

    "That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

    "They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

    "So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

    "They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

    "That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

    "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat." photomaxmix

    "Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

    "Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

    "Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

    "Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

    "No brain?"

    "Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

    "So ... what does the thinking?"

    "You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

    "Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

    "Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

    "Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

    "Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

    "Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

    "First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

    "We're supposed to talk to meat."

    "That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

    "They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"

    "Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

    "I thought you just told me they used radio."

    "They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

    "Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

    "Officially or unofficially?"

    "Both."

    "Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

    "I was hoping you would say that."

    "It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

    "I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

    "Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

    "So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

    "That's it."

    "Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

    "They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

    "A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

    "And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

    "Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

    "Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

    "They always come around."

    "And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: An oldie but goodie

      "They talk by flapping their meat at each other. "

      You owe me a new keyboard! At least it's a reasonable explanation for why teenage boys seem so uncommunicative to everyone else.

      Icon, because that's what teenage boys want to flap their meat at.

  19. Spanners Silver badge
    Terminator

    They reject signals emitted by other radio telescopes, or if the source appears to move in the sky.

    Surely that is unwise? Perhaps "they" have some devices orbiting us right now. Perhaps they have a moon base or have got one on some other rock out there. Even if it is on Pluto, it will move across the sky and will be rejected,

  20. Matt 75

    *all together now*

    pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space

    Because there's bugger all down here on Earth!

  21. Big_Boomer Bronze badge
    Alien

    And next Sunday a mad inventor discovers how to decode Mu-waves and we find out that the rest of the universe has been laughing at us behind our backs all along. "Damn Humans are soooooo stoopid! Even the WmAuk figured it out over 100 years ago, and they only have brains the size of a walnut"

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What if the aliens live in the gaps between the data?

    1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      So, the aliens are music? Interesting.

  23. fishman

    "The papers describe the observations of 1,327 nearby stars, fast radio bursts, and pulsar searches."

    There are around 200,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way. If there is a one in a million chance of a star having a planet with an advanced civilization, the chance for success with 1,327 stars would be around 0.13%. Conversely, there could be 200,000 advanced civilizations in the Milky Way.....

  24. astounded1

    Oh Come On, There Are Thousands Of People On Earth Who Talk With God

    What they need do is release this data to that crowd so they can pinpoint down the universe zones where god is talking from at any given time. This saves very much sterling and wasted effort. For example, this fellow Jerome, who dwells in an old rock hut out on Skellig Michael (and was a consultant on a Star Wars film), regularly receives messages from heaven directing him to write commands on rocks that are then transcribed into texts that wind up being recited from pulpits all over the world every week. This radio telescope work is scattershot. Go to the EXPERTS! I have a coffee every week with a guy who works a corner in my area whilst wearing an "I am Jesus" sign. He is a smart dude. I believe he hails from Proteus 24351bxg7.

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Oh Come On, There Are Thousands Of People On Earth Who Talk With God

      Are you suggesting a synthetic aperture radio made of people who hear otherworldly voices? Latency jitters might be an issue but I think that could get funding with the right social media resources.

  25. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Meanwhile, down at the Bizarre Tsar Bazaar .... a Greater IntelAIgent Game For(e)Play Enters

    ....with an Immaculate Playground for Heavenly Spaces

    After years of listening, we've heard not a single peep out of any aliens, say boffins.

    Well .... we all here on El Reg NetWorks know that to be demonstrably untrue. Oft is much freely shared.

    And to Further Believe is to Energise Almighty Potential .... with Immaculate Devices Worthy of True Potentates Attending to the Satisfaction of Desires to be Sated and Exalted in Equal Measure for the Virtually Real Guarantee of Repeat Commanding Performances

    Are you listening now to Advanced IntelAIgent Quantum Communications for Galaxy Command Head QuarterMaster Pilots?

    And that answer is a definite yes.

    And whatever you do, make sure the Fab Five ... Boris/Michael/Rory/Jeremy/Sajid .... have had their medicine before they are informed of ....... well, Events Way Beyond Any Normal Semblance of Remote Command and Virtual Control for ITs AIMachines have Key Generation for AIMasterPilot Command Control is gonna be a tough one for them to embrace and swallow/surrender and submit to :-)

    We can though say they were not misinformed from here.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    those ones are far away

    In general we know everything in spaaace is far away. But when on this topic people think they can have a 2 way phone conversation with the zargons.

    The light we see from the nearest habitable solar system is probably millions of light years away. Its probably light from when the inhabitants were bashing things with that jawbone.

    Until the next time when it gets forgotten. And it will.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exceedingly Rare

    Another interpretation of this 'stunning' find is that life is in fact exceedingly rare in the universe and perhaps we should consider doing a better job of protecting it? Moreover, "intelligent" life is even rarer still and only seems to have been found in one species that has ever existed. Maybe there IS something to those crazy old books that say doing whatever we want isn't a great idea?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the Dark Forest

    Has nobody ready the "3-body problem" series ?

    There are no signals because everyone is keeping quiet, the alternative being annihilation.

  29. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Small window

    I think part of the problem is there's actually a small window in which we can receive transmissions from another planetary civilization. Look to our *own* broadcast structure. We have not much of a 100-year span between when we started any significant broadcasting until we went to digital signals (which probably won't propagate so readily), narrow-band communication, satellites which transmit downward rather than outward, etc. Even *WE* probably aren't putting out a significant signal anymore, even with all the cruft we're spweing into the communications system.

    So unless you're picking up some other world's 100-year leakage period at exactly the right time, there probably won't be enough to get. We could have readily missed whatever signals were out there, since we wouldn't have been listening yet.

  30. Compuserve User
    Joke

    After 3 years we found enough examples of life in our seti. One of the reasons we bought another.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think of all the carbon released from consuming electricity...

    ...to look for aliens. When you could be mining bitcoin instead. Tsk.

  32. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    But

    What if the aliens simply haven't found us yet? Recent scientific research indicates that Earth-type planets maky be quite common but the conditions required for complex life bay not be.

    I estimated a while back that the nearest planet with possible intelligent life might be halfway across our Galaxy.

  33. Stuart Halliday

    Quite honestly, it's blatantly obvious that reading light variations is useless for communication.

    It's pointless as we're too far from anyone else to do anything about it. The general public is hardly going to keep interested if you tell them that a single message will take a minimum of 4.5 years to send out. Our own various governments don't want to do anything beyond their own term, let alone potentially over 50 years.

    Any advanced civilisation will realise it's a pointless exercise and just not bother.

    No, we need to invent a instantaneous form of communication. Something like Quantum Entanglement perhaps?

    Then once we send a neighbour solar system a craft with an entangled particle in it, we can chat all day long about mutual cat/alien cute lifeforms and how the weather is on our respective planets?

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