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Thread: SETI is largely a waste of time and space?

  1. #1 SETI is largely a waste of time and space? 
    Forum Senior Booms's Avatar
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    (First off, sorry if this is the wrong forum, I couldn't find the Pseudoscience bit and besides, SETI is a government funded internationally acknowledged body, so probably above PS anyway)


    I might have just come to the realisation late, but it occured to me watching a program about aliens (It was -hilarious-, apparently a lot of people believe there's magic lines of cosmic sun energy all over the planet 'like a tightly wrapped ball of string' that aliens set up for us, but is now broken because people scratched stonehenge) the the entire program is useless at worst, and at best might provide a tiny trace of long-gone life.


    See, at best. SETI is a listening device, it sits there and waits for radio-signals to reach us, where it can pick them up, Earth can give a whoop and sigh of relief, and build interplanetary ships loaded with the modern version of the conquistadors to go 'And just say hello' with weapons.
    But radio waves travel at lightspeed...which means even the nearest earth-like-planet would take around 600 years for anything to reach us, and we -know- that one's (probably) empty. Realistically we're talking about one of the really far out planets that might have life...planets a good three, four, five thousand lightyears away. Which means, any broadcasts we receive from them are just that old.

    Now, look at us. First radio signals around 90 years ago...hell electricity was safely harnessed for mass usage only around 100-200 years ago. And look how far we've come in that time, we're making our own space trips and working on an atomic structure, recreating the oldest events in the universe and searching for the ultimate 'unifying theory of everything' as well as creating computers small enough to carry or fit in your hand, electronics small enough to sit on your heart; robots that can almost climb stairs. In less than two centuries. Think how much we'll do in the next thirty eight centuries.
    Even if we caught the very very first radio signal from aliens, they would have advanced -thousands- of years through that technological curve. It's almost a guarantee they will be long gone, either extinct, or simply moved away to another planet, by the time we actually receive the signal.


    The other big problem, radio waves get weaker. As is SETI is powerful enough to be able to detect our own first signals from a hundred lightyears away...which means it couldn't even pick up the signals from the nearest planet (Kepler 22-b I think) if they were as primitive as ours. Instead we're -actually- waiting for an incredibly advanced, incredibly powerful radio signal to reach us from other planets. Which would indicate an extremely advanced alien society (yay)....thousands of years ago.




    So, my point is. At best SETI will provide a tiny little bit of retrospective joy for the world when we can say "Hooray, we now know conclusively that four thousand years ago there was an interstellar species spanning multiple systems, unfortunately the colossal radio signal we just barely caught the faint traces of probably destroyed their entire civilization or something...but life DID exist!"
    And at worst we're just deliberately, constantly disappointing ourselves with the thought that ET just doesn't exist and we're alone. SETI can't pick -anything- up because it's too crude and inadvanced to detect such faint signals, so we could be being bombarded with signals from thousands of civilizations all screaming out "HELLO? ANYONE THERE?" and listening intently, just like us, and we don't know, and we'd never know, because tech isn't advanced enough, and might never be
    And of course, there's always the possibility we might pick up a threat (or warning) from a civilisation..meaning the intergalactic homicidal aliens are already four thousand years closer to us.


    It's not how many questions you ask, but the answers you get - Booms

    This is the Acadamy of Science! we don't need to 'prove' anything!
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  3. #2  
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    Agreed - If you consider that this part of our galaxy is a good spot for life [ we are here ] there is no evidence of any other beings in the vicinity.
    Why then do we assume that there may be other beings in other far less suitable parts of the galaxy ? This is wishful thinking.
    Some of the parameters in the Drake equation have seriously over inflated estimates. I would be interested in Mr Shostak's view on this.
    I dont think we can make any predictions about life on other plants until we fully understand the process of planet formation which would then allow us to put a figure on the number of earth like planets occiring in any galaxy in the universe


    Yes there will be intelligent beings elswhere in the galaxy - when WE get there.


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  4. #3  
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    I believe the 600-thousands of years figure is gravely mistaken, just within 50 lys we know that at least:
    Alpha Centauri
    Epsilon Eridani

    Epsilon Indi
    Tau Ceti
    40 Eridani
    Eta Cassiopeiae
    82 Eridani
    Delta Pavonis
    Gliese 581
    Beta Hydri
    Pi3 Orionis
    Chara
    Beta Comae Berenices
    Zeta Reticuli
    Upsilon Andromedae
    18 Scorpii
    Could support life, in fact Gliese 581 has a gas giant in the habitable zone that could support a life-covered moon.
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  5. #4  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Your post contains many assertions that are simply wrong. Some of them are trivial, but I shall give all of them equal billing in my response.

    Quote Originally Posted by Booms View Post
    SETI is a government funded internationally acknowledged body
    No it isn't. Government funding ended in the early 1990s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Booms View Post
    See, at best. SETI is a listening device, it sits there and waits for radio-signals to reach us, where it can pick them up,
    Not "at best". A listening device is what it is. Your criticism is like saying "See, at best, a supermarket is a place you can buy food from. A company acquires the food and makes it readily available to the population in one place." Well, duh!

    Quote Originally Posted by Booms View Post
    Earth can give a whoop and sigh of relief, and build interplanetary ships loaded with the modern version of the conquistadors to go 'And just say hello' with weapons.
    There is no realistic connection between these two issues. This is a rhetorical device to undermine the value of SETI by implying an outrageous link to violent colonisation.

    But radio waves travel at lightspeed...which means even the nearest earth-like-planet would take around 600 years for anything to reach us,
    Willbell has demolished your nonsense on this point.

    and we -know- that one's (probably) empty. Realistically we're talking about one of the really far out planets that might have life...planets a good three, four, five thousand lightyears away. Which means, any broadcasts we receive from them are just that old.
    We have no idea whether or not life is commonplace and so your estimates here are meaningless. And what if the signals are four thousand years old or more? So what? It's called the Search for ET intelligence, not the program to meet with, communicate and play backgammon.

    It's almost a guarantee they will be long gone, either extinct, or simply moved away to another planet, by the time we actually receive the signal.
    Yet we shall still have achieved Moreover, you have no rational basis to assert that they will have wholly deserted their native planet.

    And at worst we're just deliberately, constantly disappointing ourselves with the thought that ET just doesn't exist and we're alone. SETI can't pick -anything- up because it's too crude and inadvanced to detect such faint signals, so we could be being bombarded with signals from thousands of civilizations all screaming out "HELLO? ANYONE THERE?" and listening intently, just like us, and we don't know, and we'd never know, because tech isn't advanced enough, and might never be
    And of course, there's always the possibility we might pick up a threat (or warning) from a civilisation..meaning the intergalactic homicidal aliens are already four thousand years closer to us the goal of establishing that intelligent life other than ourselves can exist in the universe. .
    Pessimism is a human condition, but it is not mandatory.
    Last edited by John Galt; July 24th, 2012 at 12:35 PM. Reason: Correct quote brackets
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  6. #5  
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    There are some serious people at SETI, such as Seth Shostak.
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