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Brainstorming Clever Ways To Detect Alien Civilizations

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the moon-sized-battlestations dept.

Space 343

Phoghat writes "In what is starting to become a familiar theme, researchers have speculated on what types of observational data from distant planetary systems might indicate the presence of an alien civilization. Potential indicators of the presence of an alien civilization might include: atmospheric pollutants, like chlorofluorocarbons – which, unlike methane or molecular oxygen, are clearly manufactured rather than just biogenically produced; propulsion signatures – like how the Vulcans detected humanity in Star Trek: First Contact; evidence of stellar engineering – where a star's lifetime is artificially extended to maintain the habitable zone of its planetary system; or debris created from asteroid mining."

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nooooo! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937592)

first post much?

The Cleverest Way To Detect Alien Civilizations (1, Redundant)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937596)

Turn off the detectors [slashdot.org] .. That'll stop 'em.. er. I mean.. ??

We can do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937610)

Can we really extend the life of our own sun? I can't even begin to calculate how that would work...

Re:We can do that? (1)

volcan0 (1775818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937660)

You just need to give it more fuel to burn and keep it's density.

Re:We can do that? (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937818)

Good luck with that.

Re:We can do that? (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938112)

Stellar engineering!?! Any civilization capable of that would be capable of finding another planet.
And propulsion signatures, Really? What exactly would that look like?

The whole thing reads like someone watches too much TV.

Gases in the atmosphere are about the only thing that can be remotely sensed. But I'm sure someone could imagine a non-intelligent life form that could emit chlorofluorocarbons or just about anything else anyone would care to associate with civilization on earth.

And Dyson Spheres. Yeah, that might work. Any civilization that could pull that off would already be HERE, probably farming US.

You might have far more luck detecting a civilization at about the same stage as our own, by the debris field of dead satellites orbiting various planets and moons. But that requires getting closer than we have the technology to do.

But the article begins with the big hand-wave:

Currently – apart from a radio, or other wavelength, transmission carrying artificial and presumably intelligent content – it’s thought that indicators of the presence of an alien civilization might include...

It seems to me that radio transmissions and artificial light sources would be likely used by most civilizations at one time in their development, simple because radio and light occur naturally from many sources, and "discovery" is easy. Either or both is likely be used, even if only briefly in any civilization of planet dwelling creatures.

I don't think its fruitful to set about detecting Dyson Spheres when the radio would have reached us long before their sun dimmed.

It's funny... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937626)

It's funny that most of the methods mentioned in the summary wouldn't detect us.

Modulated neutrino beams (1)

williamyf (227051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937630)

Either in amplitude or PCM. Neutrinos interact with matter even less than Electromagnetic waves.

They are a bitch to generate (take an awfull LOT of energy), but that is the problem of the alien civilization trying to comunicate, not ours, at least for the time being.

Re:Modulated neutrino beams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937686)

Neutrinos are a bitch to detect too. :)
The beam /signal doesn't mean much if you can't detect it. Assuming physics is correctly understood and there's not some magic high efficiency neutrino detector, I can't imagine anyone (anything) trying use them as a communication medium. Periodic nuclear explosions on a neighboring moon would probably have a better chance (even if the signal is attenuated).

Re:Modulated neutrino beams (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937898)

Look for randomness.

I would guess if you find a source (other than Earthly) of randomness, at any energy level, it's probably produced by something intelligent.

It kinda pisses me off that every time I read or see something about SETI it's about looking for patterns. They should be looking for randomness.

Re:Modulated neutrino beams (1, Flamebait)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938118)

Look for randomness.

I would guess if you find a source (other than Earthly) of randomness, at any energy level, it's probably produced by something intelligent.

It kinda pisses me off that every time I read or see something about SETI it's about looking for patterns. They should be looking for randomness.

Seriously? How much of that do we emit, other than your post...

Re:Modulated neutrino beams (1)

coaxial (28297) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938238)

It kinda pisses me off that every time I read or see something about SETI it's about looking for patterns. They should be looking for randomness.

You're not going to get very far by including every system that fails to reject the null hypothesis [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Modulated neutrino beams (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938210)

Either in amplitude or PCM. Neutrinos interact with matter even less than Electromagnetic waves.

Exactly - so why would you want to use them to communicate?

clearly manufactured? (3, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937634)

Potential indicators of the presence of an alien civilization might include: atmospheric pollutants, like chlorofluorocarbons â" which, unlike methane or molecular oxygen, are clearly manufactured rather than just biogenically produced

Clearly? Maybe here on earth. Who knows what natural processes exist elsewhere.

Re:clearly manufactured? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937752)

You missed the important part... "are clearly manufactured rather than just biogenically produced".

As if finding evidence of life is not enough... it has to be a civilization. Jeez.

By the time we could actually travel to any life we find it's probably going to be intelligent anway.

Re:clearly manufactured? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938142)

Who says life has to be based on our chemistry?

They may poop diamonds for all we know. Remember the Horta. [startrek.com]

Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor, not a stone mason!

The Atomic Bomb (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937638)

The detection of an atomic bomb throws off a unique signature not found in nature. It's like a power beacon of energy that's a universal sign of intelligence. The kind of signature not normally found in nature. Detect those, and you've got your alien race.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937664)

Yes, that's how the Cylons located the remaining Caprican settlers!

Re:The Atomic Bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937696)

Shyeah, just some more jerks to avoid.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937708)

> The detection of an atomic bomb throws off a unique signature not found in nature. It's like a power beacon of energy that's a universal sign of intelligence

I seem to remember a sci-fi novel where aliens refused to make contact with earth because "They created nuclear explosions on their OWN planet!!! Harldy intelligent life!"

Lets say we do detect a nuclear explosion on another planet...now what? We have evidence of a species that is uses something we would only really consider using in a terrible war.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937786)

What if it's detected in the asteroid belt? Not a bad way to split open a rock to get at the gooey middle.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

Neo Quietus (1102313) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937922)

Well, if we detected the explosions on the surface of the planet, we might have evidence that intelligent life used to exist there. But in theory they could be using an Orion type nuclear pulse rocket and we could detect those.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

Nimatek (1836530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938034)

There have been thousands of nuclear explosions over the course of a few decades on our planet, FYI.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (2, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938212)

Sigh, obligatory Calvin and Hobbes:

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

Mod me up to +5 for that, because it was totally insightful.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938006)

Uh, how often do you think that alein civilizations are lighting those puppies off? I would expect somewhat rarely, which would make it a very bad candidate for detecting life.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938048)

The Tsar bomb (57 megatons) was about 2 x 10^17 joules. Suppose all of that energy was released as visible light at a wavelength of 0.5 microns; that's about 6 x 10^35 photons, which sounds like (and is) a lot. However, at one light year (assuming a uniform blast of radiation), that works out to 500 photons per square meter.

Now, that could be detected, if you were looking for it. At 4.4 light years (Alpha Centauri), that's 26 photons per square meter, which would be detectable with a big telescope (maybe). Go out as far as 100 light years (0.05 photons / square meter) and there is no way that could be separated from the flood of photons coming from the Sun. Also, we set off bombs on a very irregular basis (thankfully). These occasional dim flashes would have been very hard to notice and pull out of the background clutter, even with big telescopes, and even as close as Alpha Centauri. It would likewise be very hard for us to detect them, if aliens were setting them off at Alpha Centauri, even as we speak.

Now, in reality, a bomb in space puts out most of its signal at higher energies (thus smaller numbers of photons / square meter), while blasts in the atmosphere put a lot of energy into the shock wave, heating of the air and ground, etc. These are very optimistic calculations.

So, if the ETs are setting off anything like human type bombs at human type frequencies, I don't think that we are going to find them from it, even if they are doing it right next door (astronomically speaking).

Re:The Atomic Bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938222)

So if we were to want to be noticed (not sure that's a good idea) we could launch a nuke of some kind to a more open area of space and set it off. That might be easier to notice (for those looking for it) since it would be more unusual. And if we might do that, perhaps others would as well. Maybe we need to look for things that don't make sense to occur naturally.

Of course this might all be pointless, even if another species was doing just this themselves, they might not do it for another million years, or have done it a million years ago (which would be okay in some ways if they were a million light years away, but less interesting at 100 light years) and the odds of anything of those occurring is quite likely.

But thought excersises like this are a good thing, even if not very practical.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938074)

A large enough detonation of nukes to see from interstellar distances would be an indicator of the ABSENCE of life.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938152)

Presupposing the energy from an atomic detonation is even detectable across interstellar distances, we'd still need to be extraordinarily lucky in terms of timing.

On Earth, the only above-ground nuclear detonations, ever, occurred in the twentieth century, specifically 1945-1980 or thereabouts. I'm not including underground tests, as they aren't as easy to spot from a distance (they're easy to detect here on earth via seismograph, but that doesn't apply to the discussion) . If something out there were looking at us with a telescope, they'd need to be tuning in sometime in that three and a half decade time period, or else they'd miss the fireworks. If they were looking at light that left before 1945, they'd see nothing; if they tuned in their telescopes now and received light that left in 1985 they'd see nothing.

For nuclear detonation to work as a sign of intelligence, one of three things must be the case. The intelligent life in question is engaged in above-ground nuclear testing. Which we abandoned with good reason, and I can't imagine they'd be any different, so the window of opportunity is brief. Or the intelligent life is using nuclear explosions peacefully, as in an Orion engine or asteroid mining. In which case they're probably doing plenty of other things we could just as easily spot. Or the intelligent life is not so intelligently blowing themselves up in nuclear warfare.

Re:The Atomic Bomb (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938196)

But what if those entities are really intelligent, and are not making such bombs to begin with?

That just raises different questions (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938240)

The detection of an atomic bomb throws off a unique signature not found in nature.

True but the question we then have to ask is do we want to contact an alien civilization that is throwing atomic bombs around...and is there any point given that chance are they will not be around for much longer? Even then atomic bombs are not that powerful considering that the planet is sitting not that far from a thermonuclear furnace many orders of magnitude larger than the entire planet.

A dead giveaway (1)

mrsam (12205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937642)

would be, IMHO, a large black rectangular monolith in orbit against one of the outer planets...

Re:A dead giveaway (2)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937694)

I was going to go with the large orbital rectal probe manufactory...

Re:A dead giveaway (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937956)

would be, IMHO, a large black rectangular monolith in orbit against one of the outer planets...

Or when the little green men get off their silvery saucer-shaped craft and "have us for dinner".

How can we communicate with them? (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937652)

What I've also wondered is how big of an antenna would we need to detect a communication from a near star, say 50ly. And how much power would it take to send a message that far?

If we can't even see planets, how can SETI expect to receive a transmission from one?

I've asked some astronomy majors about this and received only blank stares. Do they teach this kind of thing in astronomy? What are the calculations?

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937746)

Interferometry [wikimedia.org] is the short answer. The long answer is, no, it wouldn't be insurmountable to pick up Casey Kasem 50ly away with a good array.

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937880)

Interferometry [wikimedia.org] is the short answer. The long answer is, no, it wouldn't be insurmountable to pick up Casey Kasem 50ly away with a good array.

I don't quite understand the long answer; can you give me the short answer, please?

Re:How can we communicate with them? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937764)

The blank stares are people trying not to punch your face. Arrogant prick.

Your questions are easy answered by a layman, you don't need an astronomy major.

Go back fixing your crappy VBA code.

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937830)

Do they teach this kind of thing in astronomy?

Perhaps, but it's in every SETI FAQ, so you don't need to go to College to figure it out.

Short version: radio SETI is looking for intentional radiators.

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937912)

The light from planets is omnidirectional, time-continuous and over a frequency-continuum. You can save energy by only submitting in one direction and for a short duration and at a specific frequency. That's why SETI is looking for pulses from exoplanets or crowded regions, and recorded at suitable (presumably universal) frequency windows like the waterhole [wikipedia.org] .

Search Google or Youtube for Seth Shostak on some SETI talks -- he also mentions how you can transfer a signal in a science fair project.

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

bromoseltzer (23292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937994)

What I've also wondered is how big of an antenna would we need to detect a communication from a near star, say 50ly. And how much power would it take to send a message that far? If we can't even see planets, how can SETI expect to receive a transmission from one? I've asked some astronomy majors about this and received only blank stares. Do they teach this kind of thing in astronomy? What are the calculations?

It's a fair question. Fortunately, an intentional transmitter can be much brighter than the star or planet -- in a narrow bandwidth and pointing straight at you. (And stars aren't very bright at microwave frequencies.) There's no problem communicating to nearby space if you know each other's frequency and direction. You can concentrate megawatts of power into

Interferometry (increasing the spatial resolution of the receiving antenna) actually doesn't help you much, except to discriminate against the diffuse galactic background. You need all the collecting area you can afford, but that's not the same thing.

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

bromoseltzer (23292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938024)

Meant to say you can concentrate megawatts into less than 1 Hz of bandwidth and then multiply the power by using a very high gain antenna. The big problem in SETI is not knowing where to look or where to tune your receiver.

Re:How can we communicate with them? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938156)

To calculate, simply use the inverse square law, then make use of this information kindly provided by Wikipedia concerning information theory and noisy channels. [wikipedia.org]

Together, this along with the target distance to the alien planet will give you the optimum broadcast power for an intelligable message to be sent. Bear in mind that the SNR needs to be sufficiently high to still discern the signal from cosmic background radiation. Choice of broadcast frequency would be helpful here, but sadly I cant link you to any helpful data on that one.

For the inverse, (Building a reception antenna), you would need to compute the absolute minimum broadcast power that the alien civilization could still realistically send a message that distance with (Using the first part above), then calculate the gain needed to derive a useful signal from the weak source. [wikipedia.org]

Given the distances, you are probably looking at something the size of aracibo or bigger.

Morse Code over 50 LY path! (1)

DesertNomad (885798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938182)

Typical deep space comm channels run into the Ka-band spectrum (26-40GHz). The path loss at 32 GHz, between the two stations separated by 50 LY, is an unimaginably large 416dB. Taking the largest fully steerable dish on earth (DSN 70m dish), running at a communications frequency of 32GHz, 400kW transmitter output, and a communications bandwidth that's good enough for 20 word-per-minute Morse code, one could theoretically close the circuit between an identically equipped station 50 LY distant. You could possibly signal somewhere around 300 baud hayes modem speeds circa 1980 if you really worked at it.

http://www.propagation.gatech.edu/ECE6390/project/Fall2010/Projects/group7/Project%20Website_v3_files/Page550.htm [gatech.edu]

Polution (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937658)

I think polution is what you want to look for. If they don't have that then you probably don't want to talk to them anyway because they: 1- are too primitive, have no tech- nothing to trade or steal. 2- are envioro-nazis who will hate us for destroying our enviornment.

Re:Polution (1)

piripiri (1476949) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937868)

What? Caring about the environment is being nazi? What kind of fascist are you?

Re:Polution (1)

upuv (1201447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937894)

I agree.

1. It is not un-reasable that an advanced civ would extend beyond the origin planet to look for resources.
2. Resource extraction is messy. Waste does need to be dealt with no matter the environment.

In space you want the waste away from you and with a low probability to collision. The best way is to dump it into gravity wells like gas giants and suns. This is going to give of spectrum of some sort. Consider it spectral pollution The more industrialized the civ the more of this spectrum pollution would be present.

I would suspect that most "mining" type operations would happen neat gas giants. As the large gravity well would have already created an aggregation of heavy matter. They would to be good locations for slingshot and breaking maneuvers. It seems reasonable to watch the gas giants for unusual spectral emissions.

Solar mining for radiation and light particles would have very little effluent. So I don't believe there would be much to detect in the form of pollution here.

Re:Polution (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938084)

In space you want the waste away from you and with a low probability to collision. The best way is to dump it into gravity wells like gas giants and suns.

Why spend so much delta-v? Space is big. Just put the waste into an orbit which doesn't intersect with anything you care about, and you're done. Spending the energy to collide it with the local star is ridiculous.

Re:Polution (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938198)

Actually, it'd have to be pretty dire waste to make sending it into space the best option, unless the civilization in question has ridiculously low launch costs or is already living and producing waste in space (both possible, mind you). I could see disposal of the worst kind of unreprocessable nuclear waste in this manner, but just about nothing else.

If you did have waste that was that bad, I doubt you'd want to keep it in orbit. Spending a little extra delta-v to boost it into the nearest gravity well (even just a moon) would be worthwhile.

Re:Polution (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937896)

Umm, yes. But, how do you look for pollution? I.e. what is classed as "pollution" here on earth might be quite normal elsewhere.

Re:Polution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938054)

I think polution is what you want to look for. If they don't have that then you probably don't want to talk to them anyway because they:
1- are too primitive, have no tech- nothing to trade or steal.
2- are envioro-nazis who will hate us for destroying our enviornment.

Or
3. they are so advanced that their industry no longer pollutes their living space.

Signature on subatomic particles (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937662)

How about instead of just trying to detect other civilizations that exist along side us, also trying to detect ones that came long before in the previous Universe. If the Universe is cyclic and there was another universe before our "big bang", one thing we could do is see if the particles around us have some kind of signature to them that would be unexpected. It may not be possible right now for us to make such signatures, but perhaps a previous civilization built large devices close to the end of the previous universe that could explode once most of the matter of the Universe was closer together and give many particles such a signature.

The only thing is, how would you determine if something has a signature to it if you have no basis for comparison. Well I guess you could assume that not all the particles had been hit so the test could be to compare some sub atomic particles of one kind with ones of the same kind, but in a different region of space.

I wrote an article about this 8 years ago. [suso.org] Crazy idea? Perhaps. Sometimes crazy ideas help others think in new ways.

Re:Signature on subatomic particles (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937700)

Kudos, you sounds like a real pseudoscientist !

Re:Signature on subatomic particles (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937736)

I am a pseudoscientist, as in I'm not really a scientist. But they wanted imagination.

Re:Signature on subatomic particles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937808)

Yup -- not really a scientist is pretty clear there -- muons ARE perfectly fine leptons. Why do you think that in a collapse you'd end up with leptons over hadronic constituents? Or even just the heavy bosons -- in a collapse the distances would presumably get really small so 1/mass ranges would be comparatively large and at some point whether you are a photon or a Z or maybe a Higgs (if it exists) wouldn't matter a hill of beans. We really don't know how gravity behaves at small space scales -- even in a kind of flattish space, much less a space that's all rumpled and crumpled in a collapse. Just can't see how you can tweak the energy around enough to carry information through a re-birth -- at the singularity won't it all be energy soup? Hawking radiation doesn't work in a full collapse because there's no place for the information to come out to -- the space around the singularity is all swept up in the singularity too.

Re:Signature on subatomic particles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937770)

Like, say, a huge imbalance between the amount of matter and anti-matter? Or a violation of CP symmetry perhaps?

Re:Signature on subatomic particles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937900)

Yeah those would be interesting -- but if matter/anti-matter were balanced would the bang have ever unfolded? I wouldn't think CP violation would be sufficient -- it's a pretty badly broken symmetry. Now if you could engineer CPT violation in a clever way -- maybe having the violation ride a long wavelength (or long time period -- take your pick) then you'd have a puzzler. You'd have to look back in time (e.g. across space) for CPT violating systems as they've come and gone. CPT violation is hard to measure when you control the dice -- find a signature in the heavens would be a real trick. For the next iteration, maybe you could spell out "Hi There, Aloha, Ni Hao (sorry, we are very powerful universe modifying entities don't have proper Chinese fonts)". On the other hand maybe we'll just put up some "get viagra cheap" spam.

Re:Signature on subatomic particles (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937950)

We could just keep an eye out for this guy. [marvel.com]

You should send them an email (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937666)

Becxause aliens live oin oher dimensions, you havce to use ASICI for the email so it doentk have those weird stuffs when ithe email has utf80 on it or opicctires, But if they don' answer you shoiulkd call the phone and sjke for your money backe hue the thinf u89jliw n it was wheree the aliens took my brain and nice. GOD BLESS LUXEMBOURG! THE GREATEST FREEEST NATION UNDER GOD ON EARTH SUCK IT FRANCE!

Star Trek (0)

gunnaraztek (1077439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937670)

Beam me up, Scotty...

They should watch Star Trek et. al. more. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937672)

They should watch Star Trek et. al. more.
Or maybe they did just that too much already.

Half assed approaches (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937698)

all produced from OUR technology and civilization which were entirely shaped by OUR cultural biases.

had our cultural biases been different, our technological approaches and means would be different too. see, for example we are just starting to use crystals/light as technology, actually in the very places of other technologies we used before. when all these technologies based on light/crystal interactions are advanced enough, they will definitely shape our culture and expectancies too. what if we had had started those earlier ? or, even, what if we did start out with renewable sources of energy naturally found on our planet ? and our entire manufacturing had been shaped with that ?

no - science and technology are not independent of societal biases. ALL kinds of approaches may reach the same ultimate point of whatever it will reach in some unknown future point in time, but, the path traveled would be different depending on bias. and that ultimate point seems infinitely far off for us.

hence the half assedness of approaches.

Re:Half assed approaches (2)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937954)

I agree, we should search for things we can't think of

Re:Half assed approaches (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937958)

Worse than that, human activity from space would have been detectable for how many years? 2000? 3000? Likely less.

Re:Half assed approaches (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938002)

Worse than that, human activity from space would have been detectable for how many years? 2000? 3000? Likely less.

Less than 200. Possibly less than 100. Unless by "from space" you mean "from Earth orbit".

Overcome speed of light issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937710)

I would say the best way is to somehow overcome the slowness of light. If you can get your information faster then we then can speed up the process.

Part of the electromagnetic spectrum (1)

PuddleBoy (544111) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937716)

If we can detect broadcast emissions that indicate that sitcoms, game shows and reality shows were once broadcast, but have all now disappeared, that would seem to indicate a 'civilization' has finally developed.

Re:Part of the electromagnetic spectrum (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938126)

Spock, what's wrong with laughing? You're half-human.

trek trivia (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937722)

Ah, not quite -- the Vulcans had noticed humans before, but considered them to be insufficiently advanced to warrant further study or interest. When the warp signature was detected they decided to investigate. The moral of the story? It's not so much detecting alien life that matters, but attracting interest from alien life. If it's out there, it's looking for us... for better, or for worse. We just need to give them a reason to say hello.

Re:trek trivia (1)

spliffington (1130983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937780)

Like being a good host or source of protein?

Re:trek trivia (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938004)

Like being a good host or source of protein?

I think we're flattering ourselves if we think that's what aliens would travel across the universe to suck on our delicious brain meats. In all likelihood, they would be after natural resources, of which the most abundant, and likely useful, materials on this planet would be carbon, silicon, and H2O.

Re:trek trivia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938146)

And they could probably find those resources in their own solar system, even if their particular planet was lacking them. Still not a reason to come over here. It might even be easier to manufacture atomic nuclei using fusors (in even useful quantities) than to travel interstellar distances. A dying star might be reason enough, and even then only if other sources of energy (fissionable/fusionable materal) is not available or if they cannot figure out how to survive the destruction associated with their star leaving the main sequence. By the time they develop practical interstellar travel capabilities, there is a good chance AI will have advanced to the point that their dominant intelligence is not biological in nature, which could greatly affect their need to travel. Knowledge will probably be more desirable than anything else, and travel done because the time delay in information exchange is too painfully slow to stay where they are. In that case, it would only make sense for them to make overtures and emigration to an area of observed higher intelligence.

Re:trek trivia (1)

sincewhen (640526) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938060)

If they are more advanced than we are, they will have little to learn from us, and instead, we will be seen as a competitor for resources, or a more direct threat, or likely to become one. So their best course of action would be to exterminate us.

Look for Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937774)

Point a large two-way radio disk at the planet and allow it to support Internet dial-up - if we see a sudden rise in troll postings on our blogs, we'll know we found 'civilization'...

The sad reality... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937784)

The sad reality is that humankind has been quarantined into a small bubble less than light-year across. Everything beyond that is essentially a projection, not unlike a movie theatre. They came, they saw us, they decided - nevermore.

Re:The sad reality... (1)

drfreak (303147) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937834)

Ooh, I know this one: The Interstellar Raven. And the the Galaxy quoth: "Nevermore!"

Re:The sad reality... (1)

ZerothAngel (219206) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937914)

Almost sounds like, aptly enough, Quarantine [wikimedia.org] by Greg Egan. Though I could have sworn there was another novel with a similar premise. (Herbert, perhaps?)

They are easy to find (1)

xs650 (741277) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937792)

I can find them by looking for concentrations of small ethnic restaurants.

First Contact? Yawn. Abraham? Oracle? I donno. (1)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937806)

God says...
beloved written barbarism crossed Foundation MONEY ere
tried recollection Suffer preached token drinking lower
wail initiating deeply we joining healthy chaste WARRANTY
teeming contributions fiercely unused pursued gravity
offence perceive striking EBCDIC donations accents Led
at reply quickenest payable desiredst Dakota relief already
deformities rejects almsdeeds stowed leaves universal
essayed steeping fellows abidest World bears degraded
sins sixth Refund window asking stipend doting afraid
degree

Detecting an alien civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937826)

According to this, all alien civilizations ought to be as stupid as humanity. Yes I am sure they will want to pollute their atmosphere to make it unbreathable, destroy their biosphere even though they evolved on the very same planet and the outcome of destroying it is likely to be extremely bad, irradiate their grounds, kill people for the sake of money (and continue to lie to them forever even though their population communicates this to each other). If you are looking for an alien civilization than look no further than earth. They are called the other living things.

Regional dimming of the star (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937828)

A Dyson Sphere would block all light but a massive structure like in Ringworld would cause a dim band around a star rather than the brief dimming that means simply there's a planet. There's no known natural object that would block a region of a star for an extended period. A tight asteroid belt would cause dimming but not block most of the light. Look for a star with a significantly dimmed region or one that appears to be in two parts. Current telescopes would more than likely see most stars are solid even if there was a dim band so when higher powered ones become available it could be another thing to look for.

just them them all iPhones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937842)

If they send them back, they're intelligent.

Dyson Spheres (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937850)

Dyson spheres (or swarms) would probably be the best way to detect an advanced civilization, especially a Kardashev Type II or Type III civilization.

In a Dyson sphere (or swarm) a civilization surrounds an entire star to capture most or all of its luminosity; severely cutting down on its optical luminosity but accentuating the IR luminosity. (The physics of a rigid sphere surrounding a star are pretty challenging, and some sort of swarm or cloud seems more likely, at least to our limited technological understanding.) So, to hunt for a Dyson sphere, you look for objects with an unusual excess of IR, and a lack of optical light. The IRAS IR satellite was used to search for Dyson spheres within ~ 1000 light years of the Earth [arxiv.org] (producing a handful of so-so candidates). Carrigan [arxiv.org] calls these sorts of searches "Interstellar Archaeology." They have one great advantage in that they don't require any cooperation from the other end (i.e., no beacons or other signals).

As it happens, I have recently speculated that "Object X [arxiv.org] " in M33 (the Triangulum Galaxy) could represent the signature of a Dyson sphere / swarm from 3 million light years away [americafree.tv] . If this (unlikely) possibility were to be true, it would represent the signature of a Kardashev Type III or near Type III civilization. Interstellar Archaeology is the only possible form of SETI across such vast distances.

Re:Dyson Spheres (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938052)

Interesting... Thanks!

LHC (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937852)

If you want to communicate with the other intelligent races in the Universe, go help the LHC.

Steps:
1) figure out physics
2) build the most promising communicator or detector
3) try, wait, try, wait, try, wait.
4) goto 2

We're making progress on step 1) but step 2) is far too premature at this point.

Re:LHC (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937906)

Fermilab has been producing intermittent neutrino streams from their accelerator for some time now. Thatis probably a really good signaling device as they can be detected even with our current technology. The problem for us detecting something like that now is that we don't have directionality with existing neutrino detectors and imparting that might be rather challanging.

Certainly LHC is going to be producing more neutrinos as well.

Re:LHC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938200)

Fermilab has been producing intermittent neutrino streams from their accelerator for some time now. Thatis probably a really good signaling device as they can be detected even with our current technology. The problem for us detecting something like that now is that we don't have directionality with existing neutrino detectors and imparting that might be rather challanging.

Certainly LHC is going to be producing more neutrinos as well.

We have directionality with current neutrino detectors. Take superK for example, neutrinos interacting with the water will generate a cone of cherenkov radiation that the photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) will be able to convert to a rough track. With more PMTs, you can get better resolution and get more accurate tracks letting you figure out where the neutrinos are coming from. It's very doable and has been done.

We may not like what we find. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938016)

Sometimes its better to sense and discover, and not communicate. Communication with an advanced alien lifeforn can lead to us being infected by deadly memes/ideas.

McAliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937884)

well duh... just look for the golden arches!

Use genetically engineered insects. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937928)

Genetically engineer them to assist with terraforming and use robotic fake insects to probe the planet and look for signs of life.

The point is if there is intelligent life, they'll probably be less evolved than insects and certainly wont be able to kill them without us finding out.

And if the planet is so far away that we cannot put probes or genetically engineered insects on that planet then finding life on that planet would be irrelevant since we can't reach that planet physically. So even if we could remotely detect life with some advanced telescope it wont really help if it's across the galaxy.

fun but pointless exercise. (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937936)

The 'math' on aliens doesn't really work out in favor of them being anything we can comprehend, much less communicate with, even if you believe as I do that the existence of alien races is almost a mathematical certainty.

Here goes:
Age of universe, something around 14 gy (gigayears).
Age of earth, around 4.5 gy.
(Now, it's reasonably certain that the solar system is actually at least 'round 2' in this neighborhood - due to the presence of trans-iron elements, etc. At least one generation of stars in the area coalesced, evolved, and exploded spewing these deep stellar fusion products across the area. Given the known distribution of these heavy elements, it's likely that the pre-solar-system planetary nebula was created by both ejecta from red giants and multiple erupting giant stars. Giant stars have extremely short life spans, on the order of 100 megayears, so let's consider generously that process took about 1 gy in total.)
So...from nothing to us = ~5.5gy.
Let's assume our evolutionary track and our star are entirely average.
It's taken our planet 5.5gy to produce a space-traveling, sentient species. (No, we're not there yet, but probably less that 500 years, so bear with me.) We as recognizable members of our species have been around perhaps 2 my.

Assuming any other suitable system (and I'd guess that there are hundreds of millions) could do the same, and further assume that the early universe was simply uninhabitable for whatever reason for at least 4 gy. That means any other species is going to be anywhere on the scale of evolution, from say (us minus 2 my) to (us+4 gy). Think about that scale.

If it were represented by a 2 meter stick, all of human existence (2my) is the first millimeter.

You tell me, are we LIKELY to run into a species in the first millimeter of that stick (ie find some species grubbing around as cavemen, once we start exploring)? What are the odds that we brush up against a civilization only a few thousand years more advanced (ie classic "spaceships" and recognizable "explorers", etc) - say something like the next 1 or 2 nanometers on that 2 meter stick?

Or is it far, far, far more likely that other species, on average are likely to be hundreds of millions, or billions of years more advanced than us? Then ask yourself - could we see them, no matter how hard we tried, if they didn't want us to? A *BILLION* years more advanced, presumably with the increasing rate of technological development that we see here on Earth? Assuming they would even deign to watch us, like we occasionally stop and are amused at ants working to busily on the sidewalk...do ants have any idea they're being observed? Could they even comprehend us? They truly would be gods, and (I imagine, by their standards although human logic almost certainly doesn't apply) it would have to be one seriously farked-up individual of theirs that would actually try to relate to we ants. Hell, from that perspective, things we take to be absolutely natural phenomena like volcanoes and earthquakes, could easily be a bored alien adolescent screwing with us.

So that's my case - the likelihood of us encountering an alien race of only a "little" more advanced tech is vanishingly, almost impossibly small. The only caveat would be that this immediate stellar neighborhood, say 100ly radius, almost certainly all an identical 'environment', and the chance of parallel evolution occurring close in time might be even an order of magnitude higher than the 'open' universe in general. But that's an order of magnitude on a very, very small number to start.

Define intelligence (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937946)

Will be slaves of an expanding culture like us or simply will try to enjoy their lives while it lasts? Intelligence don't imply culture, civilization don't imply changing their planet or solar system in a way visible from here.

I suppose that the question of if will ever be able to be surpassed the speed of light could matter here. If don't, will matter very little if we find something weird far away from here. And if the speed of light is not the limit, and they could figure how to surpass it in practice, probably will try to make hard to spot them, always could be around a bigger fish.

We could try instead to figure how to communicate or understand intelligences (whales, dolphins, others) and civilizations (ants? bees?) that are right here to see what we could expect out there and our chances to detect them in our current stage.

Just send a colony ship. (1)

mmmmbeer (107215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937968)

If movies have taught us anything, it's that every colony ship ever is bound to encounter some form of intelligent life. Hollywood wouldn't lie to us, right?

Maybe (0)

future assassin (639396) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937976)

they don't want to be found. If I was an Alien I sure as hell wouldn't want to meet humans or be found by them.

Polo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937982)

Have they tried getting an astronaut to yell, "Marco?!" really loud out in space?

Re:Polo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938208)

Has hollywood taught you nothing? In space, no-one can hear you yell "Marco" - even if assisted by extraneous punctuation.

Funding more important than brainstorming. (2)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938104)

At this point, funding is more important than brainstorming. The Allen Array which does much of the basic SETI work is going to be essentially inoperative for about a year due to a severe shortage of funds. See http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/04/25/seti/index.html?hpt=C1 [cnn.com] . Right now, the main thing that is needed is cash not more ideas. So go over to SETI.org and donate.

RE:Decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938160)

We have assessed the conditions and organisms on Earth and decided it wasn't of any interest/use to us.
Please do not waste your resources to look for us.

Yours Truly
Your Favourite Alien

Alien Life Test (3, Funny)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938192)

1) Rotation wobbles more on Friday nights
2) Neon light from dark side
3) Traces of THC in the upper atmosphere
4) SETI calls go into voicemail

Star Harvest (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938230)

We are so far away, that it's pretty unlikely that we would see anything small. So let's make a few assumptions and extrapolate to the absurd.

1) Intelligent life is fairly common.

2) We are somewhere in the middle of the bell curve advancement wise.

3) Really advanced races harvest stars for their energy and matter.

Thus, all we need to do is look for stars disappearing in an orderly fashion, and we've got the proof (and then we should hope like heck they don't stumble across our solar system with its moist chewy centre)

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