No, SETI has not detected an alien signal from a Kepler planet

By Phil Plait | January 6, 2012 11:41 am

Last night, I started getting emails and tweets asking about a possible detection of a radio signal coming from two of the newly-discovered planets orbiting other stars.

Cutting to the chase: yes, a signal has been seen, but no, it’s not coming from some alien civilization. It’s almost certainly something much closer, like a satellite interfering with the observation.

So what’s the deal?


You talkin’ to me?

The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a privately-funded group of scientists and engineers who are trying* an ongoing effort to figure out ways to detect signals from space that could be coming from other intelligences: aliens. They focus (haha) mostly on radio signals, since it’s very easy to send radio waves across the vast light years separating stars, it’s easy to detect radio waves (so primitive life like us can pick up the call), and it’s easy to encode information that way. Heck, we’ve been broadcasting coded radio waves for over a century now!

Currently, no unambiguous alien "Hello there!" has been detected. The sky is big, there are a lot of stars out there, and the radio spectrum is really wide, too. Think of how many radio stations there are on a typical radio dial from top to bottom; now divide that up into a billion tiny slices and try to find the one that’s playing the song you want to hear. It’s something of a painstaking process.

Recently, astronomers came up with a clever idea: the Kepler space mission is finding tons of planets orbiting other stars. It may find an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star at just the right distance to allow life to evolve, though no such planet has been found just yet. Still, why look all over the sky when we know where there are lots of planets?


Can’t stop the signal

So a search targeting those stars with planets has been set up. And that’s where our story picks up: using the ginormous 100 meter Green Bank Telescope, astronomers from UC Berkeley found what look like artificial signals when observing two different stars. The stars are called Kepler Object of Interest 812 and 817 (or just KOI 812 and 817 for short). Here’s an example of a signal they found from KOI 817:

This takes a little explaining. Basically, the plot shows how strong the signal was (shown by how bright the line is) over time (which starts at the top of the graph and increases downward) versus the frequency of the signal. So the observation starts at the top, and you can see the strength go up and down as time goes on. If the signal had been at one strength the whole time, the line would be equally bright everywhere. It also is tilted, which means it changed in frequency. A radio station sitting on Earth broadcasts at one frequency that doesn’t change (which would be a vertical line on this plot), but if the radio source is moving toward or away from you, the frequency will shift via the Doppler shift (the same thing that makes a train whistle change pitch as it heads toward you, passes, and then heads away).

Right away there’s a lot you can figure out at a glance! A shifting signal means it’s probably in space and not on Earth. More importantly, it’s very narrow in frequency, whereas a lot of natural signals emit radio all over the spectrum, so instead of a narrow line you’d see a very broad line. So it’s likely to be an artificial signal from space.

Hey, WOW. Could it be aliens?!


… and they is us

Well hold on there, buckaroo. There is another source of artificial signals from space: us. We have lots of satellites orbiting the Earth, and they broadcast quite loudly in radio waves. They use narrow frequency bands, and would exhibit a Doppler shift as they orbit.

So how can we tell the difference between aliens and humans in space? One way is to move the telescope! If you’re pointed at an alien transmitter, then moving the telescope will point you in a different direction, and the signal should go away. On the other hand, strong satellite signals can be detected by radio telescopes even when they point in another direction; the signal can leak into the telescopes even when you’re pointed well away. This is called "side lobe interference", and it’s a major pain for radio astronomers when they’re observing faint objects.

But in this case it’s actually helpful: the astronomers moved the telescope, and yet they continued to see these signals. So it’s clear these signals are coming from our own satellites orbiting the Earth, and not Klaatu, Klingons, or Klendathu.

So, sadly, it’s not aliens. But the good news is the method works! The astronomers use automated software to look for what could be artificial signals, and the computers flagged these detections. As the project ramps up and they start looking in earnest at the hundreds or even thousands of exoplanets orbiting stars out in the galaxy, they’ll certainly find lots of signals like these — interference from somewhat closer and more mundane sources.

But, as the search goes on, who knows? If Vulcans or Gallifreyans (but hopefully not Cardassians or Daleks) are out there, and they’re trying to catch our attention… well, we’re listening.

Tip o’ the spacesuit helmet to vjekoslr on Twitter. My thanks to Seth Shostak and Andrew Siemion for helpful comments. Signal plot courtesy The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence at UC Berkeley, GBT image courtesy NRAO/AUI.


* I tried to distinguish between SETI (the search) and the SETI Institute, but decided this could be made clearer. Sorry about any confusion.


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- No, a new study does not show cosmic-rays are connected to global warming
- No, the “supermoon” didn’t cause the Japanese earthquake
- No, there’s no proof of a giant planet in the outer solar system
- No, a pole shift won’t cause global superstorms

Comments (112)

  1. Nicholas

    Phew!! I was not ready for Mars Attacks 2012!!

  2. Ben

    Way to be a Debbie Downer, Phil.

  3. David Grinspoon

    Phil,
    Your post makes the common error of confusing SETI with the SETI Institute.
    the latter is “a privately-funded group of scientists and engineers who are trying to figure out ways to detect signals from space that could be coming from other intelligences”. The SETI institute is the most visible organization practicing SETI, at least in this country, but it is not synonymous with the totality of the field.
    David

  4. Mathias R.

    Meh, Cardassians? I’d be more worried about the Borg :)

  5. WJM

    Meh. Even when we do find an alien signal, it’ll probably just be black-and-white reruns of I Love Zorbax from the 5950′s anyway.

  6. abadidea

    I have had the privilege of being on the Green Bank site twice, and they even let me use one of the smaller, older telescopes. Love seeing that majestic dish getting attention even if it’s for a false positive :p

  7. Christopher Jablonski

    I’m glad I read about this here first. I don’t even want to think about how mainstream media will write about it.

    Astronomer: Artificial Space Signal “Could … Be Aliens”

  8. Mike

    Well, heck, we know it’s not from Klendathu. The bugs don’t have radio!

    (Do you want to know more?)

    Y N

  9. And I was already snooping in here http://archive.stsci.edu/kepler/planet_candidates.html

    812.03 would have equilibrium temperature of 28′C :(

  10. Anon

    I’d rather have Cardassians than Kardashians.

  11. David (3): I tried to make the distinction, but I guess I didn’t do too well. :) I changed the text. Thanks!

  12. The clincher for me was that when they went from KOI-812 to KOI-817, and show similar doppler shift waveforms. Two transmitters orbiting two completely different stars would not have similar doppler shifts.

  13. Johnny Rico

    It’s an ugly planet; a Bug planet. A planet hostile to life as we know it!

  14. I hate these sensationalist headlines, even when they come from the SETI@Home folks themselves. They have updated their web page as well to make it clear that this is us and not anyone else, but I got my hopes up for a second there!

  15. Crop Circle

    They should try microwave signals. Not radio.

  16. Question: When receiving a signal like this, wouldn’t having another telescope on another continent try to aquire the signal be the logical way to distinguish nearby signals from distant ones? Or is that the next step in the process after turning the ‘scope away from (and back to) the target?

    Stuff like this really makes me wish we had the will (and the money) to set up automated radio telescopes on the far side of the moon. This would eliminate noise from essentially all Earthbound sources and Earth-orbiting satellites, and presumably the various space probes out there aren’t going to be nearly as “loud” to the receiver due to both distance and power constraints (and NASA can tell us exactly where they are and what they’re doing, whereas it’s much more difficult to keep track of the 3500+ active satellites in Earth orbit, some of which may be intelligence sats that don’t even officially exist).

  17. Janez

    “Can you hear me now?”

    I just MUST paste this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRLewa4z3kM

  18. I wonder if it’s possible for the brainy types out there to figure out exactly what the relative acceleration between source and receiver is, in terms of meters per second, from the Doppler shift?

    @11 Anon: I’d rather have Cardassians than Kardashians.
    They’re both great at inflicting pain. I’d call it a wash.

  19. Larry

    Although it doesn’t bear on the origin of the signal, the constant “slope” in the time-frequency plot requires that the earth-source pair are accelerating relative to each other. A constant relative velocity would lead to a constant Doppler shift, hence a constant frequency change and hence a constant frequency. The apparent velocity changed by
    c*(delta freq.)/freq. = 40 m/s in the 150 seconds shown on the graph. The resulting acceleration is 0.27 m/s^2.

  20. VinceRN

    People will still believe. You can bet someone on that late night radio show will be talking about how we found aliens and it’s being covered up, how this is just another example.

    More likely Borg or Bugs than Cardassians, and let’s hope it’s not Daleks.

    @#8 – Liked the Heinlein reference until you showed that you were getting the story from that ridiculous movie and the jokes is spawned. Bugs do have technology, radios and space ships and everything. They are a much scarier race in the original.

    Sorry – big Heinlein fan, can’t stand that movie and apparently can’t keep myself from spouting off about it.

  21. Maybe I’ve been watching and reading too much Sci_fi, but is it possible that other races out there might have something more advanced than radio and we’re looking for the wrong sort of signals?

  22. @peteuplink (#21) yes, that is a distinct possibility. Even now the human race is using fiber optics for a lot of cummunication, as well as much more narrowly focused radio transmissions as to be leaking a whole lot less than we were a while ago. Who knows what else we’ll develop in the future to make our communications much more efficient.

    Keep in mind, wide band radio signals are very hard to detect even from a noisy civilization such as ours (think inverse square law). If you go to this link: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/astronomy/faq/part6/section-12.html you will see a table once you scroll about three quarters of the way down that shows how hard it is to hear anything even beyond our own solar system with the biggest radio telescope on earth! Narrow band transmissions fare better, but then it depends on how much “omph” we put behind them.

    I’m with you VinceRN (#20)!

  23. Greg

    Don’t worry Vince, I’m right there with you. The movie was an abomination, the book is a true sci-fi classic. It’s the worst book-to-movie interpretation in the history of … well, history.

  24. RogerC

    Following along from Larry’s useful analysis (#19), we can note that an acceleration of 0.27 m/s^2 is typical for an earth satellite at about 6 or 7 Earth radii. This follows from the fact that at 1 radius we experience 10 m/s^2, and it decreases as square of the distance from the earth’s center. Strictly speaking, the acceleration is toward the earth’s center, but at 6 or 7 radii, the different angle to us is a minor effect.

  25. Kevin Foster

    That last picture of “Contact” and the VLA reminds me that the VLA will have a new name coming this Tuesday! They had a contest to rename the VLA and the results will be announced this Tuesday: http://www.nrao.edu/namethearray/

  26. Wzrd1

    @Larry, #19, at least SOMEONE did the math, though I am missing the acceleration notion. Flight or even LEO emitters approaching would give that small doppler shift.
    My napkin calculations look more like LEO satellite, the velocity difference relative each other being based upon angle of motion vs direction of the antenna array.
    That coupled with side lobe effects pretty much prove, as Phil said, it’s man made.

  27. Jason

    I’m still terrified for the message: “We are the Borg. Surrender your ships and lower your shields. Your technological and biological distinctiveness will be added to our own. We seek to improve quality of life for all species. Resistance is futile.”

    Frankly, I’d be better off if the government kept that from me. :-p

  28. @20 Larry: Although it doesn’t bear on the origin of the signal, the constant “slope” in the time-frequency plot requires that the earth-source pair are accelerating relative to each other. A constant relative velocity would lead to a constant Doppler shift, hence a constant frequency change and hence a constant frequency. The apparent velocity changed by
    c*(delta freq.)/freq. = 40 m/s in the 150 seconds shown on the graph. The resulting acceleration is 0.27 m/s^2.

    I don’t know if you saw my post or if it was just a happy coincidence, but thanks!
    I’m going to assume that that’s a number that’s in line with what you’d expect from observing a body orbiting the Earth and appearing to accelerate relative to you as it comes closer?
    @21 VinceRN: People will still believe. You can bet someone on that late night radio show will be talking about how we found aliens and it’s being covered up, how this is just another example.
    I really look forward to seeing what will happen if and when an actual artificial ET signal is ever detected. I expect a lot of the “government cover-up!” folks will be extremely confused seeing actual scientists come out and confirm that it’s real. They’ll probably assume it’s some kind of complicated trick, and wind up rejecting it reflexively :-P
    I haven’t read the original STs books, unfortunately. Any idea why they Nerfed the bugs in the movie?

  29. Larry

    RogerC’s equally useful analysis is right on. You get the same result by assuming the orbit is circular, and combining the centripetal acceleration and circular orbital velocity equations to get Radius=SQRT(GM/a) where GM is the mass of the earth multiplied by the gravitational constant, and a is the acceleration. Then the radius is about 38,000 km…90% of the geostationary orbit!

  30. David Grinspoon
  31. I really really wish that we were allowed to post actual images (instead of links).
    Anyway, someone had to post this.

  32. Wzrd1

    @Joseph G, #29, There was only one ST book, not a series that Hollywood created. The first movie was the only book, “Hollywoodified”. Even money, it was decided that the bugs needed to be dumber, as American audiences couldn’t conceive of intelligent insects (Hollywood normally underestimates the intelligence of the populace).
    THAT said, there IS one interesting item in the SETI charter: NO independent announcement if ET signals of intelligent origin are discovered, only announcement to national governments, to be disseminated to the populace at said government’s guidance. I remember reading THAT on SETI’s website ages ago, back when SETIathome first started.
    That said, it makes sense. Have ONE announcement, rather than each source announce a different story and totally messing up what was actually detected.

  33. VinceRN

    @29 Joseph – The Wzrd beat me to it. There was just one book, but a good one. It was something of a political diatribe on Heinlein’s part. The movie was made pretty much as a parody of the political views in the book. Not sure why they changed the bugs so much, perhaps they thought that killing dumb bugs would go down easier on audiences.

    There were also other aliens, allies of the bugs, that had to be left out. They were called skinnies, and that was also a derogatory term used for the Somalian militia/gang bangers we were fighting in the 90s. The other star of the book was the powered armor, one of the coolest military devices in science fiction I think. They say they left that out because it cost too much.

    Other things were changed for other reasons. Rico was Filipino in the book, Dizzy was a guy, Lieutenant Rasczak in the movie was a composite of two characters from the book. The list goes on and I’m getting boring. Basically Hollywood always screws up every book they make into a movie.

    Way too far off topic. Sorry all, I guess fan really is short for fanatic.

    To get back slightly closer to the topic, you’re right. I can totally see the conspiracy/ancient alien/any woo that comes along believers denying it if it ever really happens.

  34. Belzecue

    SETI’s original statement was the most ambiguous wording I’ve seen in years. You had to read carefully to glean they were saying the pictures were examples of false positives, not actual candidates.

  35. Chief

    I’ve always liked the notion that we will not be contacted until we have penetrated the final barrier on the way out from the solar system. ie. voyager 1 and 2 which are just about there.

  36. VinceRN

    My guess is we will not be contacted until after we have spread to the stars, forgotten Earth while it collapsed and rebuilt humanity from scratch. Then our (Great *10^5) grandchildren will contact us. Given the distances involved and what we’ve been able to figure out about physics I figure we will never run into anyone we can talk to. We will find life everywhere we look, but none we can interact with.

    Unless, of course, the ancients seeded the galaxy with life and we find that all sorts of variations of humanoids have now evolved on hundreds of worlds.

  37. Grac

    The Starship Troopers movie had nothing to do with the book. It wasn’t a screw up, nor was it a parody, but an independent project. When it was close to completion someone noticed some similarities, not big but enough to possibly cause legal issues. To stop that, they bought the rights, changed some minor things in the movie, and called it Starship Troopers because they had the rights, so why not.

  38. Charles Queen

    Well it’s pretty obvious that there is no doubts that there is or are advanced life on other planets in both this galaxy and the universe as a whole.To think otherwise would be to live with blinders on and being deaf and dumb as well.To many UFI sightings all around the world for everyone to br wrong.We have been in the past and are now being visited,moniterd and watched and lsitened to by others out there.I would say they think that we just are not ready yet for them to make a formal appearance to us.I for one am a total believer of both the UFO’s and other life forms which are no doubt highly advanced probobly by millions of years as compared to us which to them we are a primitive life form.The time will come however when they do make there presense known to us.We can only pray that they are a peacefull life form and not a violent one otherwise we will be toast

  39. Gerry

    Pretty much everything follows a bell-shaped curve, so we have to be prepared that there ARE Klingon-types out there somewhere. We just have to hope they aren’t TOO close to this region of our Galaxy….

  40. Infinite123Lifer

    I should pray the aliens are nice?

    Oookaay.

    As for knowing: No Contact Yet

    Well, even a good debunking gets the old heart a poundin’
    enough to at least cause me to re-address my Alien Contact protocols.

    Lets see now. . . I wonder how high “Get Assimilated” should be on the list ;)

  41. Ion Tyre

    Charles Queen: WRONG! Take a lesson from Enrico Fermi. If they exist, where are they? Billions of years to find us and colonize our planet BEFORE we came along, and no, didn’t happen. Billions of years of evolution on our planet and no sentient beings appeared until just recently.

    Get this folks: WE ARE IT!! There are no other civilization building creatures out there, the entire universe is just WAITING FOR US!

  42. Mike Saunders

    @16 Crop Circles

    As radio waves propagate through a vacuum, they lose power proportional to the square of their frequency. This data collection happened around 1.4 GHz. Moving to microwaves, say, 14 GHz, a signal from the same place at the same power would be 100 times more faint! You can try to make this up, there will be tradeoffs, but there are other problems. Crowded radio spectrum, available facilities (you can’t just build a radio telescope like BAM!), atmospheric attenuation at the higher frequencies, and of course funding. I think a lot of SETI work is done by piggybacking other people’s data, cause its cheaper!

  43. @40 Charles Queen: .I for one am a total believer of both the UFO’s and other life forms which are no doubt highly advanced probobly by millions of years as compared to us which to them we are a primitive life form.The time will come however when they do make there presense known to us.We can only pray that they are a peacefull life form and not a violent one otherwise we will be toast

    Ok, I’ll bite. It’s not unreasonable to think that there may be extremely advanced intelligence out there, somewhere, but space is a huge place. The odds of intelligent ETs evolving anywhere near us are slim to none. Traveling those kinds of distances may not be impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. Why go all that way just to take pictures from the air?
    And if these critters really are here, I kinda doubt they’re violent, or else why would they bother to wait to reveal themselves?

  44. @43 Mike Saunders: As radio waves propagate through a vacuum, they lose power proportional to the square of their frequency. This data collection happened around 1.4 GHz. Moving to microwaves, say, 14 GHz, a signal from the same place at the same power would be 100 times more faint!

    Hm, I didn’t know that. And this is even while propagating through a vacuum, not counting gas, the ISM, etc?
    I recall reading some very hard sci-fi where interstellar communications happened by way of gamma-ray lasers. I don’t recall the exact justification – it may have been a bandwidth thing. I wonder if that’d actually be possible in light of what you bring up here.

  45. Robin

    @Charles Queen (#40): Hey, do you have any proof of that? Anything said on the Art Bell show doesn’t count, and neither do YouTube videos. Likewise HAARP isn’t controlling our minds or weather, and those aren’t Chemtrails: they’re called “contrails.”

    It is true, however, that there was a secret mission to the Moon, Apollo 18, and the movie about that mission is a faithful, 100% factual retelling of that mission. Honest.

  46. PayasYouStargaze

    I think a Red Dwarf scenario is most likely. Given the huge distances involved it’s unlikely we’ll ever find any true alien life, even though the probability is that it does exist out there somewhere. Instead in the distant future we’ll probably just interact with other life forms of Earth origin whether they are evolutions, GELFs or artificial life. Perhaps some will be forgotten and then appear alien to others, but they will still have originated on Earth.

  47. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hey, WOW. Could it be aliens?!

    Shades of the wow! signal incident :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wow!_signal

    So this is another SETI false alarm. I guess these are to be expected & will probably happen again many times. :-(

    It’s not like it hasn’t happened before :

    A false signal was detected on April 8, 1960, but it was determined to have originated from a high-flying aircraft.

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Ozma

    But one day, maybe .. one day we’ll get this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmSYXbgcozY

    For real! 8)

    My own thinking here is that biological life may be very common but mostly bacterial and unintelligent or at least untechnological with species like ourselves being incredibly rare. This is based on how life has developed on our own planet throughout prehistory, the only example we have for comparison. Ie. ET sentience is as common in the space as it is in our planet’s vast span of time.

  48. Costas

    So if the telescope was in orbit would that eliminate satellite interference?

  49. DrFlimmer

    @ #28 Jason

    Would you prefer a much shorter message? A message like:

    EXTERMINATE!

    Sadly, chances are high that shortly after receiving such a message you are about to be dead.

  50. It’s awful that to check if it’s alien they have to turn away and then back. Hope they don’t miss any of the signal doing that.

  51. Michael Simmons

    Kepler affects SETI in a number of ways besides giving KOI to look at.

    1) Once sufficient data is collected it may be possible to determine which stars are statistically more likely to harbour rocky planets and selectively target them. e.g. star metallicity and other spectral properties.

    2) If we are targeting planets that we have detected planets around other stars using the transit method, then isn’t it logical that other ET’s will do the same with their transmitters?
    Hence… what we really need is a Kepler that looks along the ecliptic. planets found by the transit method there will also be able to detect the earth orbiting our sun. With both the transmitting race and the receiving race both targeting each other the chances of a detection go up.

    About the Frequency of the signal. If I was building a transmitter I’d place it in orbit around the sun and have it transmit a short prime number sequence of pulses directly outwards at 90 degrees to the orbit. (i.e. the signal would not be Doppler shifted by the orbital velocity) This way the receiving party could use the spectrum of the parent star to calculate the radial velocity relative to them and hence the exact Doppler shifted frequency of the Hydrogen line signal.
    Of course you would need an all sky (spherical) version of the wide band radio telescope as described at the end of this paper http://argus.naapo.org/~rchilders/swe_argus_pubs/04447343_Argus.pdf to detect the short burst of signal (appearing once per orbit of the transmitter i.e. months to years)

  52. Chief

    Remember that any civilization advanced enough to send out information on wanting to contact others would understand the mechanics of needing to overcome the difficulties in having that signal read over a period of time. Cosmos and the movie Contact (smong others) showed what the method of an mathematical sequence embedded in the data to help overcome random noise. Using the hydrogen frequency as a carrier and then adding the prime numbers on top of it (like FM signal). No object naturally produces a prime sequence. (we hope….)

  53. !AstralProjectile

    @43 Mike Saunders: So visible light would have to be ~10^12 times brighter!

    (in other news, my friend had to adjust the reflector at Thee Ohio State U.’s Big Ear by 1/2 degree every sideral day, which got to be annoying after a few weeks-we were going to make a siderial alarm clock, but by that time said Big Ear got annexed into a golf course.)

  54. Robert

    @25 “Following along from Larry’s useful analysis (#19), we can note that an acceleration of 0.27 m/s^2 is typical for an earth satellite at about 6 or 7 Earth radii. ”

    This is not correct, the doppler shift is associated with (changes in) the component of the velocity towards us. If we were at the center of the earth, a satellite in a circular orbit would not change its distance to us and so we would not see a change in doppler shift (or even a doppler shift at all.) The 0.27 m/s^2 is not the centripetal acceleration of the satellite but the second derivative of the distance between us (on a rotating earth) and the satellite in a (probably circular) orbit.

    Some elementary calculus should be able to give a range of possible orbits, but I doubt the calculation will fit in this comment.

  55. Steve Boltzman

    @40 Charles Queen writes: >> I for one am a total believer of both the UFO’s and other life forms which are no doubt highly advanced probobly by millions of years as compared to us which to them we are a primitive life form.The time will come however when they do make there presense ….<<

    Charles; Completely subjective and inconsequential "unidentified flying object" reports are the subject of a modern myth and collective delusion. There aren't any REAL "UFOs" and never were; there are no "UFO" facts. The myth began as a hoax to sell newspapers and magazines and has never been anything more than that. The "UFO" myth has absolutely nothing to do with astronomy or any (so far) hypothetical ET that might exist in the Galaxy.

  56. Skywatcher

    Clarification from SETI:

    Update: Friday, January 6, 2012 After posting the plots below on January 5, it became clear that we had not stated as definitively and absolutely as possible that these signals are interference. We have update the post to make this clear. Sorry for any confusion.

    Conclusion:

    Earlier SETI tried to downplay the finding by branding it as “undoubtedly earthly interference” but after coming under-fire, now in their latest update they said “we had not stated as definitively and absolutely as possible that these signals are just interference (Earthly).” So they declared its highly likely signals are of Extraterrestrial in nature.

    Fore more info : Google “Kepler-SETI Hesitantly Admits They Detected Alien Signals”

  57. Radio waves obey the same inverse-square law (in the non-cosmological limit anyway) as other radiation, with no frequency dependence. Otherwise radio astronomy wouldn’t work all the way from near-km wavelengths right up to the submillimeter.

  58. noen

    There are no alien craft in our skies.

    We will never be contacted by any intelligent life beyond our solar system.

    We are effectively alone in the universe and will remain so for a very long time.

  59. Elmar_M

    I have always been wondering how, with so many radio sources in the universe (e.g. stars), how we are supposed to filter out a specific alien communication signal. Unless the signal is very strong and targetted directly at us in a very narrow beam, I would assume that any artificial signal like those used for communication on earth would simply dissipate in the general background noise within a few lightyears. No?

  60. Mike Saunders

    NGC3314, that is why I mentioned antennas….

    Basically, if you used the same sized parabolic dish for one frequency to another, you are right, there would be no frequency dependence. However, you would see an increased noise temperature the larger your dish is relative to frequency. So, there are tradeoffs, like I said.

    In terrestrial based applications, we like higher frequency because it allows the antenna to be smaller. So we downsize the antenna, but lose the range because of the frequency dependence there.

  61. Tim Gaede

    I would love Kepler to detect an Earth-sized planet orbiting at an Earth-equivalent distance around each of a binary pair of Sun-like stars that orbit within a few hundred AU of each other. Should a civilization arise on one of the planets, the journey to the other would seem very feasible to me. With both planets inhabited, a global catastrophe on one would not wipe out the species. When the two stars align themselves (assuming the orbits of the planets and the stars are nearly coplanar), that would be a good time to scan the EM spectrum for communications from one planet to the other. However, the half-period of the stars would be decades or even centuries and therefore would likely require a long wait for the opportune listening time. Also, if we could precisely measure the distance to the binary system, we would know when to send a signal so that the stars are aligned when the signal arrives. The radio dishes on one of the planets pointed toward the other would then also be pointed toward Earth.

  62. Kevin Foster

    If we really want to get serious about radio astronomy, then we need to build a large dish array on the far-side of the moon. It’s entirely possible and doable, today. With a VLA-like array on the moon’s far side, we can entirely eliminate all terrestrial radio-frequency interference and even interference from all of our man-made satellites. The advancement of hard science would be incalculable.

    Another cheaper approach would be to use 5 or more medium sized craters on the far-side, metalized with Mylar or even aluminum foil to make parabolic reflectors and install variable pitch feed-horns above them — much less material into orbit this way, and we could still look at a very large cross-section of the sky. Such a project would only be slightly ambitious, and the potential returns, once again, are incalculable.

    Because of the reduction (near elimination) of RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) parabolic reflectors on the moon can me much smaller than those on earth, while returning both much stronger and completely clear signals — we’d never have to ask if these signals were coming from space. It’s almost as if the moon were designed as the perfect outpost for radio astronomy.

  63. Infinite123Lifer

    “Get this folks: WE ARE IT!! There are no other civilization building creatures out there, the entire universe is just WAITING FOR US!”

    “There are no alien craft in our skies.
    We will never be contacted by any intelligent life beyond our solar system.
    We are effectively alone in the universe and will remain so for a very long time.”

    I find it hard to make definitive statements such as those based on “a lack of evidence” or more correctly “absolutely no evidence at all”. Although if you consider humans evidence of intelligent Life (at least enough to use technology) than how can one dismiss the entirety of the Universe with such certainty?

    I feel like it is akin to the argument for God, or more appropriately lack of a God, but backwards. If as an atheist I hold to the fact that I have absolutely no facts of such an existence, than I assume there is nothing based solely upon the lack of empirical evidence?

    “Occam’s razor is a principle that generally recommends that, from among competing hypotheses, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions usually provides the correct one, and that the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false.”

    If I had to choose between the 2 statements

    “there is no God”

    “there are no aliens”

    which was more false, I certainly could not take them to be equally false statements, I would think that “there are no aliens” would be less false based solely on my awareness of Life on Earth and whatever meager imagination I can muster about the true size of the Universe based on our observations.

    Intelligent Life exists beyond Earth.

    Humans are the only Life in the Universe capable of creating and using technology.

    Which hypothesis makes the fewest assumptions?

    A more appropriate statement would be the one that space is just too big to be able to communicate with such a race if one even exists. Although . . . I keep my glass half full.

    Occams razor is an odd thing. It does not take into account our own ignorance (or perhaps it does but being no way to quantify ignorance it is discarded). When the atom was first hypothesized as a possibility there was certainly no empirical evidence, however, testing and time has proven our previous ignorance on the matter of the atom. I suppose though that the atom example is only one example and happens to suit my statements in general here. Back then there was certainly no way to determine whether atoms were actual and real or just imaginary.

    I wonder if determining whether aliens exist is as far from our reach as determining whether atoms exist in the time of Leucippus and Democritus. Based on the inconceivable size of the Universe I might answer yes, we are as much at odds in verifying the existence of aliens as Leucippus was at verifying the existence of the atom.

  64. TheBlackCat

    Pfft, who uses spectrograms these days when we have wavelets?

  65. noen

    “I find it hard to make definitive statements such as those based on “a lack of evidence” or more correctly “absolutely no evidence at all”.”

    I’m not making absolutely definitive statements. I’m making justified conclusions based on real world pragmatic considerations. If I walk into a room and say there is no one there, it’s an empty room, I could be wrong. Maybe someone is hiding or camouflaged or my sight impaired. But, all things being equal, if a walk into a room do a reasonable search and there is no one there I think I get to say “There is no one here”.

    So… I think I get to say there are no alien craft in our skies because “there are no alien craft in our skies” is true. I’ve looked at the claims for aliens and I don’t find them credible.

    “I feel like it is akin to the argument for God”

    I don’t. It’s completely different. According to all but the most ignorant theologians (and atheists) god is not the sort of thing one could locate in this world. He/she/it is a metaphysical question. Whether or not there are alien craft in our skies is a straight forward scientific question. You do a reasonable search and examine the evidence or lack thereof and reach a conclusion. They don’t exist. Not here, not now. Maybe that will change in the future but for now we are justified in saying they don’t exist here and now. It’s ok to be wrong but I am *highly* confident I am not.

    “Intelligent Life exists beyond Earth.”

    Never said it didn’t, but they aren’t *here*. We are effectively alone in the universe. Even if they are out there we can’t find them and they’ll never find us. Thinking that we could ever detect their radio transmissions is like thinking Native Americans could have known the Mayflower was in the water by examining the waves on the shore.

    We are alone in the dark.

  66. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 40. Charles Queen :

    Well it’s pretty obvious that there is no doubts that there is or are advanced life on other planets in both this galaxy and the universe as a whole.To think otherwise would be to live with blinders on and being deaf and dumb as well.

    Well, statistically given the number of other planets probably existent inour Galxy and the wider Cosmos it strikes me as exceedingly implausible that there would be NO other advanced extraterrestrial sentiences out there.

    However, saying , no doubts is taking that a bit far. As #43. Ion Tyre has pointe dout the fermi Paradox gievs us some reason to doubt the existence of ET at least anywhere near us, perhaps even in the entire Milky Way.

    To[o] many UFI sightings all around the world for everyone to br wrong.We have been in the past and are now being visited,moniterd and watched and lsitened to by others out there.I would say they think that we just are not ready yet for them to make a formal appearance to us.I for one am a total believer of both the UFO’s and other life forms which are no doubt highly advanced probobly by millions of years as compared to us which to them we are a primitive life form.The time will come however when they do make there presense known to us.We can only pray that they are a peacefull life form and not a violent one otherwise we will be toast.

    I recommend you read this :

    http://www.davidbrin.com/thoseeyes.htm

    short story regarding the whole UFO thing plus Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted world’ ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Demon-Haunted_World ) when it comes to the alien abduction tales.

  67. Jess Tauber

    Our universe was created by a hungry entity that feeds on the damned tortured souls of innocents by the quadrillions of quadrillions every moment of every day. It is only one of a vast tangled web of such fields. When ours goes pop finally its only because one has to fallow occasionally. Yum yum.

  68. Messier Tidy Upper

    Continued @ 40. Charles Queen :

    Also please see :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/05/09/ufoh-noes/

    regarding the UFO topic where the BA points out :

    I’ll add my #1 reason of all time [reasons not to believe in UFOs- ed.] : why don’t amateur astronomers report them in record numbers? After all, who spends more time looking at the sky? The fact that few if any amateurs report them is a pretty clear case that the vast majority, at least, of all UFO reports are misunderstood mundane objects like airplanes, satellites, reflections, meteors, and Venus. Sometimes even the Moon, amazingly.

    Plus see :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/11/25/aliens-yes-ufos-no/

    Where the BA again explains his views on the topic – which I share – that whilst there are almost certainly aliens out there in the universe, almost undoubtedly none of them are coming here to abduct drunks and mutilate cows.

    Mind you when it comes to alien sentiences, there is a case that we may well be if not entirely alone in the Galaxy then at least an exceptionally rare phenomena in the Milky Way and abroad as this book by Peter Ward & Donald E. Brownlee argues :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis

    Although I have to add the disclaimer that I haven’t read that one myself. (it’s on my reading list once I manage to find a copy somewhere.) In addition, I have read a another book strongly and very readably making the opposite case that alien life incl. intelligent alien life is likely very common titled What Does a Martian Look Like?: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life”‘ (& also titled ‘Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life’- see its wikipedia page for more) written by biologist Jack Cohen and mathematician Ian Stewart.

    Personally, I think that the reality is probably most likely to be somewhere in the middle of those Rare Earth and Evolved Alien extremes – but I keep an open mind because we really don’t yet have anywhere near enough evidence to decide. My feeling is that simple life will prove to be common – perhaps still existing elsewhere in our solar system – but intelligent life may well be very few and far between as I said before. However, that is just educated guesswork and the honest thing is to admit we just don’t know.

    But I stress that applies to distant aliens that we may one day contact by something like SETI rather than to the notion of “Flying Saucers” being visiting aliens which I do NOT believe in based on the evidence and logic provided here & in the links and in the lack of extraordinary evidence provided for them.

    It’s a good idea to always remember Sagan’s Law :

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!

    Which applies powerfully here as it does to all areas of science and skepticism. :-)

  69. Peter Juett

    The frequency shift of this signal is very linear for a satellite beacon or transponder over the time frame (150 seconds). And unless my math is wrong (which it often is) the Doppler shift over this time frame means it’s also a very slow moving satellite (~0.25m/s) unless it a geosychronous one with a drift problem. But that could be answered if we knew it was in the equatorial plane. Not sure the satellite explanation is the answer.

  70. Andrew

    “(but hopefully not Cardassians or Daleks)”

    or Kardashians!

  71. Infinite123Lifer

    You have the right to say no one is in the room . . . its just no one will here you ;)

    Sorry I thought post #62 looked pretty definitive at first glance

    And God & Aliens are practically brother and sister for now, well brother & long long long lost relative. If you had as many people looking for aliens as you have looking for God, well nevermind. My statement (because it was dangerous) was

    “I feel like it is akin to the argument for God, or more appropriately lack of a God, but backwards.”

    Emphasis on the “more appropriately” and the “but backwards”

    Frodo Baggins said

    “We are not alone”

    Hobbits don’t believe in nasty aliens do they precious.

  72. flip

    @Mike, #9

    Thanks for posting that New Scientist article. I know absolutely nothing about the history of radio and that was very enlightening.

  73. MaDeR

    “god is not the sort of thing one could locate in this world”
    In other words, science cannot detect God. Ergo, for all intents and purposes God does not exist.

    “Rare Earth hypothesis” (REH)
    Many arguments of this Rare Earth book already fell apart, including galactic habitable zone, need for Jupiter-like body or need for large moon, and finally tidal locking. Tidal lock is very important, as red dwarfes are very common. High probability of potential life around such stars would completely bust REH.

    Basically REH is already dead in water by now, and we even did not started to assess exoplanet atmospheres (spectography FTW) yet!

  74. noen

    “In other words, science cannot detect God. Ergo, for all intents and purposes God does not exist.”

    In order to reach that conclusion you have to assume that the metaphysical posits of empiricism are the only means of ultimate knowledge. Not everyone agrees. Science can’t prove that science is true so we are left with accepting scientific conclusions based on pragmatism and pragmatism has no concept of “truth” as such.

    I think that science works but I don’t know what “truth” is beyond the trivial tautology of “All unmarried men are bachelors” and even that is doubtful. I just don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows.

  75. MaDeR

    “you have to assume that the metaphysical posits of empiricism are the only means of ultimate knowledge.”
    You know that “science cannot explain it all” is common excuse of every crackpot out there, right? And don’t me get started on philosophy.

    “Science can’t prove that science is true”
    First things first: if you can prove it is false, it is science (yes, this sentence is vulgar simplification of scientific method). So cited sentence is useless.

  76. Wzrd1

    First, we should remove some confusion out there.
    There ARE such things as UFO’s, they’re all over the globe, every day.
    That said, the vast majority stop being UFO’s when they’re identified (frequently being aircraft, flocks of birds, etc).
    NOT ONE was ever encountered that was accepted by rational people as extraterrestrial in origin. Frankly, I doubt one WILL ever be encountered here, for the same reasons others have posted here.
    There ARE, well, WERE chemtrails, the SR-71 left them whenever she flew, due to the chemical nature of her fuel, the contrails were extremely bright on radar.
    Of course, the SR-71 was a UFO, as was the stealth fighter and stealth bomber and pretty much anything intelligence related and flying OR military aircraft/spacecraft related (no sci-fi spacecraft, just military programs, such as the recently tested US Air Force “shuttle” and assorted other vehicles).
    In short, the vast majority of UFO’s that remain unidentified tend to be military or intelligence related, as eventually is figured out after said program vehicles are declassified.

    As for extraterrestrial intelligent life, I’m waiting for Earth to get some intelligent life. Creatures that kill for differing ideas, differing appearance, ram vehicles into occupied buildings and possess use nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, whilst poisoning their planet with great enthusiasm doesn’t strike me as particularly intelligent. Indeed, were I approaching a planet in search of intelligence, this planet is one that I’d avoid! It’s positively loaded with highly aggressive apes.

  77. noen

    “You know that “science cannot explain it all” is common excuse of every crackpot out there, right?”

    Good thing I never said that then isn’t it? I did not say “because science cannot explain everything therefore god/ufo’s/ghosts/etc… exist”. What I *did* say was that everyone makes certain assumptions and there is no final arbiter between which ones are “true” (whatever the hell that means). This is just standard pragmatism which says that there are these approaches and assumptions that seem to work but that there is no One Ring to rule them all.

    “yes, this sentence is vulgar simplification of scientific method”

    Which one? You’re aware there are several, right? I think that the practice of science (what scientists do) gives us facts about the world. But I think it begins and ends there. What the typical New Atheist wants is to assert their absolute hegemony over all of culture. I call that scientism and it is where I part company with them.

    Science is what works. People use a theory called relativity because it works, but when they do other things they use other theories that also work. But here’s the problem, some of them cannot be brought into agreement with each other. QM flat out contradicts relativity. Which one is true? I accept them both. I think they are both true and that they both contradict each other but that’s ok.

    Here’s a thought experiment that brings us back on topic. Suppose we do someday meet a totally alien civilization. Now suppose further that their science is not our science but it works nonetheless. Worse, while parts of both our sciences can be translated into each other’s terms there remains other parts that cannot. Some of their terms do not translate to ours and vise versa. Which one is true? They can’t both be true can they? I think they can. I think we live in such a world right now. None of that means that I believe in woo or things which can be shown to be false. I reject either/or. I accept both/and.

  78. @71 Jess Tauber: Been reading some Lovecraft over the weekend? :)

  79. @72 MTU: Not sure why this popped into my mind… An oldie but a goodie: They’re made out of meat!

  80. John G.

    Simply because we don’t detect radio signals doesn’t mean ET’s don’t exist, they could be using other ways to communicate. Consider this:

    July 29, 1952 USAF orders pilots to “shoot down” flying saucers over whitehouse, do a google search for “air force flying saucers shoot”

    July 28, 1952 USAF admits that they have detected what appear to be “flying saucers” on radar and that they might be spacecraft from other planets. Go to google news ARCHIVE search for “air force orders saucers merry” click search, it will at first say nothing found, but on the “nothing found” page go to the lower right hand column and click archives.

    April 7, 1952 LIFE magazine in cooperation with the USAF makes the case for ET visitation, do a google search for “April 7, 1952 LIFE magazine google”

    March 3, 1989 Shuttle Discovery astronaut radios to Houston “we have the Alien Spacecraft under observance” Do a youtube search for “Prove che gli astronauti” (an Italian speaking person uploaded the video”

    There is more!!

  81. Nick L

    Messier Tidy Upper Said:
    “But one day, maybe .. one day we’ll get this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmSYXbgcozY

    For real! 8) ”

    Just so long as it’s that and not this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwmghqyJ3Uk#t=2m17
    :P

    Of course, Rama didn’t exactly announce itself when it showed up.

  82. flip

    #82, John G

    You might want to search this site for previous posts on aliens and UFOs. You will find that the majority of UFOs are simply unidentified (or later identified) mundane earthly phenomena. In the case of USAF pilots and astronauts, they too can be fooled by their own senses, not know or not be familiar with earthly phenomena, or be talking about classified but very human flying apparatus.

    Your ‘cases’ are anecdotes, which do not prove anything. Most of them are from the 50s, a time when people had heightened senses for weird, unusual things in the sky because of the cold war. What did the aliens stop visiting after 1989?

    Youtube and Google searches do not constitute proof. Wake me when you have an alien spaceship in your backyard that scientists from all over the world have tested and announced in peer-review literature that it is most definitely not from Earth. Until then, you might want to try reading Badastronomy.com or inputting ‘UFOs’ into the search box on this site.

  83. Messier Tidy Upper

    @84. Joseph G :

    Not sure why this popped into my mind… An oldie but a goodie: They’re made out of meat!

    Ah, classic! Good one. :-D

    Plus, who knows, it might really be the explanation for the Fermi paradox. ;-)

    @62. noen : January 7th, 2012 at 10:50 am

    There are no alien craft in our skies.

    Agreed.

    We will never be contacted by any intelligent life beyond our solar system. (emphasis added.)

    Disagreed. Never is a ve-ery lo-oong time. I don’t think you can say that with any certainty because while it may be greater or lower the possibility always remains that one day we might be.

    There’s no evidence to say “never” – just your assertion and opinion. There isn’t enough evidence to draw any conclusion on the SETI goal being met one way or the other.

    Yes the SETI search has been running for a fairly long time. But there’s also a huge area of spacetime to cover yet. No nearby ET doesn’t mean no more *distant* ET exists. Just because something hasn’t happened *yet* doesn’t mean it never will.

    Also one day we may venture outside of our our solar system ourselves – and then (re?)contact Earth from out in the Black. Which contradicts your statement there technically even if it’s not what you meaning. ;-)

    We are effectively alone in the universe and will remain so for a very long time.

    Is a restatement really of those first two statements. Yes, effectively we’re alone right now as far as we can tell in that we are not in contact with & can find no sign of alien sentiences that may or may not be out there.

    However, there is always the possibility that this could change at any moment. This time we had a SETI false alarm. Tomorrow we may – just may – get the real thing. I wouldn’t say the odds were very high. 1,000 to one, a million to one even but not absolutely zero.

    @80. MaDeR Says: January 8th, 2012 at 11:27 am

    “you have to assume that the metaphysical posits of empiricism are the only means of ultimate knowledge.” (Quoting #79. noen – ed.)
    You know that “science cannot explain it all” is common excuse of every crackpot out there, right? And don’t me get started on philosophy.

    The mere fact that something is used by crackpots does NOT mean it is necesssarily false. Science being unable to explain certain things doesn’t make crackpots right – but it is arguably true.

    “Science can’t prove that science is true”
    First things first: if you can prove it is false, it is science (yes, this sentence is vulgar simplification of scientific method). So cited sentence is useless.

    IMHON, Science isn’t about *proof* – it is about getting an ever more accurate understanding of the cosmos that gets ever closer to a complete understanding of reality. Think of Asimov’s essay – the relativity of wrong. The world isn’t flat – but it isn’t a perfect sphere. Scientific knowledge is always provisional and open to review if the eveidence demands it.

  84. Messier Tidy Upper

    ^ Think of Isaac Asimov’s essay – ‘The Relativity of Wrong’- See :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Relativity_of_Wrong

    Science doesn’t prove we’re right once and for all, it says we have good reasons to believe hypothesis / idea ‘X’ because reasons Z, Y, A, B, C, until it is perhaps falsified which would happen if we found D, E, F, happening.

    @81. Wzrd1 : January 8th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    First, we should remove some confusion out there. There ARE such things as UFO’s, they’re all over the globe, every day. That said, the vast majority stop being UFO’s when they’re identified (frequently being aircraft, flocks of birds, etc). NOT ONE was ever encountered that was accepted by rational people as extraterrestrial in origin. Frankly, I doubt one WILL ever be encountered here, for the same reasons others have posted here.

    Yep. That’s why I try to use the term UFO’s for Unidentified Flying Objects – often later found to be mundane Identified Flying (or Astronomical or hoax) objects and Flying Saucers for the stereotypical little green men here to form crop circles, mutilate cow and abduct drunks idea.

    Of course, the SR-71 was a UFO, as was the stealth fighter and stealth bomber and pretty much anything intelligence related and flying OR military aircraft/spacecraft related (no sci-fi spacecraft, just military programs, such as the recently tested US Air Force “shuttle” and assorted other vehicles.)

    You mean the X-37b?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-37B

    Then too there are the Stealth bombers and the secret black choppers used in the Bin Laden raid. So yeah, agreed entirely. Additionally, I guess Flying Saucer claims make good cover stories and disinfo for keeping the real earth-bound high tech under better wraps.

    As for extraterrestrial intelligent life, I’m waiting for Earth to get some intelligent life. Creatures that kill for differing ideas, differing appearance, ram vehicles into occupied buildings and possess use nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, whilst poisoning their planet with great enthusiasm doesn’t strike me as particularly intelligent. Indeed, were I approaching a planet in search of intelligence, this planet is one that I’d avoid! It’s positively loaded with highly aggressive apes.

    You forgot to add aggressive *naked* apes a la the title of Desmond Morrises’ famous book. ;-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Naked_Ape_(book)

    Yes, I sometimes think Humanity may well not really qualify for classification as an intelligent species sometimes.

    OTOH, maybe that’s too pessimistic a view – we are in some ways, perhaps, getting better or at leats not beyond hope :

    .. possess use nuclear and thermonuclear weapons.,?i>

    I grew up terrified and fully expecting we’d be dead now. That there would be a nuclear Holocaust caused by the Cold Wart going Hot & Total. It didn’t happen. We came perilously close to annhiliation – but then realised and pulled back from the brink. Nuclear weapons have been used only twice in anger – with those occassions being motivated or justified at least in part to end a World War and save lives. Maybe, just maybe, we’re learning?

    Creatures that kill for differing ideas, differing appearance … whilst poisoning their planet with great enthusiasm

    Yet never before have humans – those living inWestern socity anyhow – been so aware of respectingand tolerating and empathising withdifferent groups. Our culture and attitude and assumptions have shifted radically from what they were in the age of Divine Rights of Kings and Crusades. We live in a free, democratic, enlightened, rational globalised world by and large where feminism, environmentalism, scientific understanding and technology, has made life for a great number of people very much better, freer, more equal and given them more human rights and opportunities.

    No we’re not there yet. Yeah, there’s a long way to go. But look at history and where we’re coming from! I hope, I really think, we may be on the right track? Possibly?

  85. Nigel Depledge

    Charles Queen (40) said:

    Well it’s pretty obvious that there is no doubts that there is or are advanced life on other planets in both this galaxy and the universe as a whole.

    On the contrary, it is obvious that many poeople have doubts about the existence of advanced (by which I assume you mean technological) life elsewhere.

    Such doubts are only rational, as we have no real evidence to suggest that there are other technological civilisations out there.

    To think otherwise would be to live with blinders on and being deaf and dumb as well.

    No, that’s the opposite. To assume that alien technological life exists without hard evidence is to blind oneself to reason.

    To many UFI sightings all around the world for everyone to br wrong.

    I’ll assume you meant “too many . . .”

    So, how many fallacious or mistaken reports would be acceptable? 1? 10? 100? 250? 1000? And how come there exists a threshold number whereby suddenly the reports stop being wrong? What is this magic number? And why that number and not some other number?

    We have been in the past and are now being visited,moniterd and watched and lsitened to by others out there.

    This is fantasy (or, at best, highly speculative). There is no evidence to support such an assertion.

    I would say they think that we just are not ready yet for them to make a formal appearance to us.

    How convenient.

    I for one am a total believer of both the UFO’s and other life forms which are no doubt highly advanced probobly by millions of years as compared to us which to them we are a primitive life form.

    This is mere wishful thinking. Your belief in the existence of alien technological life does not make it so. And why should they be substantially more advanced than us? Why not just a little bit? Or about the same?

    I agree that there may be alien technological life somewhere, but we simply don’t know. To draw any conclusions from the absence of any evidence, as you have done, is irrational.

    The time will come however when they do make there presense known to us.We can only pray that they are a peacefull life form and not a violent one otherwise we will be toast

    This is nothing but guessing.

  86. Nigel Depledge

    Gerry (41) said:

    Pretty much everything follows a bell-shaped curve . . .

    What about house prices? Or salaries? These are heavily skewed distributions. I’m sure there are hundreds of other common examples.

  87. Nigel Depledge

    Ion Tyre (43) said:

    Get this folks: WE ARE IT!! There are no other civilization building creatures out there, the entire universe is just WAITING FOR US!

    This conclusion also is not supported by the (absence of) evidence. We just don’t know.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    Elmar_M (63) said:

    I have always been wondering how, with so many radio sources in the universe (e.g. stars), how we are supposed to filter out a specific alien communication signal. Unless the signal is very strong and targetted directly at us in a very narrow beam, I would assume that any artificial signal like those used for communication on earth would simply dissipate in the general background noise within a few lightyears. No?

    Since pretty nearly all all known natural sources of radio waves have quite broad bandwidths, any narrow-band signals observed are likely to be technologically-derived.

    Signal degradation is a big issue, that can be overcome in one of two ways – either transmit in radio waves and use a big amplifier and a highly directional antenna, or use a very large visible-light laser.

  89. Jeff

    scientists make a big deal between UFOology and SETI, but I myself think both are wildly fantastic: UFOs simply do not exist, at least they aren’t aliens, and all the peddlers like George noory and Stan Friedman are obviously just peddling a product to get pretty good livihoods out of it;
    and SETI isn’t much better, because one thing Friedman says I agree with is that the Drake Equation is just dartboard physics. i studied one term under Frank Drake, and I believe I got the guts up one day to tell him I thought so, big deal, but still I think I have reservations.

    Still, let them keep SETIing on, they won’t find anything. But still, the spirit of the Drake equation is coming from a scientific place, at least it’s based on some scientific parameters.

  90. mike burkhart

    I doubt the frist singnal we find will be “Hi There people of Earth” it will probly be like this :” ANN the Alien News Network late report welcome, in the news today one of our probes has found a new solar system of 4 gas giants and 4 rocky planets and numerious miniplanets astroids and comets that orbit a yellow star the amazing thing is the third planet may have life on it . turning to politics our Great Leader will give a speach as you know he has come under fire for spending so munch on sciencetific reserch , but since we have eleminated poverty and we have’nt had a war for 100s of years that the only thing to spend money on and now sports…….” in other words we may just pick up a comon brocast and not one aimed at us .”

  91. Steve Boltzman

    @81 Wzrd1 writes: >>There ARE such things as UFO’s, they’re all over the globe, every day.<<

    No, there are no REAL "UFOs," there are only "UFO" REPORTS; the conceptual absurdity in the origin of the myth is that there are THINGS with the IDENTITY, "unidentified flying object." Even if only a statistical residue of cases are "unidentified," an abstract statistical residue is not a THING. That's the Reification fallacy.

    Imagine there were unambiguous, present and persistent–the very opposite of typical "UFO" REPORTS–but still "unidentified" objects in our skies and the absurdity of the idea that "there ARE such things as 'UFOs'" becomes apparent. That's the practical example of the idea's real-world absurdity.

  92. Steve Boltzman

    @81 Wzrd1 writes: >> the vast majority of UFO’s that remain unidentified tend to be military or intelligence related, as eventually is figured out after said program vehicles are declassified.<< The old "secret technology hypothesis" canard

    That sounds informed and properly skeptical speaking broadly, but I'd like to see one specific example of a major "UFO" case that was later explained by the declassification of some "black" aerospace project. The fact is that MOST projects were "black" only during R&D and were publicly displayed as soon as they became operational. So declassification explained which major "UFO" case? And exactly how many of the thousands of “UFO” REPORTS of ambiguous lights really could have been space-skirting spyplanes?

    What's much more likely is that modern "UFO" REPORTS of "black triangles" are just as erroneous as historical "UFO" reports of "airships," "flying saucers" and every other shape implanted in the public mind by the "UFO" myth-promoting media.

  93. Nigel Depledge

    Mike Saunders (64) said:

    In terrestrial based applications, we like higher frequency because it allows the antenna to be smaller. So we downsize the antenna, but lose the range because of the frequency dependence there.

    It sounds to me as if you are conflating two different phenomena.

    Sure, on Earth, shorter wavelengths give you shorter ranges, but this is not due to some fundamental law of nature. Otherwise, how the hell did the Apollo programme get a UHF TV signal from the Moon to the Earth without lugging an immense power supply and linear amplifier along?

    VHF signals (30 MHz up to 300 MHz) tend to be shorter range than “short-wave” because short-wave signals (3 MHz to 30 MHz) are more commonly refracted in the ionosphere and hence returned to Earth “below” the horizon. Higher frequencies require denser ionisation for ionospheric refraction to occur, which is why you rarely see “over the horizon” propagation with VHF. However, during intense solar activity, the ionosphere is ionised all the way down to its “E”-layer, and this allows distant propagation of VHF signals (because this phenomenon is sporadic, the propagation is termed “Sporadic E”).

    VHF signals can also be propagated on Earth via tropoducting (although this effect is more obvious on UHF signals, from 300 MHz to 3 GHz), meteor scatter (bouncing signals off the ionisation trails left by meteors) and E-M-E. There is nothing intrinsic in the radio signals themselves to prevent over-the-horizon propagation on Earth, and they can arrive at their destination with a signal strength that is comparable with the routine worldwide propagation of short-wave signals.

    E-M-E is also known as “moonbounce”, because that’s exactly what it does. You point your antennas at the moon and use it as a massive great reflector. The E-M-E path loss is very large, but that’s because it’s a very long way. E-M-E works just as well for UHF as it does for VHF, which it should not if your proposal is correct.

    VHF and UHF are used to communicate between Earth and various spacecraft, including the Voyager probes. If these wavelengths had some intrinsic property that limits their range as you claim, then NASA would use longer wavelengths to communicate with deep space probes.

    Signals above about 1 GHz also tend to degrade rapidly on Earth because they get absorbed by water in the atmosphere (ever wondered how a microwave cooker works?). And this effect is frequency-dependent. Higher radio frequncies get absorbed far more by stuff in the air than do lower frequencies. But that does not apply out in space.

  94. Nigel Depledge

    Kevin Foster (66) said:

    If we really want to get serious about radio astronomy, then we need to build a large dish array on the far-side of the moon. It’s entirely possible and doable, today. With a VLA-like array on the moon’s far side, we can entirely eliminate all terrestrial radio-frequency interference and even interference from all of our man-made satellites. The advancement of hard science would be incalculable.

    Yes! This!

    But let’s make it a properly BIG array. Forget the VLA, and the Square Kilometre Array. On the moon’s far side, you could use up a bit of real estate. How about a 10,000 square-kilometre array? That would be very useful.

  95. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (67) said:

    Occams razor is an odd thing. It does not take into account our own ignorance (or perhaps it does but being no way to quantify ignorance it is discarded).

    Occam’s razor works fine, provided you allow “we don’t know” to be a valid conclusion when you are faced with opposing scenarios that are both either plausible or implausible. Where Occam’s razor is most useful, however, is when the two scenarios include one that is far more plausible than the other (but that the available evidence does not allow one to rule out either scenario).

  96. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (79) said:

    “In other words, science cannot detect God. Ergo, for all intents and purposes God does not exist.”

    In order to reach that conclusion you have to assume that the metaphysical posits of empiricism are the only means of ultimate knowledge.

    What’s the difference between knowledge and ultimate knowledge?

    Surely, all knowledge is just knowledge, isn’t it?

    Not everyone agrees. Science can’t prove that science is true so we are left with accepting scientific conclusions based on pragmatism and pragmatism has no concept of “truth” as such.

    Well, this is true, but I think we can lend at least some weight to the fact that science laced with pragmatism is the only view of the world that has ever told us useful things about how the universe works (and what it is going to do next).

    I think that science works but I don’t know what “truth” is beyond the trivial tautology of “All unmarried men are bachelors” and even that is doubtful. I just don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows.

    I think this ventures into the realms of how one defines “truth” in the first place.

    For some definitions of “truth”, science is the only way of learning non-trivial truths about the universe.

    For other definitions of “truth”, you know nothing beyond the basic Cogito ergo sum.

    In a pragmatic view, something is either true or it is not, with some allowance for shades of grey. In a more metaphysical view, some truths are “more true” than others (i.e. truth ceases to be a Boolean operator). But what does that actually mean?

  97. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (82) said:

    . . . I think that the practice of science (what scientists do) gives us facts about the world. But I think it begins and ends there.

    In this you are wrong.

    Science gives us explanations.

    What the typical New Atheist wants is to assert their absolute hegemony over all of culture. I call that scientism and it is where I part company with them.

    First off, I think atheism and scientism are two distinct and separate things. I know from past experience that you tend to build strawmen when arguing about atheism and atheists. Before you go any further with this line of thought, please cite an example of someone who has stated that science disproves god.

    Second, does this comment mean that you are happy for religion to retain its/their hegemony over all of our culture? Because, AFAICT, the most prominent atheists are those who challenge the hegemony of religion and all of its associated magical thinking. I’m not sure any of them has claimed that god’s existence is disproven.

    Science is what works. People use a theory called relativity because it works, but when they do other things they use other theories that also work. But here’s the problem, some of them cannot be brought into agreement with each other. QM flat out contradicts relativity. Which one is true? I accept them both. I think they are both true and that they both contradict each other but that’s ok.

    But the contradiction tells us that one or both is incomplete. I have a suspicion that both GR and QM will turn out to be special cases of a more general theory that does explain both gravity and the world of the very small. But that is merely my hunch, not a rational conclusion.

    Here’s a thought experiment that brings us back on topic. Suppose we do someday meet a totally alien civilization. Now suppose further that their science is not our science but it works nonetheless. Worse, while parts of both our sciences can be translated into each other’s terms there remains other parts that cannot. Some of their terms do not translate to ours and vise versa. Which one is true?

    Whichever one more accurately represents how the universe works, obviously.

    They can’t both be true can they?

    They could both be special cases of something more general. It is difficult to envisage how some alien science might not have arrived at something resembling quantum theory, and something resembling GR.

    I think they can. I think we live in such a world right now.

    Fortunately, when it comes to science, we have an ultimate arbiter of truth: reality. If there are two conflicting descriptions of the universe, we can compare them against reality and see which one gives the closer match.

    None of that means that I believe in woo or things which can be shown to be false. I reject either/or. I accept both/and.

    I think you are supposing a scenario that is implausible.

  98. Nigel Depledge

    John G (85) said:

    Simply because we don’t detect radio signals doesn’t mean ET’s don’t exist, they could be using other ways to communicate. Consider this:

    [UFO sighting references omitted]

    There is more!!

    So what?

    Sure, people see (and detect on radar) thangs that they can’t identify. That in no way counts as evidence that these sightings are alien visitors.

  99. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (88) said:

    IMHON, Science isn’t about *proof* – it is about getting an ever more accurate understanding of the cosmos that gets ever closer to a complete understanding of reality.

    In general, this is right, but never forget that once an hypothesis has been disproved by evidence, it has been disproved for all time.

  100. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (89) said:

    I grew up terrified and fully expecting we’d be dead now. That there would be a nuclear Holocaust caused by the Cold Wart going Hot & Total.

    What, in Oz?

    I went to school in Cheltenham, which is home to the UK’s GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters), and would have been a rpimary target had nuclear war actually started. When there’s not much you can do about a threat, you tend to ignore it most of the time.

  101. MaDeR

    M: “You know that “science cannot explain it all” is common excuse of every crackpot out there, right?”
    N: Good thing I never said that then isn’t it?
    Actually, you said it. Just in pretentious, obfuscated form, filled with philosopical buzzwords. Here: “you have to assume that the metaphysical posits of empiricism are the only means of ultimate knowledge”.

    N: Science is what works.
    Oh, “Science: it works, bitches!” is pretty good criteria for assessing what is real. So, using your words, it means that I assert absolute hegemony of reality over any wishful fantasies out of there. And it happens that scientific method cannot probe God…

    N: QM flat out contradicts relativity. Which one is true? I accept them both. I think they are both true and that they both contradict each other but that’s ok.
    Bzzt. Error. Both theories are false. They are just less false than predecesors (like Newtonian mechanics). There will be new theory that will not be contradictory, at least not in this place. But this theory still WILL have shortcomings, so it will be replaced again with even better (read: less false) theory. Repeat ad infinitum.

    N: I accept both/and.
    Sorry, but I do not accept doublethinking. I know this is required talent for any believer that want to normally function in modern time and society – this does not make it less sad.

  102. Egads, am I ever glad I arrived to your website. Thorough information!

  103. arfkay

    We are them!!! Just look at the mess we’re making of this planet. We did the same to Mars and now we’re going to do the same here. We just are more advance than some other life forms. Some day we’ll find the others who are of lesser intellegence, or maybe we have (politicians).

  104. I started use SETI@home. If we search long enough, we may find a signal one day.

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