Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What if... #23

What if SETI detects strange radio signals from a star with an exoplanet?

This post is part of the 2008 advent series "What if..."


  1. This is one of my favourite contemplations for it is something that I have often thought about. To tell you the truth much of how I think about it has already been expressed by Carl Sagan in his fictional novel entitled "Contact" that was later made into a movie which I equally enjoy. It expresses that such a find would have a great change on how many people and their religions in the world view both themselves and our species as a whole, in terms of its place and uniqueness.

    I'd like to imagine it would have many forced to come to terms that we are not so special or privileged and also not to assume we are guaranteed a great future, yet merely have been given a chance for one. I would wish also it have people better come to grips as to realize that we are actually one species, on one planet among many and that we need to work together to better to preserve and improve what we have, if we are ever to be able to discover and enjoy more of what lay beyond its bounds.

    I for one am confident that there are and/or will be in future other intelligent life forms come to be in the Cosmos. As Ellie Arroway the heroin in “Contact” said when asked why she believed there were others out there she replied, “If we are the only ones it would be a terrible waste of space”. What little I have learned of nature is that in general it doesn’t tend to waste much.

    Incidentally I actually was privileged to see the true embodiment of Sagan’s heroin speak at a public lecture of Perimeter Institute’s some time back. That real person is Jill Tarter who has been the director of SETI for some time.

  2. A lot of people will be saying - poor benighted souls, no Jesus, no Muhammad. We've got to get the word out to them. An Institute of Extra-Solar Bible Broadcast will open to build a huge radio telescope and transmitter to send the good news over; the Saudis will fund a competing effort.

  3. Given the amount of havoc they wreak upon the human psyche, the only thing that makes angels, gods, demons and little green men tolerable is that they don't exist.

    If LGM's actually provided undeniable proof of their existence you could mark that date on your calendar as the Day the Human Race Went Bat-Shit Crazy

  4. Like Phil, Contact came to mind.Although like Arun too, but preceding, are the attempts by Religious zealots turned terrorist, to prevent this journey had obviously failed. :)

    Just like discovering "new species on earth," little did we know with new communications medium were already here?:)We just hadn't been able to listen this way before.

    The right spin for a neutrino superfluidCompiled by Steve Reucroft and John Swain, Northeastern University.

    Kapusta points out that the condensation temperature would be well below the cosmic background temperature, so it would be quite a feat to make this superfluid. However, Kapusta also notes that a sufficiently advanced civilization might use pulses of neutrino superfluid for long-distance communications.

    With this new technology we have finally gone beyond Seti?


  5. Would we be able to decipher it? How long does it take for radio signals to reach us? If other "intelligent" beings exist are they as obsessed with sex as humans in general? It would be funny if the first alien communication was their version of porn or something like that. LOL

  6. Oh, and in the ensuing competition to proselytize the aliens, we'll get a speech from the Pope, like that about a decade ago, where he called for an end to Muslim-Christian strife in Africa, saying essentially - there are enough non-believers here for both religions to convert, why fight?

    The Mormons will extend their program to start baptizing the alien dead as well.

  7. Most of our computers will have all of their spare cycles occupied in running a public domain distributed program attempting to decipher the aliens' signals.

    Electricity consumption will spike. The managers of the US grid will warn of cascading blackouts.

    Every available minute of telescope time will be used to observe the star, greatly delaying the discovery of the variability of Type 1 Supernovae used as standard candles :)

    The defence contractors will lobby to start a huge new Pentagon program for defence against the aliens.

    The Chinese government will block all access to internet sites that carry news of the alien signals, while the Party examines whether the signals have any content critical of its ideology or not.

    The UN will set up a special Alien Diplomacy unit. While it is so occupied, Russia will occupy Ukraine.

    Given the vacuousness of string theory and the collapse of finance, theoretical particle physics will change profession to Alien Decipherology.

  8. Hello
    I'd prefer to read "strange radio signals"
    as: outside the usual radioastronomical experience,
    but not straightforward evidence for extrasolar
    Second: the star "is" about 30 lightyears from us.
    What then?
    Shortest time for a response from there were
    60 years, so there would be ample time for
    debates on "is it?" vs. "is it not?".
    A lot of money would be spent on SETI-like
    projects, NASA would plan a unmanned spacecraft,
    one half of the evangelical breed would force NASA to
    sent some bibles with the spacecraft,
    the other half would refuse all that because not
    foreseen in bible.
    Conspirationists would have a another
    field of activity.
    Because the signals are easily received with
    some medium-priced equipment, some
    new churches would develop, where listening
    to that signals is the main activity on sundays,
    "The Radio Dish" is the sacred symbol.
    Then after 60 years: nothing new!
    Signal goes on, but no response to the
    signals we sent. :=(
    This is due to the circumstance, that the
    signal comes from an jellyfish-like animal floating in the planets atmosphere,
    with intelligence of a jellyfish...
    or, the signal stops after those 60 years
    abruptly, because the intelligent senders know what they wanted to know,
    but they like black humour. :=(
    (as I do) :=)

  9. Was wondering why nobody brought this AbstruseGoose strip out:


    in the present context. I almost believe it will happen. And it should.

  10. The aliens will ask us to build a trillion-dollar gadget in order to allow Jodie Foster to meet her father for five minutes.

  11. Huge excitement, followed by business as usual as we try to interpret it. Finally, after years of the worlds most brilliant minds and fastest computers attacking the problem, the breakthrough will come, and we decode the message:



  12. He Coffee,

    didn't know Abstruse Goose yet - thanks!

    Hi Reed,

    that's a good one :-)
    I nearly though it was a spam comment to be deleted ;-)

    Cheers, and Merry Christmas!

  13. I would think: Synchroton radioemissions coming from the interaction of the stellar wind with the magnetic field of the planet?

    Think of all the cool stuff, we could learn from that.

    I'm always weary about "strange" things. Think about the pulsars popping up at as strange signals at the beginning.

    "Strange" doesn't have to mean its coming from extraterrestrials.

    And when we see the number PI popping up in the signal THEN we would start to...Well there is a proposition for the procedure in that case but it is not signed by anybody wielding real political power.

    But I always wonder what would happen if we would see undisputed evidence of extraterrestrials and news got around about it. It would probably be completely chaotic but not that dangerous.

    Some people would probably deny the existence of the signal, new alien sects would start popping up so fast it would make my head spin, and then after the first flurry - without a way of establishing a real two way communication process - the excitement for the rest of the world would probably settle down and eventually people would more or less forget about it, if it does not impact their every day life.

    I would guess that the real impact on society and science would be much more subtle and occurring over the course of several generations.


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