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Space Science

100/1 Odds On 'First Contact' Within a Year 309

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the cross-your-fingers dept.
astroengine writes "After all the kerfuffle of 'Ambassadorgate' — when the UK media went nuts over the rumored promotion of Mazlan Othman to become the UN's first choice as mankind's alien point of contact — it would appear that gamblers saw this as a tip that an alien landing was imminent."
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100/1 Odds On 'First Contact' Within a Year

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  • by Mastadex (576985) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:34AM (#33734978)

    Bullshit.

    • by dotancohen (1015143) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:35AM (#33735006) Homepage

      What a waste of an opportunity for a f1rst c0ntact post. Damn, and I even rushed over while the headline was still red!

    • by V!NCENT (1105021)

      And if it's realy true, then those must be some very knowledgeable, but very stupid aliens.

      They have zero stealth. So if they came here to fight then we'll most certainly kick their ass (if they have ass, but hey...).

      • by eln (21727)
        If they have vastly superior firepower, they won't need stealth. If first contact was established, for example, by way of some planet-destroying weapon that instantly blew us all to atoms, stealth probably wouldn't come into play.

        Honestly, though, I find speculation about this sort of thing to be highly amusing but ultimately pointless. We know essentially nothing about what alien life might look or act like, so you could literally speculate almost anything and have just as much chance of being right a
        • by V!NCENT (1105021)

          If they have atom destroyers then you wouldn't even remotely care about nuclear weapons, now would they? :')

          Yes it's pointless, but hey it's fun, like most things here on /.; utterly pointless but entertaining ;)

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          If they have spaceships and can enter or leave the planet without having a giant operation like NASA then they will utterly kick our ass even if they dont have weapons.

          They can go and throw really big rocks at us and we cant do anything but play catch.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          So, the possibilities are either

          1. War of the Worlds. They just try to annihilate us.

          2. Ender's Game. Where the aliens don't even realize we have intelligence because they communicate completely differently. Since they can't figure out how to communicate with us, they figure we're no more different than the rest of the animals.

          3. Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Mostly Harmless. Meaning, we don't even have regular space flight capabilites beyond our own orbit, and aren't worth worrying about.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        What? or they just grab a large rock and hurl it at us at a very high velocity. If you can travel interstellar distance, then destroying life on a planet is pretty trivial.

        • by V!NCENT (1105021)

          That would be both extremely low tech and high tech at the same time and extremely brilliant, sir ;)

        • by Bucc5062 (856482)

          My God, they've been reading E.E. Doc Smith Galactic Patrol Series. If they do this with inertia-less drives we are doomed.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:45AM (#33735144) Homepage Journal

      No, all "100 to one odds" means in this context is if you bet a dollar they'll be here in a year and they show up, you win $100. It has nothing to do with the real probabilities, which are as close to zero as you can get.

      • by SETIGuy (33768) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:53AM (#33735262) Homepage
        It also depends upon the definition of "first contact". Physical contact with an intelligent alien species that has traveled to earth? Communications with an extraterrestrial species? Discovery of any form of extraterrestrial life? I'd need to know the specifics before I'd put money on either side of that bet...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hawkfish (8978)

          It also depends upon the definition of "first contact". Physical contact with an intelligent alien species that has traveled to earth? Communications with an extraterrestrial species? Discovery of any form of extraterrestrial life? I'd need to know the specifics before I'd put money on either side of that bet...

          On of my high school teachers described me as a "close encounter of the fourth kind" which he said meant "contact with an alien to the point where it becomes annoying". ;-)

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        Exactly!

        Which means they are betting against aliens appearing any time soon - well, at least any time in the next year. This is not their projected odds of aliens making an appearance. Its their ratio of payment should they actually appear. And based on those odds, they absolutely are betting they will not appear.

        Its called a sucker bet [wikipedia.org]. Their downside is large but the odds of them having to actually pay are statistically, incredibly small. As such, their upside looks like free cash.

      • summary is incorrect (Score:5, Informative)

        by LordKronos (470910) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @12:01PM (#33735394) Homepage

        The summary is incorrect. The 100 to 1 odds aren't even for first contact, but merely that the US/UK will announce the existence of aliens. From TFA:

        the gambling company is offering odds of 100/1 on either the US President or the serving British Prime Minister to announce the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrials within a year of the bet being placed.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Do you think they'll take a bet of $150,000,000,000 (and be able to pay out the win)? Will they take a treasury note?

          It's just an announcement, come on Obama have treasury place the bet and then make the announcement. Other than Fox news we'll all understand and choose to pretend you didn't say it.

        • by gmuslera (3436)
          Odds that the US President or the British Prime Minister announcing the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrials are definately higher than the odds of aliens actually visiting us or even send a message or a probe here. They don't even have to find it (or them find us), just do math, even adding a lot of contrains Drake's equation should give plenty of intelligent life out there. The problem in practical terms for that to make an impact is how big is "out there". If the ones doing the gambling want to ju
      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Anyone who bets obviously thinks the real probability is better than that strongly enough to put their money where there mouth is - why is your unexplained estimate of the probability any better than theirs?

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Unless they already have been here.

        Honestly when have you seen the governments of this world do anything big without being prodded by events.

        Announce a space alien ambassador..... Either they want to embarrass this guy or they already have met one and are preparing for a public announcement.

        I'm thinking this is a big joke to make some rich guy look like a dweeb.

      • There is no such thing as "real probability" in this case, unless you're suggesting we run a few thousand universes just like this one and then count up the ones in which aliens make contact with Earth in 2010.
      • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @01:37PM (#33736782) Homepage

        Do you realize how much our understanding of the universe has changed in 100 years? Do you realize how much our technology has advanced in 100 years?

        For all we know, there is a galactic Internet accessible via quantum effects of some sort. Tapping that would be first contact. Alternatively, synthetic lifeforms may be trying to replicate themselves by broadcasting the schematics for their hardware/software throughout the universe via radio waves, being "born" whenever some curious species detects the signal and builds it. Build it and talk to it -BAM- that's first contact. Considering the size of the universe and the principles of evolution, this later idea seems down-right likely, not just plausible.

        We don't have to be physically visited to make first contact.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by roman_mir (125474)

      You'll eat your words, YOU'LL EAT YOUR WOOOOOOOORRRRDS!

      --
      *dude, don't spoil the bet for me here, I am betting 1000:1 against it.

      Reminds me of another old joke:
      Two beggars are sitting on opposite corners of a street. One has a sign: give to a poor Arab, and he has a few dozens of coins in a plate. Another has a sign: give to a poor Jew. He has 1 coin.
      A passer by drops a coin into the Jew's plate and says: -You should probably change your sign, it's not working out.
      Once the guy left, the Jew yells to the Ara

    • I for one welcome our new bookmaking overlords.

  • Game changer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:37AM (#33735018)
    If aliens do visit massive fluctuations in currencies and wealth will render said bet meaningless. It only makes sense to vote against.
    • by mdm-adph (1030332)

      You think? More than likely, even if it were to happen, it would just be a simple acknowledgment: "okay, they're out there."

      Well, either that or we're about to be conquered, and in that case who cares.

      • by KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:47AM (#33735164)

        I'd think it'd be more like "HOLY FUCKING SHIT ALIENS" in some places.

        • by KarrdeSW (996917)

          This

          Plus every marketing manager is going to start looking for some way to make their current product lines appeal to our new alien overlords (customers.... customlords? overmers?) and every credit card company will be delivering them boxes filled with pre-approvals.

          These people will all be disappointed though, the aliens just came to get themselves iPads.

          • by Coren22 (1625475)

            With the technology required to fly intersteller distances, how could they even be interested in a shiny piece of aluminum?

            I know, it was probably sarcasm, but I would see the aliens being more interested in android :)

            • With the technology required to fly intersteller distances, how could they even be interested in a shiny piece of aluminum?

              Um... Hi, Earthlings. Look, we're sorry to bother you. I know this will sound lame, and believe me, I'm embarrassed to even ask. The interplexing baffle plate on our xilqar has developed microfractures, and we don't want to be dripping anti-gravitons on your nice clean solar system. By the way, we really admire how you keep it looking nice and pristine. Not a sign of sphezhing re
        • Might be a good time to start up a book publishing company by then. All those religious and 'holy' books that have to be rewritten en distributed...

      • by mldi (1598123)
        You kidding me? There would be mass hysteria among many religious groups!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745)

          Why?

          There wasn't hysteria when people where found on remote jungles, or the New world. They didn't stop believing when the stumbled upon other groups who didn't believe the same way.

          Seriously, you really underestimate the level of there delusion.

          Almost immediately it would be "Hey our god created others, isn't he great!"

          Yeah, there would be some people who do rash things, but they would be in the far minority.

      • Re:Game changer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:55AM (#33735296)

        I think you're right. Many people believe that the simple discovery of aliens would usher in some new era of either panic or cooperation for all of mankind.

        Based on what I've observed, I think it's most likely to be a simple case of few people caring. I'm sure some would claim it's a government conspiracy either way.

        You won't find a whole lot of people even concerned until they start whining about illegal aliens within our borders and the aliens taking our jobs.

      • In a similar vein, one thing I have always thought was funny about anime is that a very common character reaction to learning about aliens is just that. So many characters in anime don't freak out when they learn a character is an alien... they are just like "oh, ok," and go about their usual lives and treat the alien like everyone else. Another good example is Neuromancer. At the end Wintermute finds out there is alien life and the reaction is "No Shit?" and the subject is dropped.

    • Re:Game changer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:48AM (#33735194)

      Wow, I just realized what a brilliant move this is on the part of the betting house. The fools who bet for it happening just aren't going to win, the fools who bet against it happening... well, take their stake, put it in a CD for 12 months, then give them their 1% winnings, while you keep the other 2% for yourself.

      • by FooAtWFU (699187)
        Where are you getting a 12-month CD that earns 3% in this interest rate environment? I'm seeing rates more like 0.70% [bonddeskgroup.com]. Admittedly, this is in the US and not the UK (since I can't figure out where to get any quotes for CDs in the UK) but I'm not hopeful. Remember that you've got to pay taxes on it, and deal with the inflation [statistics.gov.uk].
      • by geekoid (135745)

        the would gte, MAYBE 1.65 %. And only if it's a pretty large sum of money all at once, not a little every day.

        Still, having other peoples money to earn .65% interest isn't bad.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      I doesn't even make sense to bet against. I'm not familiar with betting, but with 100/1 odds, wouldn't the opposed better get only $1 gross on a $100 bet? I can still get better than 1% interest rate almost anywhere.
      • > I can still get better than 1% interest rate
        Yes, but 1% plus I-called-first-contact bragging rights? Priceless.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:38AM (#33735038)
    I could be better than 1% interest by putting the money in a good bank for a year. A sure thing, indeed...but still not worth the bet.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Oops, meant to say I could get better than 1% interest by putting the money in a good bank for a year.
      • by Qzukk (229616)

        I need a better bank, mine's only paying out chances of me not getting hit by lightning.

    • by SETIGuy (33768)
      I think you've got it backwards. If it were a sure thing it would pay 9000% interest. (A 1 dollar bet pays 100 dollars if aliens land).
      • by Rolgar (556636)

        GP was referring betting 100 against, and getting back the $1 betting against, assuming the bookmakers are playing both sides.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        You misunderstand. It's a sure thing that the aliens WON'T come.
  • First as first official contact and not the past covered up ones?

  • It's a good tip... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:42AM (#33735102)
    ... that some bookies figured that by giving great odds on an impossible events, idiots would flock to give them money.
    • ... that some bookies figured that by giving great odds on an impossible events, idiots would flock to give them money.

      I feel at times like this that English may be short a word. Now, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment, but pedants like to flock to statements like this and say things like, "anything is possible!" On the flip side though, a word like improbable simply doesn't properly convey the true odds of this happening (not that anyone can guess the TRUE odds, but, really, first contact? pshaw).

      I don't have the largest possible vocabulary out there, so there may already be such a word, but I like portmanteaus,

  • They're misreading it the situation.

    If a landing were imminent, they would have appointed a complete incompetent as ambassador.

  • "The fact that the U.N. actually has a alien ambassador has got alien punters buzzing and we have to hope they are wrong as we have seven figure liabilities," said a spokesman of William Hill, one of the worlds biggest bookmakers.

    In response, the gambling company is offering odds of 100/1 on either the US President or the serving British Prime Minister to announce the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrials within a year of the bet being placed. Odds of 1/2 are on the USA making first contact followed b

  • by Pflipp (130638) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @11:54AM (#33735282)

    ...are a hundred to one, they say...

    but still they come! [youtube.com]

  • by Yvan256 (722131)

    Maybe they're here to build a hyperspace bypass...

    Where the hell is my towel?!

  • I'm sorry but First Contact [imdb.com] happened in 1996.

  • that what we know about physics and speed limits is wrong? Because unless you have "easy" FTL odds for contacting an alien civilization are pretty low (far less than 1/100).Or they are talking about an alien-ated civilization? because we are going definately in that direction if that kind of bets becomes part of our culture.

    In the other hand, odds are not so low that we are the one driving the "first contact" to an alien lifeform, just probably not intelligent ones, if life in any way is discovered i.e. i [slashdot.org]

    • You're assuming that points in space can only be traversed linearly. Theoretically, you don't have to go FTL if you have a worm hole handy.
      • by gad_zuki! (70830)

        You're assuming that wormholes are possible and usable for spacetravel. You're just spreading the improbably jelly around and its certainly not helping your case. I hate how people just sit there and assume that magical gates they've seen on their favorite soft sci-fi shows are a given. They're not.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >that what we know about physics and speed limits is wrong?

      I'm sure if you asked these gamblers about the odds of Jesus returning or that miracles are real you'd get similar, if not, better odds. Why do we care that non-experts think aliens are going to land? I can visit io9.com or any other sci-fi site to read "predictions" from mouth breathers with wish fulfillment fantasies.

  • Denver has this really persistent guy trying to increase UFO awareness in the area. He asks city council to create a program every year and is politely turned down. This year he managed to put it [denvergov.org] on the ballot. Denver has a relatively low threshhold for proposition petitions, something like 5000 signatures.
  • I thought our First Contact staff would include Will Smith [wikipedia.org].
  • A couple of weeks ago, wasn't he quoted as saying contact with aliens at our current level of tech would be a bad idea? Hmmm...
  • Idle (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Raenex (947668) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @02:04PM (#33737306)

    What's with all the crap hitting the front page that should be on Idle? We've gotten stories about creative art in Minecraft, Asteriods on web pages, and now this. Slow news the past couple of days?

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