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Hunt Intensifies For Aliens On Kepler's Planets 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-you-are dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "Could ET be chatting with colleagues or robots on sister planets in its solar system? Maybe so, say scientists who last year launched a new type of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, project to eavesdrop on aliens. Using data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of scientists spent 36 hours listening in when planets in targeted solar systems lined up, relative to Earth's perspective, in hopes of detecting alien interplanetary radio signals. "We think the right strategy in SETI is a variety of strategies. It's really hard to predict what other civilizations might be doing," Dan Werthimer, director of SETI research at the University of California Berkeley, told Discovery News. So far the search hasn't turned up any artificial signals yet, but this marks a change in strategy for radio searches for ETI with Kepler data taking a focused lead."
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Hunt Intensifies For Aliens On Kepler's Planets

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It says they listen when they are lined up relative to earth's perspective, but it doesn't seem very likely that the proper time to send a signal from point A to point B once the speed of light and distance are taken into account is going to be when ABC are all in a line by point C's perspective...or am I just misunderstanding the article?

    • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:43PM (#47115415)

      When we (at C) see A,B and C line up, what we are seeing is a long past event. The property of alignment, determined by optical means, is exactly the time at which we would look for a signal traveling at the speed of light (electromgnetic).

    • Yes, you want to listen when then are lined up, because you are effectively looking back in time. It's not like you are seeing them "now", but have to somehow look ahead the amount of time it takes to receive any signal. The light and the signal arrive at the same time.
  • by reboot246 (623534) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @06:50PM (#47114997) Homepage
    I'm still looking for terrestrial intelligence!
    • by peragrin (659227)

      You should try under a rock. after all we solve most of our problems by picking up a rock ash smashing the opposing viewpoint in the head with it.

  • Some might question why we're working so hard to advertise our existence when we still have exploitable mineral wealth and liquid water.
    • by beheaderaswp (549877) * on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:04PM (#47115071)

      That's kind of an ignorant view. Considering the amount of resources in the uninhabited parts of the universe (which is beyond a staggering amount) why would any one enter conflict over a small planet (us).

      Any species capable of interstellar travel is going to be able to pull resources out of pure energy. They don't mine, or need our water. They don't care what we do, except maybe they observe us and snicker.

      • Well, we have spent several centuries mining and purifying elements. I can think of some examples in our own world where invasions have happened to exploit technologically backward societies possession of mineral wealth.
        • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @09:08PM (#47115971) Journal

          Well, we have spent several centuries mining and purifying elements. I can think of some examples in our own world where invasions have happened to exploit technologically backward societies possession of mineral wealth.

          Okay, let's assume that a space-faring civilization needed resources and had so exhausted the resources of their home solar system that they needed to exploit the resources of another solar system, then further assuming that our solar system was convenient to them, and further assuming that they had the capacity to exploit the resources in our solar system.

          Given all of that, why would they come into a gravity well like the Earth's when they could get enormously more water and organic molecules from Kuiper Belt [wikipedia.org] objects and enormously more metals/silicon/rocky elements from the asteroid belt [wikipedia.org] than from here, without ever entering a gravity well of any consequence?

          That would be like mining salt in the Mariana Trench [wikipedia.org].

          • by DrXym (126579)
            Because humans have a delicious savoury taste.
          • Okay, let's assume that a space-faring civilization needed resources and had so exhausted the resources of their home solar system that they needed to exploit the resources of another solar system, then further assuming that our solar system was convenient to them, and further assuming that they had the capacity to exploit the resources in our solar system.

            Given all of that, why would they come into a gravity well like the Earth's when they could get enormously more water and organic molecules from Kuiper Belt [wikipedia.org] objects and enormously more metals/silicon/rocky elements from the asteroid belt [wikipedia.org] than from here, without ever entering a gravity well of any consequence?

            That would be like mining salt in the Mariana Trench [wikipedia.org].

            The gravity well itself could be a resource. A nice place to have an atmosphere that doesn't leak away like a space habitat's would with a magnetic shield to protect both the atmosphere and the population from the sun's rays in a nice reasonably energy rich part of the solar system. It could be more like why somebody would want to take over somebody else's house rather than wandering into the woods and building their own out of trees and rocks. The energy requirements for terraforming Mars or Venus are huge

            • by tyen (17399)

              The numbers work out for habitat-stealing if interstellar travel involved some quirk of technology that made dropping back into a gravity well somehow attractive at the end of the trip.

              From what we can extrapolate given our current rudimentary state of technology, we think that if you can work out interstellar travel, then Iain Banks' popularized Culture series take on the matter is probably correct: that is, interstellar travel necessarily solves space habitat issues as a precondition. And once you have an

              • The numbers work out for habitat-stealing if interstellar travel involved some quirk of technology that made dropping back into a gravity well somehow attractive at the end of the trip.

                From what we can extrapolate given our current rudimentary state of technology, we think that if you can work out interstellar travel, then Iain Banks' popularized Culture series take on the matter is probably correct: that is, interstellar travel necessarily solves space habitat issues as a precondition. And once you have an interstellar-travel-grade space habitat, it is only the eccentrics who want to drop back down a gravity well.

                I tend to think that assuming post singularity level tech like the Culture novels is a much greater jump than assuming otherwise. There, the assumption is that those things are possible and preferable. Using the culture series as an excuse why aliens wouldn't need our resources or a gravity well pretty much is a proper use of "begging the question".

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        why would any one enter conflict over a small planet

        Maybe it's a convenient atmosphere for them. Maybe a large ocean can be converted into hydrogen quickly and you burn up the planet in the process. Maybe it's fun.

        Any species capable of interstellar travel is going to be able to pull resources out of pure energy.

        Well, that's what we mostly assume. Maybe they just scavenge stuff as they go.

        They don't mine, or need our water. They don't care what we do, except maybe they observe us and snicker.

        In all hones

        • What you're missing is a sense of scale. There are likely hundreds of billions of planets in the galaxy. If you want to make the parallel to human history, the land mass of a single planet would be about equivalent to the area of 1/10 of a soccer field in comparison to the entire landmass of the Earth.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by NotSanguine (1917456)

          why would any one enter conflict over a small planet

          Maybe it's a convenient atmosphere for them. Maybe a large ocean can be converted into hydrogen quickly and you burn up the planet in the process. Maybe it's fun.

          Any species capable of interstellar travel is going to be able to pull resources out of pure energy.

          Well, that's what we mostly assume. Maybe they just scavenge stuff as they go.

          They don't mine, or need our water. They don't care what we do, except maybe they observe us and snicker.

          In all honesty, if we ever met truly alien life ... we have no idea of what we would find, and what they would think of us.

          They may look at us as a slave race, food source, a place to lay their eggs or any of a zillion things.

          We can make educated guesses by making assumptions about them. But given the sheer number of unknowns, they may or may not have any meaning should it ever happen.

          I think it's great to do thought experiments and play what if. But the reality is, at the end of the day, we can't definitely say any of that is actually fact.

          So, when you say "don't", "won't", "can't" or "do", "will" and "can" -- you pretty much have to subsitute that for "well, maybe, hopefully at least, that's what my best guess tells me, and it sounds good, so I'm going with it".

          Hell, for all you know our kind of planet is needed for the equivalent of the "three seashells" for wiping the arse of some interstellar slug, and it'll just eradicate us while taking a dump without even knowing (or caring) we're here. ;-)

          I invite you to apply Ockham's Razor [wikipedia.org] in this instance.

          Yes, it is possible that several species of brain-sucking, evil aliens are even now battling it out beyond the orbit of Jupiter over who has the right to eat our sweet, tasty gray matter.

          Yes, it is possible that the decadent Galactic Empire has completely run through the entire galaxy's supply of tater tots, except for the massive reserves here on Earth, so they're coming to enslave us so we can make tater tots for them for the next 10,000 years.

          Yes, it'

      • If the system you're going to harvest has a usable, replenishable worker pool you only need to send a small colony ship.

      • That's kind of an ignorant view. Considering the amount of resources in the uninhabited parts of the universe (which is beyond a staggering amount) why would any one enter conflict over a small planet (us).

        Any species capable of interstellar travel is going to be able to pull resources out of pure energy. They don't mine, or need our water. They don't care what we do, except maybe they observe us and snicker.

        From "The Killing Star"

        When we put our heads together and tried to list everything we could say with certainty about other civilizations, without having actually met them, all that we knew boiled down to three simple laws of alien behavior:

        THEIR SURVIVAL WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR SURVIVAL.
        If an alien species has to choose between them and us, they won't choose us. It is difficult to imagine a contrary case; species don't survive by being self-sacrificing.

        WIMPS DON'T BECOME TOP DOGS.
        No species makes it to the top by being passive. The species in charge of any given planet will be highly intelligent, alert, aggressive, and ruthless when necessary.

        THEY WILL ASSUME THAT THE FIRST TWO LAWS APPLY TO US.

        That's just why they would be willing... but it gets worse: There's an imperative.

        Once a certain amount of technology and capacity and know-how has fled the homeworld: we, as a species, become capable of attacking another species even if our homeworld is wiped out. In short: there's a limited window during which species A could reliably exterminate species B without worrying that some missed portion of species B could retaliate.

        So imagine some alien sees us right now. If they killed e

    • Some might question why we're working so hard to advertise our existence when we still have exploitable mineral wealth and liquid water.

      Because anyone capable of travelling a few hundred light years has also developed other technologies and doesn't need our mineral and water.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Because anyone capable of travelling a few hundred light years has also developed other technologies and doesn't need our mineral and water.

        Prove that.

        If you can't, it's speculative fiction.

        What if burning the hydrogen from a vast quantity of water from, say, an ocean, was how you propelled yourself?

        We don't know a damned thing about who, what, and how would be travelling a few hundred light years. Not their biology. Not their technology. Not their intent.

        I'm sorry, but your emphatic statement is not an

        • by Anonymous Coward

          They don't need it because they've got gobs of it closer to them and not at the bottom of a gravity well.

          So yes, unless the aliens are about as dumb as you are, their statement is an actual fact.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            They don't need it because they've got gobs of it closer to them and not at the bottom of a gravity well.

            You have no idea of what they need and what they need it for.

            their statement is an actual fact

            You keep using that word. I am not sure it means what you think it means.

            • So your thinking is they couldn't find us on their own, but once they know we're here they hold a meeting and say "Fuck all those planets without intelligent life. Let's go clean out those Earthing chumps."
            • by Nyder (754090)

              They don't need it because they've got gobs of it closer to them and not at the bottom of a gravity well.

              You have no idea of what they need and what they need it for.

              their statement is an actual fact

              You keep using that word. I am not sure it means what you think it means.

              I bet you are the life of the party and everyone loves you when you argue with them.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What the hell are you even typing?
          Entire stars are made of the damn stuff. They could devour a star for their damn space wozzit.

          And if they have the capability to WARP SPACE, they very likely have fusion capability, which means they can LITERALLY MAKE ELEMENTS from hydrogen.
          They do not need to come here for resources. Ever. There is literally nothing here they couldn't make if they had the ability to come here.
          If they DID come here for resources, there'd be a massive empty gap on the way to our section o

        • I'm sorry, but your emphatic statement is not an actual fact. Unless, of course, you know something the rest of us don't. :-P

          GP is using stuff called logic and reasoning. Things you are apparently unfamiliar with, friend.

          • GP is using stuff called logic and reasoning.

            Logic allows you to reach an incorrect answer with authority....

      • Maybe they just want our planet. period. Maybe they need a new vacation spot. Maybe they just like salty oceans and sandy beaches. Those darn apes are in the way, so they'll have to remove them first. They're funny. The apes think they're intelligent (they have built a few small structures); so, we'll have some fun with them first.....

    • by istartedi (132515)

      Advanced civilizations coming to Earth for scarce resources is a great sci-fi plot device. That's about as far as it goes. Any civilization that could send ships the size of cities could almost certainly harvest any resource it wants without attacking an inhabited world.

      Liquid water is plentiful in comets. Minerals are in asteroids. Of course I suppose the aliens could waste energy pulling that stuff out of Earth's gravity well out of spite so... yeah. Let's hide.

    • by invid (163714)
      I'm going to assume that intelligent civilizations are much more rare than natural resources in the galaxy. Since intelligent civilizations probably develop in radically different ways, we would be far more valuable as objects of study than as a source of minerals. It would enhance the survival of a star spanning civilization to understand how other intelligent civilizations evolve.
      • I'm going to assume that intelligent civilizations are much more rare than natural resources in the galaxy.

        Yes.

        Since intelligent civilizations probably develop in radically different ways, we would be far more valuable as objects of study than as a source of minerals.

        If there are indeed other civilizations with life forms approaching (or surpassing) our combination of brain and clever hands, they are not close enough to us to worry with. We are viewing the universe through the Hubble telescope a dozen billion light years away.

        It would enhance the survival of a star spanning civilization to understand how other intelligent civilizations evolve.

        Or we are the only life form in the universe to have made it this far through the Great Filter.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:02PM (#47115067)
    If we could get some meaningful immigration reform, we wouldn't have to spend so much time hunting for them.
  • If the Extraterrestrials have some, intelligence that is, they'd go through great pains to leave us rot.

  • by Beck_Neard (3612467) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:06PM (#47115105)

    the idea is that if there's a solar system out there where a civilization exists which is sending signals between planets (kind of like we're doing on a limited scale with the Mars orbiters and rovers), it's likely that the signals between the planets are highly focused in a single direction, and so the ideal time to listen would be when the planets are lined up with respect to Earth.

    Since we have no idea what kind of signals they are using (radio is the most popular method for our civilization but lasers are also good communications devices) the search would sweep over as much EM spectrum as it could. It's a really clever idea that would definitely pick up interplanetary communications, IF we can recognize the signals as such. As it stands, noise - and the fact that sufficiently advanced communications could be indistinguishable from white noise - limit our ability to do that.

    But anyway, I like the idea because it doesn't presume that they are sending interstellar communications (which requires a high level of advancement), sending incredibly powerful bursts of omnidirectional signals (which requires some unknown reason since it's a pointless thing to do) or specifically aiming their signals at us (which requires a high level of self-importance on our part). If there are civilizations with the same level of advancement as us, we'll find them.

    • IF we can recognize the signals as such.

      Picking up an unnatural, focused emission of energy from another planet would already be pretty good, even if we cannot decode the signal or even recognize it as such.

      If there are civilizations with the same level of advancement as us, we'll find them.

      I've always wondered about that, and about the idea that we're "carelessly advertising our presence" as some put it. How would another civilisation detect us? Radio is often mentioned, but our own transmissions are decidedly low power (on an interstellar scale). Would even our stronger transmissions aimed at our spacecraft or planets be

      • Picking up an unnatural, focused emission of energy from another planet would already be pretty good, even if we cannot decode the signal or even recognize it as such.

        How do you determine what is unnatural? Over the years astronomers have picked up *lots* of signals that had no natural explanation at the time but do now...

        Personally I think the whole thing is likely a waste of time - we've only been using radio for interplanetary communications for a few decades and things are now rapidly moving towards laser communications. Assuming another civilisation follows a similar path, the time between "not advanced enough to detect" and "too advanced to detect" seems pretty s

    • Would these signals degrade over distance anyway?
  • by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:08PM (#47115125)

    Surely this is the job of NSA not NASA

    • Neither. NSA and NASA, as U.S. government agencies, do not fund SETI research.
    • Don't worry, the NSA is already monitoring their communications, and getting a headstart on foreign-foreign intelligence gathering.

  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @07:26PM (#47115295) Journal

    Optical SETI is the way to go. A 10-meter diameter visible telescope has a gain 80 dB greater [coseti.org] than that of the 300-meter Arecibo dish.

    Current NIF lasers can deliver petawatts for nanoseconds, and could easily outshine the sun during their pulse if provided with a reasonably large telescope.

    • "Sir, we have incoming fire."

      "Shield Up!"

      "???"

      "Ensign, what are they firing at us?"

      "Lasers sir"

      "Lasers? But that won't even penetrate our navigation shields."

      "No sir."

      "Looks like they're hailing us sir"

      "OK, let's humor them and see what they want..."

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      I'm surprised by the lack of attention paid to optical seti, it is far more logical than radio wave use. I have seen proposals that the raw kepler data might be mined for optical seti signatures

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Does it actually make any more sense than SETI? Is there actually any evidence that we will abandon radio for long-range communications? Is there any evidence that the phase of using lasers for long-range communications won't be incredibly short, perhaps because cultures at that level of development tend to find a superior alternative shortly after wide adoption of laser communications?

  • If they use laser for communications, we will have a hard time seeing them.
    • by msmonroe (2511262)
      Humorous comment involving several elements including your mother, the laser and the aliens attempting to make contact to arrange for a conjugal visit, then money being exchanged afterwards.
  • Looks like someone's been watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel!
  • The problem is the time window. We use radio waves a bit longer than 100 years and I'd be surprised if we didn't switch to something else within another hundred years. In fact, we have already switch a lot to optical fiber, and who knows what advances in science will bring? Who still uses smoke signals? Combine the probability that some planetary system is inhabited by intelligent aliens right now, which is probably very low, with the time window for radio waves and the probability of stumbling upon aliens

  • That we will no longer be using MacOS 7 to defeat them, it will be Mavericks on a macbook air and that whoever is sent to defend please make sure you "allow applications from anywhere" prior to taking off else you will be sat at the upload port for ages trying to figure out why the defence program won't run. (its in the security section of the system prefs Will)
    • by PsyMan (2702529)
      or Randy ... (before that mistake causes /. to collapse with laughter at such a huge error)
  • The big filter (I don't like the term "great filter" but I'll include it to make search easier) is the point at which software programs itself (I don't like the term "singularity") - and so on. This point will soon arrive for our civilization, and it has already passed for the civilizations we are looking for. SETI is futile.

    We must admit something is wrong after the current statistical failure to find detectable electromagnetic radiation (DEMR) from others. The best suggested answer is that civilizations

  • "D...R...I...N...K..."
  • This could be a great way to prep the public for a reveal; it's boiling the frog slowly.
  • Isn't it going to be difficult trying to find the non-indigenous inhabitants of those planets amongst all of the domestic inhabitants? Why not just look for any inhabitants at all?

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