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Space

Mysterious Star Pulses May Be Alien Signals, Study Claims (iop.org) 128

"Strange pulses of cosmic light might be signals from hundreds of different alien civilizations -- or just the latest false alarm in the tortuous search for E.T.," reports Space.com. Slashdot reader Okian Warrior shares this excerpt from the paper which argues that the signals "cannot be caused by instrumental or data analysis effects." Finally, we consider the possibility, predicted in a previous published paper, that the signals are caused by light pulses generated by extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to makes us aware of their existence. We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an ETI signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis. The fact that they are only found in a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range centered near the spectral type of the Sun is also in agreement with the ETI hypothesis.
The researchers add that "at this stage, this hypothesis needs to be confirmed with further work," and Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at SETI, tells Space.com that "If I were a betting guy, I'd bet this is an artifact of the way they processed their data."
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Mysterious Star Pulses May Be Alien Signals, Study Claims

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  • Wonderful! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Saturday October 29, 2016 @03:43PM (#53175935)

    It's wonderful when science steps out into the fringe. Sometimes they end up being right or discover something useful unrelated to their initial inquiry.

    I've no idea whether they are right this time. But this phenomenon will be studied heavily. And we'll learn more. Pure research, even that which seems obtuse, often provides more knowledge when it's conclusions are wrong. Even when Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann failed to produce fusion using a palladium lattice- there was knowledge gained.

    Though I hope these researchers are right. The SETI question has large potential for positive change in society in general.

    • Re:Wonderful! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GerryHattrick ( 1037764 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:01PM (#53176003)
      Might SETI 'change society'? For thousands of years we believed there was an ideal extraterrestrial community caled 'Heaven' - did that help us stop wars? Do those who still believe abstain from genocide? Would any other cosmic certainty improve things?
      • Heaven did Both (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Might SETI 'change society'? For thousands of years we believed there was an ideal extraterrestrial community caled 'Heaven' - did that help us stop wars? Do those who still believe abstain from genocide? Would any other cosmic certainty improve things?

        The idea of heaven helped and hurt, as it and its associated ideas still do.

        Fundamentally it let one group of people control another group of people, and the people in power caused a lot of harm and backwards-thinking. But they also found a way to discourage people from acting cruel to one another and to encourage those people to conform to certain norms and even to be kind, on promise of heaven and threat of hell.

        The norms they chose were not all the right ones, and because of the hierarchical structure an

      • Re:Wonderful! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:24PM (#53176085)

        Might SETI 'change society'? For thousands of years we believed there was an ideal extraterrestrial community caled 'Heaven' - did that help us stop wars? Do those who still believe abstain from genocide? Would any other cosmic certainty improve things?

        Because this time it would be real and the majority of people would know deep down it was true, regardless of what their religion said. Some might choose to ignore it or disbelieve, but most would accept it as a fact.

        A lot of people who claim to believe in god don't really believe in god. But I bet most people would believe in SETI signals if they were well-verified and a majority of scientists who understood this stuff agreed and supported the findings.

        That said, I don't think it would necessarily reform society, but it might shift the mindset considerably in some areas. It wouldn't stop murder or genocide or wars, but it might help spark more self-awareness in people in general, and that's the start of empathy, cooperation, etc. It would also gives all the cranks an "other" to hate that wasn't a human person or group.

        • Re:Wonderful! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:43PM (#53176177) Homepage

          A nice collection of thoughts but I would posit the vast majority of humans Wouldn't Give A Damn. It won't help them pay for food or shelter. It won't help with their genocidal next door neighbors. They would be light years away with no FTL capability (that we've been able to discern).

          The major religions that traditionally have espoused Earth as the Only Place God Likes have long figured out contingency plans for discovery of Alien life.

          It certainly would help with the circulation numbers of The Daily News and National Enquirer and would spark all sorts of new YouTube videos and the like. But most people would still worry about whether or not the Cubs will win the World Series.

        • Because this time it would be real

          Well... unless Elon is correct. In that case, the traditional notion of "God" would probably be closer to the truth.

      • I find it interesting that many people turned this into a theological conversation.

        To me at least, theology was not the point.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      > The SETI question has large potential for positive change in society in general.

      If by "potential" you mean where we learn that governments have covered up the truth for decades, that humans were genetically engineered, that we don't own the dam planet, that we aren't the sharpest tool in the galaxy by a long shot, that some advanced species treat as us mere animals and a delicacy, that every religion is man made, that our mathematics is extremely linear, that our politics is a complete and total joke,

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Wow. That was shockingly incoherent. Congratulations.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        You forgot Theatan and Xenu... At least make the stream of insanity complete.

      • > The SETI question has large potential for positive change in society in general.

        If by "potential" you mean where we learn that governments have covered up the truth for decades, that humans were genetically engineered, that we don't own the dam planet, that we aren't the sharpest tool in the galaxy by a long shot, that some advanced species treat as us mere animals and a delicacy, that every religion is man made, that our mathematics is extremely linear, that our politics is a complete and total joke, that our science is primitive (at best), that almost everyone has a false belief that "There is never enough", and that we STILL haven't figured out how to get along on a planet without money when animals have done this for millions of years, then OK.

        Oh wait, you mean that cloaking, FTL, teleportation, and time travel is possible, the discovery that consciousness IS the underlying energy, that there are 6 fundamental forces, that we can heal every disease given the plant variety we have, that there are "levels" to consciousness, that white holes recycle the energy from black holes, that our experiments with high energy physics is damaging our planet, that the physical reality is only one sub-set, that money will be come completely valueless due to zero point energy, that creativity is the greatest gift that we can offer, etc., then yeah, we'll learn all that good stuff too.

        --
        First Contact is coming ~2024. Are you ready for a new cosmic paradigm?

        No. I don't mean any of that. Nor do I endorse those views.

      • "we STILL haven't figured out how to get along on a planet without money when animals have done this for millions of years"

        We got along fine without money up until the last few thousand years. And last I saw, animals kill and eat each other all the time. We only do it some of the time.

    • The last time such an "intelligent signal" was caught by SETI, it was actually coming from Earth..
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anonymous Coward getting a first post, study claims.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @03:47PM (#53175953) Journal

    Hopefully it is instructions for medicine to live forever and a billion years of shows to watch.

    If just one, the latter please.

  • by kiviQr ( 3443687 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @03:52PM (#53175967)
    For once we should learn from our planet. If you are in a vast ocean of space and see a faint light it is ... Anglerfish - run!
    • For once we should learn from our planet. If you are in a vast ocean of space and see a faint light it is ... Anglerfish - run!

      For once we should learn from our planet. If you are in a vast ocean of space and see a faint light it is ... Firefly - mate!

    • Nice way of putting it. I might not agree with the premise, but it certainly bears thinking about. Until you realise there's X light years between "them" and "us".
  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @03:58PM (#53175993) Journal
    As much as I'd like it if we discovered incontrovertible evidence that there are other sentient beings in the Universe with their own civilizations and technology (I hold out the belief that it would help cure humankind of all our infighting), I have to ask myself, "Why would any civilization even want to do that in the first place?". The vast majority of humans on this planet are not looking outward with their thoughts, they're looking inward, concerned with their day-to-day survival, and will look at you funny if you start talking about other beings on other planets; why would an alien race have a different opinion? Our own government here in the U.S. has to more or less have a gun put to it's head to fund any space program, even. Also consider that another sentient race might consider the idea of drawing attention to themselves and their planet as insane, inviting disaster in the form of an invading force, and therefore would go out of their way to shield their electromagnetic emissions so that they don't draw any unwanted attention. And, of course, there's the rather cynical theory that technological species eventually extinguish themselves with their own weapons of mass destruction, or destroy their own ecosphere to the point where it won't sustain them anymore. Really, I'd be thrilled to hear we've discovered and decoded transmissions of an alien version of The Andy Griffith Show from millions of years ago, but it seems that for every reason we should be seeing such signals, there is at least one reason we wouldn't.
    • Given that human beings have on several occasions beamed out "Hello" signals to points in the galaxy that we think might harbour life, it doesn't seem far fetched that a highly advanced alien civilisation would do the same...

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Except we did it once. This means that aliens spread across a galaxy and basically made a bunch of stars rickroll us for well over 100 years.

        If our scientists were actually interested in SETI the signal would be broadcast at insane levels and gain 24/7/365 for at least 1000 years.

        they sent a message once in a tightly beamed direction at a low power. the chances of someone looking for it and knowing WHEN to look for it receiving it are 10000000000 to 1. for someone not ready to receive it to even notice?

        • If our scientists were actually interested in SETI the signal would be broadcast at insane levels and gain 24/7/365 for at least 1000 years.

          s/ scientists/ politicians/

          Scientists can be as interested as they want in $SOMETHING$, but if no one will pay for it, it ain't going to happen.

      • Once. We did it once. Not a thousand times, not a hundred times, not ten times, not even twice, but once, and never again, and you don't see anyone suggesting that we do it again, either, or asking why we didn't do it again. In fact if I'm not mistaken it's even been suggested that once was a bad idea and that it should never be done again. So again I ask: Why would some other species do it at all? Perhaps we were dumb to do it, and Independence Day will end up having been a cautionary tale for us.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:12PM (#53176039) Homepage

    Every 5 or 10 years someone discovers some signal which they think maybe could be possibly be ET. Then it either turns out to be a some new stellar physics or interference from earth. IIRC one ET "discovery" turned out to be the microwave oven in the kitchen of the science centre.

  • by Sarusa ( 104047 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:19PM (#53176063)

    > the paper which argues that the signals "cannot be caused by instrumental or data analysis effects."

    It can. Their methodology is completely full of holes and willfully insufficiently paranoid considering what they're claiming.

    Go read the PDF - it's hard to say 100% without having the original data, but it sure looks like they're torturing the data till it confesses what they want - what they predicted in their previous paper.

    Hell, there might even be a signal, by all means keep looking harder. But when you jump right to History Channel 'I Don't Know - Therefore Aliens.' And then add 'HUNDREDS of Aliens Civilizations' on such tenuous evidence you start the race with a self-inflicted foot wound.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ac to avoid undoing mods.

      After reading the paper it does seem that he is simply looking for "low probability" patterns in sub-sets of the data, which is guaranteed to find something if the dataset is large enough. His list of non-alien causes is too short and incomplete. The most obvious missing cause is "our particular G0 star is unusual".

      • The most obvious missing cause is "our particular G0 star is unusual".

        Which, considering that almost every natural phenomenon has multiple ways of being measured, almost al of which have significant variance, is likely to be true for almost every natural phenomenon. Any particular specimen is likely to be unusual in some way.

        Which anyone who has tried to identify a fossil (part of my day job) or a tree, or a piece of pond-slime (my activity precisely one email ago) will know already.

  • by Sqreater ( 895148 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:43PM (#53176179)
    The basic assumption is that there is an evolutionary bias toward intelligence and that intelligence can exist in physical forms other than ours, which developed over four billion years. Of the infinite number of possible evolutionary paths ours is just one and I don't think it has any special place in evolution. I certainly don't think there are intelligent squirrels, fish etc. It is all just a tremendous waste of time and energy. First prove that there is an evolutionary bias toward intelligence, then go looking for "aliens." That would make more sense to me. But even then, because of the spans of time and space, the likelihood that we will exist at the same time and proximate is small. Is there an evolutionary bias toward intelligence?
    • by krray ( 605395 )

      I think the question should really be, "Is there an evolutionary bias towards extinction?".

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      The conclusion that alien life exists does not depend on any presumption of an evolutionary bias towards intelligence. The logic by those that would suggest alien life is certain to exist seem to go as follows: We, as an example of intelligent life, exist, so that means that there must be some non-zero probability for intelligent life to come exist in the universe. Given the non-zero probability for the occurrence of intelligent life, it is utterly incongruous that given the sheer vastness of the univer

      • However, there is still an unproven assumption in the above logic. Finding it is left as an exercise for the reader.

        Oo, ooh, can I play? Is it here?

        Given the non-zero probability for the occurrence of intelligent life, it is utterly incongruous that given the sheer vastness of the universe the likelihood of such life occurring elsewhere in the cosmos should not approach mathematical certainty. Therefore, intelligent life must almost certainly exist elsewhere.

        Is it that "sheer vastness" is not an argument, and ultimately we're comparing one number -- p(intelligent live evolves on random planet around random star) -- to another number (planets in universe), and orders of magnitude might actually matter??

        This argument can be similarly used to argue for the existence of ANYTHING repeated in the universe. E.g.:

        "Given the non-zero probability for the occurrence of humans, it is utterly incongruous that given the sheer vastness of

    • Consider some of the most intelligent species on Earth: primates, dolphins, birds, elephants, octopuses. That's a very diverse group. That suggests that evolution has a bias to evolving intelligence in different forms, at least on Earth. Capability of tool use is another matter, but both birds and primates have shown some.

      • by r0kk3rz ( 825106 )

        Consider some of the most intelligent species on Earth: primates, dolphins, birds, elephants, octopuses. That's a very diverse group. That suggests that evolution has a bias to evolving intelligence in different forms, at least on Earth. Capability of tool use is another matter, but both birds and primates have shown some.

        Raw intelligence isn't everything though, you also need a social structure which facilitates teaching. Sure we have the intellectual capacity to think big thoughts, but its our social structure which allows us to retain knowledge and build upon it over time.

        • Lack of social structure is a huge problem for octopuses, but elephants for example have pretty advanced social interactions and have been shown to pass on knowledge.

      • A chimp has 98-99 percent of our dna and has never developed a written language or invented a significant thing. As for other animals being "intelligent" I deny that their simple behaviors qualify. You set the bar far to low to declare something intelligent. And spending millions of dollars to provoke "intelligent behavior" to prove other species are intelligent doesn't prove it. What does a species do naturally is what matters.
  • by MiniMike ( 234881 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @04:59PM (#53176241)

    The signal decodes as one repeating byte, 101010. Now to find out exactly what the question was...

  • The IOP abstract mentions Fourier transforms revealed the signal pattern. Yup, it's amazing what they can reveal. [youtube.com]

    Too impatient? Go to 5:30 in the video to see what I mean.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday October 29, 2016 @05:30PM (#53176357)

    ... the messages are about an impending hyperspace express route [wikipedia.org] to be built through our star system. The planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at the local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty years ...

  • From How the Universe works - season 1 - Galaxies: 25 min, 20 seconds into it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I keep praying for the aliens to come here and destroy mother earth!
    I would laugh all the way to hell! :D

  • We must start work on a space wall, to keep out the aliens.

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