Tag: Carl Sagan

Efforts To Search For, Send Messages To Extraterrestrial Life Advance In Digital Age

by Molly McCrea and Juliette Goodrich                 April 25, 2019                   (sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com)

• In 1977, NASA scientists installed a golden record on two space probes that were part of the Voyager Mission. On each copy were dozens of images, sounds from nature, and multiple greetings in 55 different languages. The record also contained music from around the world, and included classical as well as a recording of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode.” “This was a way of telling another civilization about us,” explained the legendary astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake.

• Drake and fellow astrophysicist, the late Carl Sagan, also wrote what’s known as the Arecibo Message in 1974, the first interstellar radio message sent from earth to a globular star cluster known as M13 in hopes that extraterrestrial intelligence could receive and decipher it.

• Drake and Sagan also designed what is known as the Pioneer plaques. These plaques were another kind of message from earth that scientists hoped would be intercepted by extraterrestrial beings from the 1972 Pioneer 10 and the 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft missions.

• In 2015, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner unveiled a project called the “Breakthrough Initiatives” to search for extraterrestrial intelligence over the span of at least 10 years. Part of the Initiatives program includes a $1M Breakthrough Message competition, where the task is to design a digital message to send to advanced civilizations. But no message has yet been sent. And some, such as Doug Vakoch who heads up: Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), want to send the messages now and hear back from other civilizations. He explained that the messages would be sent by radio or in the near future, by lasers using very brief laser pulses.

• Not everyone agrees we should be rapidly concocting and sending messages. Stargazer Alicia Adams says, “I’ve seen Mars Attacks and that ended horribly!” Retired Professor of Astronomy Andrew Fraknoi says it’s a question over which space scientists are now grappling. “If we’re going to be deciding to advertise our presence to the universe, we should have a discussion with the rest of the world,” said Fraknoi. “Are we ready to signal out there that we on earth exist? We are barely getting along with each other. Are we ready to get along with aliens?”

• Drake thinks intelligent beings already know we’re here due to television and radio signals traveling in space. “It’s too late, folks. We’ve made our presence known big-time,” said Drake.

• A recent survey by Glocalities involving 24 countries found nearly half of all humans believe in extraterrestrials.

 

An ambitious new effort is underway to make direct contact with intelligent life beyond earth, improving upon 70s-era space missions which included attempts to bring messages from Earth to extraterrestrials.

For centuries, we’ve gazed up at the stars, and wondered are we alone? Some say it is time to move more aggressively and find out.

In early April, NASA’s newest planet hunter called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) discovered its first Earth-sized alien planet. A recent survey by Glocalities involving 24 countries found nearly half of all humans believe in extraterrestrials.

                Frank Drake

ETs are on our mind. At the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, an entire evening’s event was all about extraterrestrials. A special dance troupe performed to an eclectic mix of sounds. The sounds were excerpts taken from a famous golden record, intended for intelligent life in the universe. The 12-inch copper gold plated disk is known as the Pioneer Golden Record.

Artist Katerina Wong choreographed the performance and was thrilled to know its history.

“They were hoping if there was an opportunity to meet an ET, that they would get a little bit of understanding about what life on earth was like.” remarked Wong.

In 1977, NASA scientists installed a golden record on two space probes that were part of the Voyager Mission.

On each copy were dozens of images, sounds from nature, and multiple greetings in 55 different languages. The record also contained music from around the world, and included classical as well as a recording of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode.”

According to NASA, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Their primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn in our own solar system but now, both probes are billions of miles away from earth – carrying a message from earth on these golden records. The hope was that somewhere beyond our solar system, intelligent life or advanced civilizations will find them and be able to decipher their contents.
“This was a way of telling another civilization about us,” explained the legendary astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake.

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Galaxy Simulations Offer a New Solution to the Fermi Paradox

by Rebecca Boyle                March 7, 2019                   (quantamagazine.org)

• The universe is filled with stars, nearly all those stars have planets, and some of those planets are surely livable. So where is everybody? This is the ongoing conundrum that is the Fermi Paradox, first presented by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi in 1950.

• In 1981, Carl Sagan and William Newman speculated that the answer to the paradox was that intelligent people were simply too far away from us to come here. But they may do so in time. Others reason that tech-savvy civilizations are rare and prone to self-destruction, or are avoiding the Earth on purpose. In 1975, the astrophysicist Michael Hart declared there simply are no other intelligence civilizations in the universe (a hypothesis recently revived by Oxford researcher, Anders Samberg).

• Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback, an astronomer at the University of Rochester, has led another study, now under review by The Astrophysical Journal. Carroll-Nellenback says that it wouldn’t take very long for a space-faring civilization to spread across the galaxy because the movement of stars throughout the galaxy would “… spread life on time scales much shorter than the age of the galaxy” and help distribute life. “The sun has been around the center of the Milky Way 50 times.” According to simulations by Carroll-Nellenback and his colleagues Jason Wright, Adam Frank, and Caleb Scharf, natural variability will mean that sometimes galaxies will be settled, but often not — solving Fermi’s quandary.

• But the fact that no interstellar visitors are here now does not mean they do not exist, the study’s authors say. Civilizations do not last forever. Not every star is a destination, and not every planet is habitable. There’s also what Frank calls “the Aurora effect,” in which settlers arrive at a habitable planet on which they nonetheless cannot survive. When Carroll-Nellenback and his coauthors included these impediments in their model and ran simulations with different star densities, seed civilizations, spacecraft velocities and other variations, they found a vast middle ground between a silent, empty galaxy and one teeming with life. It’s possible that the Milky Way is partially settled, or intermittently so.

• Frank and Wright say that now we need to look for alien signals, which will be possible as more sophisticated telescopes open their eyes to the panoply of exoplanets and begin glimpsing their atmospheres. “We are entering an era when we are going to have actual data relevant to life on other planets,” Frank said. “This couldn’t be more relevant than in the moment we live.”

[Editor’s Note]   The wrangling over Fermi’s Paradox continues among mainstream scientists who are groping for an answer to a flawed premise. When you take the premise that no interstellar beings have ever visited the Earth as “Fact A”, there’s nowhere to go. It becomes a perpetual debate on why there are no beings here besides us. But this is a falsehood from the start. Of course there are extraterrestrial beings all around us. We have real evidence that they have been here for thousands of years, and anecdotal evidence that they have been here for hundreds of millions or even a couple of billion years. This galaxy and the universe are teeming with intelligent life. All of the 52 star systems in our local star cluster have human-like civilizations very similar to our own. We are apparently the last to join this community. It is our time. The problem is that the powers that be, which control the Deep State government and the mainstream science community, have made it a priority to keep Earth humans completely ignorant and unaware of our true reality, often through silly “scientific studies” such as this one.

 

As far as anyone knows, we have always been alone. It’s just us on this pale blue dot, “home to everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of,” as Carl Sagan so memorably put it. No one has called or dropped by. And yet the universe is filled with stars, nearly all those stars have planets, and some of those planets are surely livable. So where is everybody?

The Italian physicist Enrico Fermi was purportedly the first to pose this question, in 1950, and scientists have offered a bounty of solutions for his eponymous paradox since. One of the most famous came from Sagan himself, with William Newman, who postulated in a 1981 paperthat we just need patience. Nobody has visited because they’re all too far away; it takes time to evolve a species intelligent enough to invent interstellar travel, and time for that species to spread across so many worlds. Nobody is here yet.

Other researchers have argued that extraterrestrial life might rarely become space-faring (just as only one species on Earth ever has). Some argue that tech-savvy species, when they arise, quickly self-destruct. Still others suggest aliens may have visited in the past, or that they’re avoiding us on purpose, having grown intelligent enough to be suspicious of everyone else. Perhaps the most pessimistic answer is a foundational paper from 1975, in which the astrophysicist Michael Hart declared that the only plausible reason nobody has visited is that there really is nobody out there.

Now comes a paper that rebuts Sagan and Newman, as well as Hart, and offers a new solution to the Fermi paradox that avoids speculation about alien psychology or anthropology.

The research, which is under review by The Astrophysical Journal, suggests it wouldn’t take as long as Sagan and Newman thought for a space-faring civilization to planet-hop across the galaxy, because the movements of stars can help distribute life. “The sun has been around the center of the Milky Way 50 times,” said Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback, an astronomer at the University of Rochester, who led the study. “Stellar motions alone would get you the spread of life on time scales much shorter than the age of the galaxy.” Still, although galaxies can become fully settled fairly quickly, the fact of our loneliness is not necessarily paradoxical: According to simulations by Carroll-Nellenback and his colleagues, natural variability will mean that sometimes galaxies will be settled, but often not — solving Fermi’s quandary.

The question of how easy it would be to settle the galaxy has played a central role in attempts to resolve the Fermi paradox. Hart and others calculated that a single space-faring species could populate the galaxy within a few million years, and maybe even as quickly as 650,000 years. Their absence, given the relative ease with which they should spread, means they must not exist, according to Hart.

Sagan and Newman argued it would take longer, in part because long-lived civilizations are likelier to grow more slowly. Faster-growing, rapacious societies might peter out before they could touch all the stars. So maybe there have been a lot of short-lived, fast-growing societies that wink out, or a few long-lived, slowly expanding societies that just haven’t arrived yet, as Jason Wright of Pennsylvania State University, a coauthor of the new study, summarized Sagan and Newman’s argument. But Wright doesn’t agree with either solution.

“That conflates the expansion of the species as a whole with the sustainability of individual settlements,” he said. “Even if it is true for one species, it is not going to be this iron-clad law of xenosociology where if they are expanding, they are necessarily short-lived.” After all, he noted, life on Earth is robust, “and it expands really fast.”

In their new paper, Carroll-Nellenback, Wright and their collaborators Adam Frank of Rochester and Caleb Scharf of Columbia University sought to examine the paradox without making untestable assumptions. They modeled the spread of a “settlement front” across the galaxy, and found that its speed would be strongly affected by the motions of stars, which previous work — including Sagan and Newman’s — treated as static objects. The settlement front could cross the entire galaxy based just on the motions of stars, regardless of the power of propulsion systems. “There is lots of time for exponential growth basically leading to every system being settled,” Carroll-Nellenback said.

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Astronomers Are Asking Kids to Help Them Contact Aliens

by Sigal Samuel                   February 21, 2019                          (vox.com)

• In 1974, scientists at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico used the 1,000-foot-wide radio telescope to send a carefully crafted radio broadcast into outer space – a message of zeros and ones meant to alert aliens to our existence for the first time. In honor of the 45th anniversary of that transmission, researchers at the observatory are pondering how to design a follow-up dispatch. Rather than asking their fellow experts, they’ve launched a global contest inviting youth, from kindergarteners to 16-year-olds, to create the New Arecibo Message.

• Says Abe Pacini, a researcher at Arecibo, “Sometimes the scientists are so focused on their topics and they can see stuff very deep but they cannot see very broad… Students know a little bit about everything, so they can see the big picture better. For sure they can design a message that is actually much more important.” Teams composed of up to ten students plus one mentor must register by March 20th. The more diverse the team is, the more points it gets. The contest guidelines recommend using social media to find possible teammates in other countries or regions. The Arecibo scientists will determine which, if any, message will be selected to represent Earth.

• The 1974 Arecibo message was authored by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan and provided basic information about us, like the position of Earth in our solar system, the size of the human population, the shape of the human body, and the double helix structure of DNA. (The information about the nucleotides in DNA has since been shown to be false.) The message was beamed at M13, a globular star cluster 25,000 light years away. (But these primitive radio waves would take 25,000 years for the message to get there.)

• Another determination that the scientists will make is the “risks of exposure” inherent in messaging alien civilizations. Scientists like the late Stephen Hawking and technologists like Elon Musk have warned that communicating with extraterrestrials could pose an existential threat to the Earth if the message is received by hostile aliens. In 2015, SETI researchers, Elon Musk, and others released a statement saying, “We strongly encourage vigorous international debate by a broadly representative body prior to engaging further in this activity.”

• Astronomer and science fiction author David Brin, one of the most vocal critics of an Arecibo Message, says that, “[M]ost of us are much more concerned about the arrogance these zealots are displaying by presuming to speak for a civilization of 8 billion people without ever exposing their assumptions to normal debate and risk assessment.” Brin also noted, “Their instrument (the Arecibo Telescope) is funded by the taxpayers.”

• Douglas Vakoch, an astrobiologist who worked at SETI before splitting off to found his own international organization, Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), points out that “[A]ny civilization that could do us harm would already know we’re here from our accidental TV and radio leakage.” Vakoch says that the most important aspect of this communication may be our announcing to the galaxy that we are ready to make contact. Known as the ‘Zoo Hypothesis’, this is the idea that extraterrestrials may be keeping an eye on our planet but are waiting for us to indicate that we want to be in contact and that we’re sophisticated enough to merit attention.

• Neither a 1967 Outer Space Treaty ratified by dozens of countries and adopted by the United Nations which laid out an anti-weaponization framework for space, nor a SETI post-ET-detection protocol drafted in the 1980’s, addresses any protocol for actively sending out messages to other civilizations.

• For Brin, all this anxiety over interstellar communication seems like a reflection of our anxieties about communicating with one another. Underneath the question of how to talk to alien minds is a question that’s much closer to home: how to make ourselves understood to other minds right here on Earth.

• On a bulletin board at the Arecibo visitor center where kids were invited to post messages, one child’s misspelled missive was especially poignant: “Earth is destroying it self. Help us! Please help! Send better knowledg.”

[Editor’s Note]   Sending radio waves into space is like traveling across the American continent in horse-drawn covered wagons. This is just another example of mainstream scientists pretending to be on the cutting edge of space exploration when, in fact, our secret space programs are hundreds of years more advanced in space technology. Also, this speculation as to what kinds of extraterrestrials are out there, and the hand-wringing at what hostile ETs might do to our planet if we are “found”, is just more disinformation. We already know that many, many types of ET beings have already been here throughout our human development on Earth, and have been actively interacting with Earth humans since WWII. All of this drama about searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is simply theater to placate a mind-controlled Earth populace.

 

The scientists at Arecibo Observatory, a gigantic radio telescope in Puerto Rico, are some of the smartest astronomers and physicists in the world. But they need help with their next big project — and for that, they’re turning to kids.
In 1974, scientists used the 1,000-foot-wide telescope to send a carefully crafted radio broadcast into outer space, a message of zeros and ones meant to alert aliens to our existence.

It was humanity’s first interstellar message intended to be picked up by aliens. We haven’t heard back from E.T. yet. But in honor of the 45th anniversary of that transmission, the researchers at the observatory are pondering how to design a follow-up dispatch. Rather than asking their fellow experts, they’ve launched a global contest inviting youth — from kindergarteners to 16-year-olds — to create the New Arecibo Message.

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico

The grand prize? A chance to have your message broadcast into the stars, and to potentially become the first human being ever to communicate with aliens.

I asked Alessandra Abe Pacini, a researcher at Arecibo who helped generate the idea for the contest, why kids are the best people for the job. “Sometimes the scientists are so focused on their topics and they can see stuff very deep but they cannot see very broad,” she said. “Students know a little bit about everything, so they can see the big picture better. For sure they can design a message that is actually much more important.”

But designing messages to aliens is a tricky business, on multiple levels. How do you write a missive that an alien intelligence will be able to understand? Should you avoid including sensitive information about humanity, in case that emboldens aliens to come to our planet and annihilate our species? Should you avoid transmitting messages into outer space altogether, because even just alerting aliens to our existence is too risky?

These questions are at the heart of a long-running, and sometimes very heated, debate among scientists. There’s no consensus about any of them, or even about the meta-question of who gets to decide on the answers.

One thing is clear, though: The stakes are extremely high. As scientists like the late Stephen Hawking and technologists like Elon Musk have warned, communicating with extraterrestrials could pose a catastrophic risk to humanity. In fact, if we send out a message and it’s received by less-than-friendly aliens, that could pose an existential threat not only to the human species but to every species on Earth.

The Original Arecibo Message

When space scientists wanted to celebrate a huge upgrade that had been made to the Arecibo Observatory in 1974, two of their greatest minds stepped up to draft a memo to aliens. It would be broadcast from the telescope during a public ceremony. Frank Drake, who came up with the famous “Drake Equation” for estimating the odds that intelligent life exists in our galaxy, crafted the message with help from Carl Sagan, the astronomer and popular science writer who penned Contact and popularized the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) organization.

Written in binary code — a series of ones and zeros — the message was designed with the hope of being intelligible to any aliens who might be listening. It sought to give them some basic information about us, like the position of Earth in our solar system, the size of the human population, the shape of the human body, and the double helix structure of DNA. When you look at the message in pictogram form, you can see all these components and more.

But this interstellar postcard was directed at M13, a globular star cluster 25,000 light years away, which may help explain why we haven’t heard back yet — it’ll take 25,000 years for the message to get there and the same amount of time for any reply to get back to us. The scientists chose that destination partly because the star cluster was big and relatively close, and partly just because it was within the telescope’s declination range (the part of the sky it can target) at the time of the ceremony.

In other words, the scientists weren’t really aiming to communicate with an alien civilization in their lifetimes so much as they were trying to publicly showcase the fact that their telescope could now do something incredible: For nearly three minutes, it sent a cosmic hello from humanity into the sky, as the audience assembled on site was moved to tears.

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