Tag: Frank Drake

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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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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44 Years After Its First Message to Aliens, Arecibo Observatory Calls For Follow-Up

by Alan Boyle                     November 16, 2018                         (geekwire.com)

• In 1974, the first Arecibo Message transmitted from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was designed by SETI astronomers including Frank Drake and Carl Sagen and was beamed by radio transmission from the Arecibo telescope in the direction of the M13 star cluster in the constellation Hercules. It was meant as an intergalactic greeting from planet Earth.  (see image of message below)

• The shapes shown on the Arecibo Message grid represent a variety of concepts ranging from the numbers 1 through 10 to the chemical constituents of DNA, our solar system’s planets and the telescope itself, plus a stick figure that stands for humanity. Other types of messages have been sent out periodically since then as well.

• Since the first transmission was sent in 1974, the three minutes’ worth of radio waves have rippled out to a distance of 44 light-years, or less than 0.2 percent of the way to M13 star cluster. Experts acknowledge that it’s extremely unlikely the message will ever be detected and decoded by an alien civilization.

• Now the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo Observatory wants to transmit a second Arecibo Message from Arecibo’s 1,000-foot-wide radio telescope. They’ve announced a student-focused competition to design a new message to beam to extraterrestrials. In order to qualify and ultimately register, student competitors will first need to solve a series of brain-teasing puzzles posted on Arecibo’s website. The contest is open to teams from around the world, in classes ranging from kindergarten to college. Each team should consist of five students plus an adult mentor – for example, a teacher, professor or professional scientist. The first challenge will be posted on December 16th. Clues and follow-up activities will be rolled out periodically over the next year, and the winning team is due to be revealed next fall during a celebration of the Arecibo Message’s 45th anniversary.  (see 1:08 minute video below)

• Experts continue to debate the wisdom of broadcasting our existence to the rest of the universe. Most famously, the late physicist Stephen Hawking said letting extraterrestrials know where we are could turn out as badly for us as Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World turned out for Native Americans.

 

The Arecibo Observatory today kicked off a student-focused competition to design a new message to beam to extraterrestrials, 44 years to the day since the first deliberate message was sent out from Arecibo’s 1,000-foot-wide radio telescope.

“Our society and our technology have changed a lot since 1974,” Francisco Cordova, the observatory’s director, said in a news release. “So if we were assembling our message today, what would it say? What would it look like? What one would need to learn to be able to design the right updated message from the earthlings? Those are the questions we are posing to young people around the world through the New Arecibo Message – the global challenge.”

 The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico

It’s not just about the message, however: Competitors will have to solve brain-teasing puzzles posted on Arecibo’s website in order to qualify, get instructions, register and submit their designs. Along the way, they’ll learn about space science, the scientific method and Arecibo’s story.

“We have quite a few surprises in store for participants, and we will be sharing more details as the competition progresses,” Cordova said.

The contest is open to teams from around the world, in classes ranging from kindergarten to college. Each team should consist of five students plus an adult mentor – for example, a teacher, professor or professional scientist. The first challenge will be posted on Dec. 16.

The 1st Arecibo Message

“Teams should wait until the release of the first challenge on December 16, since they will need to solve that challenge to be able to register,” Abel Méndez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, told me in an email. “Meanwhile, team leaders should subscribe to the Arecibo newsletter for updates and start forming their own teams.”

Clues and follow-up activities will be rolled out periodically over the next year, and the winning team is due to be revealed next fall during a celebration of the Arecibo Message’s 45th anniversary.

 

1:08 minute video on the 1974 Arecibo Message

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