Is SETI a Waste of Time?

Radio astronomers have been listening for radio signals (which would indicate extraterrestrial intelligence0, for more than 40 years now. As far as I know, nothing approaching an intelligence-based signal has been found. So, should we put SETI on the back burner? Project “OZMA” (Dr. Frank Drake’s search) yielded nothing; has anyone been listening on the “hrdogen line” frequency detected anything? I know the universe is vast-but, given the distances involved, are we likely to ever hear anything?
I once read a criticism of SETI-the gist of which was: civilizations would probably use radio waves for a brief period-they would phase out radio broadcasts in favor of fiber optic and point-point microwave beams. therefore, the chances of picking up anything would be very low.
Has anything come of this?

Life is a waste of time.

It’s based on faith …

I think it is a waste of time because for the most part you cannot feasibly broadcast over interstellar distances. It is a question of power vs amount of data transmitted. You can feasibly do point to point transmission with highly directional antennas but you will point your antenna at something of interest and the odds that the earth lies along a narrow cone of interest to another civilization seem very remote.

We are also rapidly transitioning away for the sorts of signals they are looking for. They are looking for strong signal frequency carriers. We are transitioning away from these narrow band signals to more broad band signals which look a whole lot more like noise unless you demodulate them in the correct way.

The old idea that there’s a microwave-based galactic Web just waiting for newbies to invent radio and join the club now seems unlikely, but there’s still a chance we might overhear signals not meant for us. Radio astronomers have placed upper bounds on how ubiquitous artificial signals could be and not have been detected yet, but there’s still a long way to go. The search has gone on for decades but the question remains how comprehensive a search? Current efforts center around mass searches that scan millions of possible frequencies and sift through the static looking for patterns. Given that SETI receieves chump change funding and is essentially an amatuer effort, it pretty much IS on the back burner.

As it should be.

When was SETI on the front burner? It’s never been on the front burner. It is a fringe activity, based on the assumption that it’s unlikely to turn anything up, but it would be pretty freaking huge if it ever did.

It’s not like you’re paying higher taxes because of George Bush’s inabilty to admit his mistake in getting us involved in an intractable SETI boondoggle. You seem offended at the very idea that a couple of guys spend a little time looking through radio telescope data. What’s the skin off your nose?

It only takes one.

  1. Yes, its a waste of time. But…
  2. it sure is fun!
    Seti is basically a religion, except that you use math and radio beams instead of faith.
    And it’s pretty harmless.

It’s like looking for God----the odds aren’t good, but, man …just think of the payoff.

And it makes for great conversations at parties.

I am perfectly happy to have a fraction of a fraction of a penny of my tax contributions going to the effort to listen to the skies on the off chance we hear something. It’s like a lottery ticket with the Best Payout Ever.

I agree with what’s-his-name.

I am curious, what is the payout?

I beleive that what they are looking for is so specific that we will never find ET life, for example SETI is assumeing that any aliens out there will be on the base10 system like we are. What if they only have 8 figners? If you are looking for prime numbers in base 10, the aliens that send them to us in binary will get filtered out.

No. Prime numbers are prime regardless of base. If you disagree, please tell me a number that is prime in base ten, but not prime in binary, or some other base. And I will then send you ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Primeness is a quality that is independent of base.

Hot alien chicks, duh. :stuck_out_tongue:

Or if you’re the chick, you get to meet your pseudodaddy on a pretty beach!

The knowledge that we are not alone. Perhaps some high technology. Perhaps a totally different perspective on philosophical issues. The first is big enough.

We only recently started listening in on enough channels to be interesting - you can hardly count Project Ozma. Though the odds are long, the ante is small and the pot is big, so the expected value is pretty darn good.

The WOW Signal found by an earlier SETI researcher still hasn’t been explained although many speculate it was terrestrial in origin.

The whole vast distance thing has to be a drawback. Hey! We found a radio signal from a source 10,000 light years away. OK, what if they’ve been extinct for 5000 years and we’ll probably be extinct for 5000 years before our return signal reaches (what used to be) them. Talk about cosmic phone tag. Even if they were just 100 light years away, it’d be like getting a telegraph from Thomas Jefferson to Teddy Roosevelt who replies and gets George Bush.

If you could get past the first few exchanges and establish streaming content, you might have a little more context of what’s going on on each planet, but it could take hundreds of years just to establish a rapport. If the stream indicated a disease or war or natural disaster was happening there, it’d be 100 years before we knew it, and another 100 by the time they got our reply, by which time they might not even be there to reply.

It might be philosophically significant, but I can’t see much transfer of ideas or anything.

I’d rather the money be put into the Terrestrial Planet Finder (and like-minded projects), as the payoff is much more likely. Think: life has been here, “broadcasting” its existence, for more than a billion years (defined as when oxygen became a common atmospheric component). We’ve been broadcasting radio waves for a 100 years; which are we much more likely to detect-radio signals from an advanced society or chemical spectra denoting a life-bearing planet (be it primitive or intelligent if not technological)?