Has SETI (The institute that searches for life on other planets)ever picked up alien sounds? In a universe so vast, can we really be alone? Is the life we have often thought of as a miracle simply a statistic?

As to question one: no confirmed indications of extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) have been found. There have been various false alarms, and I believe there have even been some interesting signals that went away before they could be studied–but since they couldn’t be studied, we really can’t say what they were. If we’d studied them, we might well have determined that they were all broadcast by the U.S. Navy or that Top 40’s FM station in the next county over or that guy using his new electric razor down the block. You might check out this page from the SETI Institute.

As to questions two: Well, that’s what SETI programs are trying to find out.

Question three is getting kind of philosophical for General Questions.

Probably not but what are the odds, in a universe so vast, of finding another life form? Yeah, I know, Drake equation is a bitch.

Regarding SETI, they haven’t found a true alien signal yet. There was a famous signal in the late 70s; they picked it up once but never repeated itself. I don’t recall its name at present moment but that was the closest we have come to making actual contact.

A recent issue of Scientific American discussed how much of the cosmos has been investigated by SETI and/or other listeners. The short answer is – not much.

The problem is the inverse relationship between an antenna’s sensitivity and its field of view. For a given power level sensitive antennas have very narrow fields, and, when broadcasting, powerful antennas have narrow beams.

So if you use an antenna broad enough to cover a reasonable area of the sky it can’t pick up the (presumed) faint signals from other civilizations, even if they’re trying to reach us. If you narrow the beam to increase the sensitivity (or the broadcast signal) the odds of hitting the right point in the sky fall off drastically.

So, no, we haven’t been able to call E.T. yet, but the odds are minuscule that we ever will, even with very powerful and sophisticated equipment. Space is a big place and that darned inverse square law keeps biting us.

My father in law is a big fan of Nikola Tesla, and other meta-scientists…

He once was telling me about an invention that was attributed to Tesla that picked up some sort of voice transmisison, in a language that wasn’t known on earth.

Who knows? I don’t know if this is UL or not…

Tesla did a good cover of the songs ‘Signs’… oh, wrong one, sorry.

How does SETI get the funding for this? It appears to me it’s like looking for a grain of salt in the Grand Canyon. And how far out are they ‘listening’? If they do find something won’t it take a couple of hundred years to get out there?

Haven’t heard “Signs” in a while…

I don’t know much about SETI’s funding sources, but I do know that they’ve been recruiting a lot of free processing power with their distributed analysis program–nearly half a million years’ worth of CPU time, according to their stats page. Our own little team has contributed over 30 years of processing time on various platforms.

The problem, as pluto pointed out, is that we’re processing damn little data with all that computing power–we can’t get the whole picture, so the odds are that we’ll miss anything that actually is out there. Still, we might as well try.

Please, do your part…

Quite apart from whether they actually find anything or not (I wouldn’t hold my breath), the SETI effort is interesting in terms of illustrating what can be done to partition some problems for distributed computing, and it provides a nice set of benchmarks on real-world hardware. Also, it can be thought of as a very, very long shot with a potentially huge payoff - might as well try it. By all means, if you’ve got a machine that has idle cycles when you’re not in front of it, download their program and run it as your screensaver. I’ve given them a bit over a year. They probably should provide some rudimentary scheduling in addition to the screensaver, though. I have a machine that I have running background tasks during the day - I only want the thing to run at night, and I don’t feel like messing with the scheduler and writing a couple scripts to bring it up and take it down (gracefully!) every night.

Yes, by all means join up. And consider joining the SD team:

Officially, no (or “not yet”). After analyzing countless signals, they’ve got a handful of interesting candidates, but these “signals” never repeated themselves, so they remain inconclusive. It is interesting to note that most of the signals lie within the galactic plane though. SETI is proceeding scientifically, so they are very careful & skeptical about their data.

IMHO, it seems unlikely that we’re alone in the universe. But we have no proof of other life yet. Currently, our most likely ways to find other life are (1) a signal found by SETI (ongoing work), (2) looking for current or fossilized (extinct) microbes on Mars (ongoing work), (3) in the possible subsurface oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa (upcoming work).

What’s the meaning of life, eh?

Just joined SD group and added my 5300 hours…

There was the “WOW” signal.

Cool, I’ll join the team as soon as I get home tonight.

In addition to the methods suggested by Phobos, another potential way to find life elsewhere in the Universe would be with a space-based optical interferometer. There’s a mission currently proposed (called, appropriately, Terrestrial Planet Finder) which would have sufficient resolution to image Earth-sized planets around nearby stars (I think their standard figure is within 100 lightyears, or so). If you can do that, you can look for spectral lines, specifically lines of oxygen. There’s no known method other than life to maintain a significant concentration of elemental oxygen in a planet’s atmosphere (if not continually replenished, it tends to react with materials in the crust), so if we do see oxygen lines in the atmosphere of another planet, that’ll be a smoking gun for the existence of life there.

Of course, this does not imply anything about how developed that life would be, much less whether it’s intelligent.

I’ve read about the TPF; I certainly hope they build it (and within my lifetime).

How sensitive would it likely be? In addition to detecting oxygen, could it also detect, say, CFC’s? That would be an indication of tool-using (if not necessarily terribly bright…) life. Or would there be technical reasons, either “sensitivity” or something else, why the TPF couldn’t spot things like that? (I’m wondering about various other “industrial signatures” besides CFC’s, too.)

I was thinking about this topic and I remembered no one ever commented on my last question on this thread. Think I’ll bump it, just to see if anyone’s got anything to say about that.

Contributed around 3000 hours… don’t have much else for my comp to do. Seeing as I “waste” so much of my here at the SDMB I have it running in the background plus my comp is the hub for my house’s cable connection, it racks up the time pretty quickly. I only need to shut it down when running a game. I figure, hey, I’m not using my computer to its potential, may as well find some aliens… :slight_smile:

I always wondered if the ‘Big Wow’ was the total destruction of an ETI civilisation from Thermo-Nuclear War. Pretty Ironic, ehh? The only proof of ETI is what destroyed it. Im sure there would be ways to see if this was a likely or possible explanation, Ie through comparing the signal to earth based nuclear blasts.

Anyway, even if we detected a signal, how would we know it is a signal? (especially if the signal was not meant for us ‘aliens’ to detech, or even moreso, if they have different primary senses then we have)

Heres an example (I really love examples :slight_smile: )

Frequency Modulation.
First of all, you have a continuous sine wave that is used as the carrier wave. The data (voice, etc) is then used to change the carrier wave slightly. This new signal would very likly be seen as a ‘natural’ signal with some random static.

Here is a link about the various forms of modulation

A composite video signal (ie the type of signal that is most broadcast on this planet) would seem like an even more natural signal with more static. Not only that, but several different modulation and encoding schemes are used in one TV signal.

Heres a link to a rough picture of what a B&W TV signal looks like:

What I am saying is that an ETI signal not intended for a different ETI would be almost indistinguishable from background static. There are some ways to differentiate a meaningful signal from static such as using a very advanced pattern recognition or decryption algoritm (is SETI doing this?)

Even if a possible ETI signal is discovered it would be almost impossible to decode (unless it was intended for a different ETI to decode). Even if it was decoded, how meaningful would it be to science other than to prove that ETIs exhists? (Think about it, how meaningfull would all the episodes of All My Children, or Guiding Light be to Alien scientists? Think what they would think: Wow, these humans are all absolutly gorgeous and screw 90% of their time, while having many, many ‘unusual’ problems plaguing them) It would, however, be slightly meaningfull in cultural standpoint.

For a good book on this topic read ‘Contact’ by Carl Sagan. Although the book is fiction, it is based on many years of Sagan’s research and speculation. WARNING: There are some Religious connotations toward the end of the book. (It is the most ‘religious’ Ive ever seen/read Sagan get)
Sorry about the long post…


OK. Here is another one. Say you download the screensaver program, and delete it for one reason or another…say your HD crashes, you reformat it, or whatever. I gather that info is lost forever? If so, does the “seti” system know to resend that data to some different person to process?