We have been searching for signs of extra-terrestrial life for the last 50+ years, and so far we have found no evidence of anything beyond our planet.
Patreon : https://www.patreon.com/curiousdroid
You can now translate this and other curious droid videos, see my video about it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLPVgIytKyg
But what are we searching for?. We are framed by our own human expectations, our current technology and understanding of the universe and the physics that we believe make it.
In other words, we are looking for what we might expect other beings like us, might send and use technology that we know about.
The first problem is that if we got a signal or message from ET, could we understand it. Would it be a signal broadcast and intended for other civilisations like us and that might have clues in it as to help decipher it or would it just a by-product of something they are doing going about their everyday existence.
Take our output into the cosmos for example. For the last 100 or so years, we have been accidentally transmitting radio waves into space from the most basic spark transmissions of Marconi’s first tests to high-speed data communications with satellites of today and everything else in between.
All of this information is intended for us, not for extra-terrestrial beings. For any ET’s discovering our transmissions, assuming they were nearby and not hearing those first spark tests of Marconi, It would be a bit like us stumbling across ancient writings in an unknown language and trying to figure out what the message is saying.
In fact, there are still a hand full of ancient writing systems like “Linear A” that we still can’t decipher and they were written by modern humans just a few thousand years ago. Any message from ET will be coming from a civilisation that would have evolved in a radically different way from us.
Another example we might find on earth is that of dolphin, whale & elephant communications. We know they are intelligent and they communicate using some form of language but we have little to no idea of what they are saying to each other.
Theorists believe that whilst decoding any message from ET may be extremely difficult, by looking at the way the message was sent could lead to clues to decipher it. The fact that it is being received via a radio transmission and would have to have been encoded into the radio signal in some way, mean that ET may not be that different from us, in that they understand about the universe and sending a signal and thus they must know about maths and so on and so on. This could lead to possible extra-terrestrial Rosetta stones that would unlock further meaning in the message.
The second problem is that the distance between us and any potentially advanced species is huge. We also have to be looking in the right place at the right time, if a signal only lasts a few seconds or minutes and our receivers are looking in a different direction, we’ll miss it or it could be so weak because of the distance that we could not detect it in the first place.
If we were very lucky, we might receive a signal from less than 100 light years away but more likely it would be from thousands or tens of thousands of light years way as that’s where most of the stars and potential life supporting planets would be in our galaxy.
This effectively rules out any realistic chance of communication. Assuming we got lucky and we received a signal today from a local source 100 light years away. If we sent a reply within a few months after figuring out whether to respond or not, it would be another 100 years before they got our reply, a two hundred year round trip, that’s even if they are still listening or even able to listen.
Galaxy 2003 The Next Generation by Frank Dorittke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)