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Rethinking SETI

Allen Telescope Array - Photo credit: SETI Institute

Allen Telescope Array - Photo credit: SETI Institute

More and more TV broadcasts are switching to digital cable – and both military radar and cellphone traffic are now spreading their signals out across a large number of channels (thereby taking on the appearance of random radio noise). As a result, the Earth's radio chatter is quickly going silent. If human beings are already phasing out radio broadcasting, what makes us think a more advanced alien civilization would still be using it – and how can we expect to detect them using radio telescopes? In response to this argument, researchers at the SETI Institute are rethinking their methods. Some believe that SETI must try to imagine the kinds of technologies that an advanced alien civilization would be using – but how can we predict the capabilities of a species thousands or even millions of years beyond our own? In her informative article for Science News, Can You Hear Me Now?, Elizabeth Quill examines both the problem and SETI's response.

For an interesting look at the inverse of this issue, check out SETI's Interstellar Message Composition page, which considers the problem of constructing a message that would be understandable to an alien civilization.

Posted by Tom Terranova

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