Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Search for Aliens

A guy from SETI has written a little progress report on their, um, progress:

It’s been 46 years since Frank Drake aimed an antenna at the stars in the first modern SETI experiment. His hope was to hear a deliberate signal – guided into space by intelligent beings – rather than the natural, noisy dance of hot electrons.

Since then, SETI has expanded its search space, bettered its equipment, and refined its strategies. But the bottom line hasn’t budged: still no confirmed chitter from the cosmos.

Some people mistakenly confuse a long search with a thorough one, and figure that the lack of a SETI detection indicates that we’re alone in the Galaxy. This, however, is nonsense.

The number of star systems we’ve carefully examined is only about a thousand. That’s a trifling sample compared with the several hundred billion suns that stud the Milky Way, and of little statistical significance. It’s comparable to initiating a quest for Americans who play the oboe, but considering the search meaningful after interrogating only two people. In addition, and of great consequence to those who actually do SETI, the speed of the experiments is growing geometrically. Every two years, the breadth of the search approximately doubles.
He goes on to answer some of the most commonly asked questions or stated assertions about the search.

OK, I'll admit it, I love this stuff, and I'm glad they are doing it. So there.

(Hat tip to the Corner.)


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