Daily Archives: December 29th, 2009

SETI Hits The Mainstream

Well, to me SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has always been mainstream.

The tools SETI uses for its searches are radio telescopes, primarily the Allen Telescope Array in Northern California. The idea is to scan the skies for radio signals from civilizations approximately the technological equivalent (or superior) of our own.

I have always had an issue with SETI’s methodology, but that’s not what I’m discussing.

I’m saying that the mainstream has excepted SETI for what it is and has separated it from UFOs.

I don’t know how people could’ve equated SETI with UFOs in the first place, but that just shows how some folks are ignorant of things outside of their comfort zone:

It was a dark day for SETI in 1993 when Congress cut off a very modest funding for radio searches ($12 million/yr.) thereby extending isolationism across interstellar space. They disconnected the phone on a targeted search of 1,000 nearest sun-like stars and a multi-million radio frequency all-sky survey.

Leading the attack was former Nevada Democratic Senator Richard Bryan who found a great taxpayer whipping boy in the SETI goals. He milked the patently un-scientific UFO phenomenon to belittle SETI as having any intellectual ballast. “The Great Martian Chase may finally come to an end. As of today, millions have been spent and we have yet to bag a single little green fellow,” he said in 1993. Other senators questioned the use of taxpayer dollars and cited the skepticism that confronts SETI research.

If this guy had done a little research instead of studying his re-election prospects, he’d have found that SETI and UFOs are mutually exclusive, not complimentary.

But that was then. Now SETI research has established itself as the nice and safe way of exploring the Universe, thanks to interstellar distance and our limited chemical rocket technology. Any ET civilization that might be found is safely too far away from us to hurt us, and far and few between:

Still, intelligent life may indeed be exceedingly rare. But, armed with powerful new telescopes and technology, if anybody is our there, we should find them in the next 25 years predicts the founder of SETI, Frank Drake. Drake had the scientific courage to listen for aliens 50 years ago when the idea was definitely un-cool in science circles.

The good thing a person who has been a space cadet for decades can take from this is that the idea of aliens isn’t so “alien” anymore.

Witness the popularity of Cameron’s ‘Avatar.’

The Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations Comes of Age

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