Extraterrestrial life Intelligent Design

SETI finds more creative ways to keep looking

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The aliens, we are told, are needles in a cosmic haystack:

War-of-the-worlds-tripod.jpg
Alien tripod by Alvim Corréa, 1906 French edition of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”

A new calculation shows that if space is an ocean, we’ve barely dipped in a toe. The volume of observable space combed so far for E.T. is comparable to searching the volume of a large hot tub for evidence of fish in Earth’s oceans, astronomer Jason Wright at Penn State and colleagues say in a paper posted online September 19 at arXiv.org.

“If you looked at a random hot tub’s worth of water in the ocean, you wouldn’t always expect a fish,” Wright says.Lisa Grossman, “We may not have found aliens yet because we’ve barely begun looking” at ScienceNews

Paper.

Abstract: Many articulations of the Fermi Paradox have as a premise, implicitly or explicitly, that humanity has searched for signs of extraterrestrial radio transmissions and concluded that there are few or no obvious ones to be found. Tarter et al. (2010) and others have argued strongly to the contrary: bright and obvious radio beacons might be quite common in the sky, but we would not know it yet because our search completeness to date is so low, akin to having searched a drinking glass’s worth of seawater for evidence of fish in all of Earth’s oceans. Here, we develop the metaphor of the multidimensional “Cosmic Haystack” through which SETI hunts for alien “needles” into a quantitative, eight-dimensional model and perform an analytic integral to compute the fraction of this haystack that several large radio SETI programs have collectively examined. Although this model haystack has many qualitative differences from the Tarter et al. (2010) haystack, we conclude that the fraction of it searched to date is also very small: similar to the ratio of the volume of a large hot tub or small swimming pool to that of the Earth’s oceans. With this article we provide a Python script to calculate haystack volumes for future searches and for similar haystacks with different boundaries. We hope this formalism will aid in the development of a common parameter space for the computation of upper limits and completeness fractions of search programs for radio and other technosignatures. More.

As long as there’s an Out There, They’ll always be Out There, of course.

See also: SETI reacts to the study that says not to wait up for the extraterrestrials

Researchers: We have dissolved the Fermi Paradox!

and

Extraterrestrial civilizations: When all else fails, try Bayesianism. The good news is, no one can ever prove They’re Not Out There. The bad news is, the search for Them could be obscuring facts about ourselves. Hey, as long as it’s still fun…

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