2 March 2010

SETI needs to get real, suggests new book

by Kate Melville

For the last 50 years, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been dominated by a hunt for tell-tale radio signals. But a new book, The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone?, suggests bold new innovations are required if we are ever to hear from our cosmic neighbors.

Author Paul Davies, director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University, believes that the current SETI program is bedeviled by the trap of anthropocentrism - a tendency to use 21st-century human civilization as a model for what an extraterrestrial civilizations would be like.

Davies central theme is that it is time to jettison the idea of detecting alien radio signals. He explains that the chances of two civilizations being ready to listen out for each other at exactly the right time as remote.

Instead, he suggests that there may be more convincing signs of intelligent alien life, either here on Earth in the form of bizarre microorganisms that somehow found their way to Earth, or in space, through spotting the anomalous absence of, for example, energy-generating particles that an alien life form might be exploiting.

"Using the full array of scientific methods from genomics to neutrino astrophysics," Davies writes, "we should begin to scrutinize the solar system and our region of the galaxy for any hint of past or present cosmic company."

Davies will be giving a Physics World webinar at 4pm (BST) on Wednesday 31 March. The webinar can be viewed live at www.physicsworld.com or downloaded afterwards.

Line-Of-Sight SETI Revamp Proposed
Pulsars: What Are We Missing?
Take Me To Your Lame Duck President
ETs Very Unlikely, New Calculations Suggest
Into The Shadows - Searching For Alien Life On Earth
We Come In Peace - NOT!

Source: Physics World