Are we Too Primitive to Detect Advanced Extraterrestrial Life?

Are we Too Primitive to Detect Advanced Extraterrestrial Life?

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Leading scientists, astronomers and philosophers alike have pondered the question – are we just too primitive to detect signals or signs of intelligent life on other planets?

According to Arthur C. Clarke, “we may be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime."

Recently we have reported on numerous efforts which are underway to detect, as well as contact, advanced extraterrestrial life - the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been scanning our universe for intelligent signals for over 60 years; the Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) project has begun sending out messages in the hope that an advanced race may pick up our signals and respond; and NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has been hunting for planets that could host other life forms for more than a decade.

But has anyone working on these projects stopped to ask: what if their ‘signals’ are very different from our ‘signals’? Leading astronomer, Sir Martin Rees, believes that extraterrestrials could be using an entirely different communication medium to our own, such as neutrinos or gravitational waves or another communication mechanism that we cannot begin to understand.

Lord Rees believes that the existence of extraterrestrial life could simply be beyond human understanding, “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains,” he said.

The current lack of clear messages or signals from advanced civilizations should therefore not be viewed with disappointment - we may just have some catching up to do!

    We could detect alien civilizations through their interstellar quantum communication

    Photo of the central region of the Milky Way. Credit: UCLA SETI Group/Yuri Beletsky, Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory

    Since the mid-20th century, scientists have been looking for evidence of intelligent life beyond our solar system. For much of that time, scientists who are engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have relied on radio astronomy surveys to search for signs of technological activity (aka "technosignatures"). With 4,375 exoplanets confirmed (and counting!) even greater efforts are expected to happen in the near future.

    In anticipation of these efforts, researchers have been considering other possible technosignatures that we should be on the lookout for. According to Michael Hippke, a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley SETI Research Center, the search should also be expanded to include quantum communication. In an age where quantum computing and related technologies are nearing fruition, it makes sense to look for signs of them elsewhere.

    The search for technosignatures, and what constitutes the most promising ones, has been the subject of renewed interest in recent years. This is due in large part to the fact that thousands of exoplanets are available for follow-up studies using the next-generation telescopes that will be operational in the coming years. With these instruments searching for needles in the "cosmic haystack," astrobiologists need to have a clear of what to look for.

    In September of 2018, NASA hosted a Technosignatures Workshop, which was followed by the release of their Technosignature Report. By August of 2020, NASA and the Blue Marble Institute sponsored another meeting—Technoclimes 2020—to discuss concepts for future searches that would look for technosignatures beyond the usual radio signals. As someone who has dedicated his professional life to SETI, Hippke has many insights to offer.

    As he noted in his study, modern SETI efforts began in 1959 when famed SETI pioneer Giuseppe Cocconi & physicist Philip Morrison (both of Cornell University at the time) published their seminal paper, "Searching for Interstellar Communications." In this paper, Coccini and Morrison recommended searching for signs of intelligent life by looking for narrow-band signals in the radio spectrum.

    This was followed two years later by R.N. Schwartz and C.H. Townes of the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA) in Washington D.C. In their paper, "Interstellar and Interplanetary Communication by Optical Masers," they proposed that optical pulses from microwave lasers could be an indication of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) sending messages out into the cosmos.

    But as Hippke notes, six decades and more than one hundred dedicated search programs later, surveys that have looked for these particular technosignatures have yielded nothing concrete. This is not to say that the scientists have been looking for the wrong signatures so far, but that it could be useful to consider casting a wider net. As Hippke explained in his paper:

    "We are looking (and should keep looking) for narrow-band lighthouse blasts, even though we have found none yet. At the same time, it is possible to expand our search… It is sometimes argued in the hallways of astronomy departments that we 'just have to tune into the right band' and—voilà—will be connected to the galactic communication channel."

    While virtually all attempts to create quantum processors are relatively recent (occurring since the turn of the century), the concept itself dates back to the early 1970s. It was at this time that Stephen Weisner, a of professor physics at Columbia University at the time, proposed that information could be securely coded by taking advantage of the principle of superposition.

    This principle states the "spin" of an electron, a fundamental property that can be oriented "up" or "down," is indeterminate—meaning that it can be either one or both simultaneously. So while an up or down spin is similar to the zeroes and ones of binary code, the superposition principle means that quantum computers can perform an exponentially greater number of calculations at any given time.

    Beyond the ability to perform more functions, Hippke identifies four possible reasons why an ETI would opt for quantum communications. These include "gate-keeping," quantum supremacy, information security, and information efficiency. "They are preferred over classical communications with regards to security and information efficiency, and they would have escaped detection in all previous searches," he writes."

    The use of computers has evolved considerably over the past century, from isolated machines to the worldwide web, and possibly to an interplanetary network in the future. Looking to the future, Hippke argues that is not farfetched to believe that humanity may come to rely on an interstellar quantum network that enables distributed quantum computing and the transmission of qubits over long distances.

    Based on the assumption that humanity is not an outlier, but representative of the norm (aka. the Copernican Principle) it is logical to assume that an advanced ETI would have created such a network already. Based on humanity's research into quantum communications, Hippke four possible methods. The first is "polarization encoding," which relies on the horizontal and vertical polarization of light to represent data.

    The second method involves the "Fock state" of photons, where a signal is encoded by alternating between a discreet number of particles and vacuum (similar to binary code). The two remaining options involve either time-bin encoding—where early and late arrival is used—or coherent state of light encoding, where light is amplitude-squeezed or phase-squeezed to simulate a binary code.

    Security and Supremacy

    Of the many benefits that quantum communications would present for a technologically advanced species, Gate-Keeping is especially interesting because of the implications it could have for SETI. After all, the disparity between what we assume is the statistical likelihood of intelligent life in our Universe and the lack of evidence for it (aka. the Fermi Paradox) cries out for explanations. As Hippke puts it:

    "ETI may deliberately choose to make communications invisible for less advanced civilizations. Perhaps most or all advanced civilization feel the need to keep the "monkeys" out of the galactic channel, and let members only participate above a certain technological minimum. Mastering quantum communications may reflect this limit."

    The idea of quantum communication was first argued by Mieczyslaw Subotowicz, a professor of astrophysics at the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin (Poland), in 1979. In a paper titled "Interstellar communication by neutrino beams," Subotowicz argued that the difficulties this method presented would be a selling point to a sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial civilization (ETC).

    By opting for a means of communication that has such a small cross-section, an ETC would only be able to communicate with similarly advanced species. However, Hippke noted, this also makes it virtually impossible to detect entangled pairs of neutrinos. For this reason, entangled photons would not only provide for gate-keeping, but they would also be detectable by those meant to receive them.

    Similarly, quantum communication is also preferable because of the security it allows for, which is one of the main reasons the technology is being developed here on Earth. Quantum key distribution (QKD) enables two parties to produce a shared key that can be used to encrypt and decrypt secret messages. In theory, this will lead to a new era where encrypted communications and databases are immune to conventional cyber attacks.

    In addition, QKD has the unique advantage of letting the two parties detect a potential third party attempting to intercept their messages. Based on quantum mechanics, any attempt to measure a quantum system will collapse the wave function of any entangled particles. This will produce detectable anomalies in the system, which would immediately send up red flags. Said Hippke:

    "We do not know whether ETI values secure interstellar communication, but it is certainly a beneficial tool for expansive civilizations which consist of actions, like humanity today. Therefore, it is plausible that future humans (or ETI) have a desire to implement a secure interstellar network."

    Another major advantage to quantum computing is its ability to solve problems exponentially faster than its digital counterparts—what is known as "quantum supremacy." The classic example is Shor's algorithm, a polynomial-time quantum algorithm for factoring integers that a conventional computer would take years to solve, but a quantum computer could crack in mere seconds.

    In traditional computing, public-key encryption (such as the RSA-2048 encryption) employs mathematical functions that are very difficult and time-consuming to compute. Given that they can accommodate an exponentially greater number of functions, it is estimated that a quantum computer could crack the same encryption in about ten seconds.

    Last, but not least, there's the greater photon information efficiency (PIE) that quantum communications offer over classical channels—measured in bits per photon. According to Hippke, quantum communications will improve the bits per photon efficiency rating by up to one-third. In this regard, the desire for more efficient data transmissions will make the adoption of a quantum network something of an inevitability.

    "Turned the other way around, classical channels are energetically wasteful, because they do not use all information encoding options per photon," he writes. "A quantum advantage of order 1/3 does not seem like much, but why waste it? It is logical to assume that ETI prefers to transmit more information rather than less, per unit energy."

    Quantum entanglement visualized. Credit: Physics Department, HKUST

    Of course, no SETI-related pitch would be complete without mentioning the possible challenges. For starters, there's the matter of decoherence, where energy (and hence, information) is lost to the background environment. Where transmissions through interstellar space are concerned, the main issues are distance, free electrons (solar wind), interplanetary dust, and the interstellar medium—low-density clouds of dust and gas.

    "As a baseline, the largest distance over which successful optical entanglement experiments have been performed on Earth is 144 km," notes Hippke. Since the mass density of the Earth's atmosphere is 1.2 kg m -3 , this means that a signal passing through a column 144 km (

    90 mi) in length was dealing with a column density of 1.728×10 5 kg m -2 . In contrast, the column density between Earth and the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) is eight orders of magnitude lower (3×10 -8 kg m -2 ).

    Another issue is the delay imposed by a relativistic Universe, which means that messages to even the closest star systems would take years. As a result, quantum computation is something that will be performed locally for the most part, and only condensed qubits will be transmitted between communication nodes. With this in mind, there are a few indications humanity could be on the lookout for in the coming years.

    Depending on the method used to transmit quantum information, certain signatures would result that SETI researchers could identify. At present, SETI facilities that conduct observations in the visible light spectrum are not equipped to receive quantum communications (since the technology does not exist yet). However, they are equipped to detect photons, obtain spectra, and perform polarization experiments.

    As such, argues Hippke, they would be able to tease out potential signals from the background noise of space. This is similar to what Professor Lubin suggested in a 2016 paper ("The Search for Directed Intelligence"), where he argued that optical signals (lasers) used for directed-energy propulsion or communications would result in occasional "spillover" that would be detectable.

    In much the same way, "errant" photons could be collected by observatories and measured for signs of encoding using various techniques (including the ones identified in the study). One possible method Hippke recommends is long-duration interferometry, where multiple instruments monitor the amplitude and phase of electromagnetic fields in space over time and compare them to a baseline to discern the presence of encoding.

    One thing bears consideration though: If by listening in on ETI quantum communications, won't that cause information to be lost? And if so, would the ETI in question not realize we were listening in? Assuming they were not aware of us before, they sure would be after all this went down! One might conclude that it would be better to not eavesdrop on the conversations of more advanced species!

    The Search Thus Far

    As he noted in his study, modern SETI efforts began in 1959 when famed SETI pioneer Giuseppe Cocconi & physicist Philip Morrison (both of Cornell University at the time) published their seminal paper, “Searching for Interstellar Communications.” In this paper, Coccini and Morrison recommended searching for signs of intelligent life by looking for narrow-band signals in the radio spectrum.

    This was followed two years later by R.N. Schwartz and C.H. Townes of the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA) in Washington D.C. In their paper, “Interstellar and Interplanetary Communication by Optical Masers,” they proposed that optical pulses from microwave lasers could be an indication of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) sending messages out into the cosmos.

    But as Hippke notes, six decades and more than one hundred dedicated search programs later, surveys that have looked for these particular technosignatures have yielded nothing concrete. This is not to say that the scientists have been looking for the wrong signatures so far, but that it could be useful to consider casting a wider net. As Hippke explained in his paper:

    “We are looking (and should keep looking) for narrow-band lighthouse blasts, even though we have found none yet. At the same time, it is possible to expand our search… It is sometimes argued in the hallways of astronomy departments that we ‘just have to tune into the right band’ and – voilà – will be connected to the galactic communication channel.”

    Photo of the central region of the Milky Way Credit: UCLA SETI Group/Yuri Beletsky, Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory

    The Dawn of the Genesis Race: Our Extraterrestrial DNA and the True Origins of the Species

    The mysteries of ancient history, such as how the Great Pyramid was built and by whom and why, have been well established over the past four decades. Similar archaeological enigmas litter the landscape around the planet and they raise many difficult questions about the origin of human civilisation.

    Erik Von Daniken’s series of books, which began with Chariots of the Gods, presented archeological evidence while recounting many mythological traditions that have “gods” arriving on Earth from a distant world and bringing technology and the arts of civilised life to primitive human tribes.

    Like on Facebook

    To stay in touch & get our latest news

    Many writers followed Von Daniken’s lead and an entire school of alternative historical thought called the “ancient astronaut” theory emerged over the years. This school must be distinguished from another branch largely defined by such writers as Graham Hancock, which we can sum up as the “lost civilisation” school.

    The latter does not figure into this discussion nor is it covered in my book The Genesis Race because it never really addresses the issue of the ultimate origins of Man or civilisation. Even if you accept the idea ancient Egypt and Sumer had their origins in Atlantis, who created that civilisation and from what precursors?

    The essential questions the author has been studying over the past three decades are: 1) how did life originate and evolve on Earth?, and 2) how did civilisation suddenly emerge from mankind’s primitive roots? To my mind it seemed the ancient astronaut theory could be defeated if Darwin’s theory proved to be correct, which “official science” claims it has been. That premise can be justified using several valid arguments.

    The “ancient astronaut” theory generally includes the idea summed up in the first chapter of Genesis, which indicates the “gods” genetically engineered a proto-human race. The actual verse reads, “Let us make man in our image.” If Darwinism is accurate then this assertion would be untrue and the notion of cosmic intervention by an advanced race would fall apart.

    The second reason is Darwin’s theory has not only been applied to biology, it is also used to explain the emergence and development of human civilisation by a process referred to as cultural evolution.

    At its core Darwinism is based on a simple concept: life evolves slowly via a process of incremental adaptations to a wide variety of external stimulus. He applied it to biology and anthropologists, archaeologists and historians applied the same principles to culture and human history. If this is correct then we should not find any abrupt transformations in human “evolution” either biological or historical.

    I reason that if Darwinism is accurate then there may not be any valid scientific basis for the “ancient astronaut” theory, which posited intervention and rapid-fire metamorphosis in both the biological and historical spheres. The results of this research proved surprising. Darwinism is not only unproven – it has been shown by scientists to be fatally flawed. This is where my book, The Genesis Race, begins. Chapters two and three clearly show the flaws in the theory of evolution. It has failed exactly where Darwin feared it might – in the fossil record. Here we find – instead of widespread confirmation – a large number of missing links.

    The general public is given to believe the only “missing link” in the fossil record exists between apes and man. This is not true. The fossil record contains hundreds of gaps between ancient and modern plant and animal species. Darwin referred to the gap separating the primitive non-flowering plants (gymnosperms) and flowering plants (angiosperms) as the “abominable problem.” Why? Because the gymnosperms, like ferns, existed for billions of years and they still exist today. The angiosperms, like roses, appeared on the scene about 150 million years ago and they exist today. Where is the evidence showing the fern evolved through a series of slow, incremental changes into a rose?

    According to Darwinism the angiosperms evolved from the gymnosperms. If this is true then where are the intermediate forms linking the two very different types of plants? They have not been found in the fossil record and none exist today. This seems impossible and it is if you accept the principles of Darwinism.

    There is no scientific explanation for the lack of intermediate plants linking the ancient and modern types. In fact, there should be millions of such fossils since they would have been evolving for hundreds of millions of years, far longer than flowering plants.

    Scientists also have no explanation why gymnosperms and angiosperms exist side by side. Somehow all the intermediate plants they say connect the two kingdoms mysteriously vanished from the fossil record and became extinct. Logic would dictate that the older, ancient plants (non-flowering) should have been the ones to go the way of extinction. This is actually enough evidence to kill Darwinism. Official science would have us believe the only dissenters against Darwinism are Creationists that come from the ranks of the Religious Right. However, I present numerous references to bona fide scientists that slam the door on Darwin’s theory of natural evolution.

    What is, or should be, of great interest to anyone interested in the pursuit of science – as it applies to getting to the truth of human origins and the emergence of civilisation – are the works of Francis Crick and Fred Hoyle.

    While Von Daniken’s books were becoming popular in mainstream culture, these two eminent scientists wrote books about the origins of life on Earth. Both were highly critical of Darwinism and posited that life did not originate on Earth. They said the seeds of the biosphere originated in the cosmos.

    In his book Life Itself, Crick – a Nobel prize-winner and the co-founder of the shape of the DNA molecule – claimed an advanced civilisation transported the seeds of life to Earth in a spacecraft. Hoyle, an astronomer who gave the world the steady state theory of the Universe, proposed that life came from the stars borne on comets or riding on the currents of light waves. The unfortunate thing is these rigorous scientific arguments were largely dismissed or completely ignored by “official science”, and also overlooked by the same folks embracing Von Daniken’s relatively unscientific, yet popular approach. (Erik did make people question and think.)

    I want to clarify what I mean by that statement. Von Daniken claimed he was presenting a theory yet the title of his first book ended with a question mark. A new theory is normally offered by presenting arguments against the currently accepted theory, as Crick and Hoyle did, and it is presented assertively with equal measures of humility and confidence that do not end in a question mark. His somewhat insecure and uncritical approach has characterised much of the “ancient astronaut” literature, which official science finds easy to debunk.

    That is why The Genesis Race begins with a serious critique of Darwinism. That is followed by several chapters re-examining the account of human genesis and the early history found in the Bible. A revolutionary analysis of the first three chapters clearly shows there were two creation events of life (and mankind) on Earth. It also shows the history given in the Bible agrees with the findings of paleontology and anthropology. In the first chapter we find that an early proto-human race was created and lived in the wilderness, like other animals, as hunter-gatherers. They were given “every green thing to eat” by the gods andGenesis 1 ends with that covenant.

    However, in the second chapter we are told Adam is created to be a gardener and Eve is taken from Adam’s rib and the “gods” give them clothing and self-awareness. The chronological account of Creation in the second chapter is entirely different than that of the first chapter of Genesis.

    This is a critical point. Not only do the two accounts differ completely, we find Adam is not to live in the wilderness as an animal but is intended to be a caretaker and farmer. If the two accounts are compared side by side the difference is obvious: Adam and Eve are not equivalent to the race created inGenesis 1 and Genesis 2 and 3 are not a detailed elucidation of the events described in the first chapter, which is normally implied or taught in church Bible classes.

    What the first three chapters of Genesis actually describe are: 1) the creation of a proto-human race, the pre-Neanderthals and Neanderthals who live as hunter-gatherers in an innocent state as described in chapter 1, followed by, 2) the genesis of modern Homosapiens (Adam) fit for the agricultural revolution. That is exactly the history given in Genesis and it agrees with everything modern science establishes about the chronology of human pre-history.

    This is a radical revision giving much stronger support to the Biblical version of human genesis and how and why the agricultural revolution took place. It also clarifies who the “us” refers to when God is abruptly referred to as ‘a plurality’ that intervenes and genetically alters life on Earth, the Genesis Race and it sets the stage for a presentation of the enigmatic archaeological and additional evidence that further supports the theory of intervention by a technologically advanced extraterrestrial race.

    Archaeology has never even addressed all the questions raised by the sudden emergence of agriculture and highly advanced civilisations in Mesopotamia and Egypt in the 3rd millennium BCE, let alone answered the most critical ones.

    From the perspective of conventional archeological and anthropological thinking, the origins of humankind and the emergence of civilisation from the Stone Age remain enigmatic. We have incontrovertible proof our ancestors could not have built the Great Pyramid with the tools and methods they possessed. Yet official science simply ignores or tries to explain away many serious questions and issues such as how the Great Pyramid – the world’s largest precision-engineered stone structure – was constructed using only hammer-stones, ropes, manpower and sledges.

    However, there are other issues that need to be addressed and today’s genetic research is shedding new light on this field. The implications of several important recent findings seem to have escaped the attention of many independent investigators. Established archaeologists and anthropologists have either ignored or railed against the findings of these controversial DNA studies. I am referring to genetic studies into the origin of the domesticated dog and into the diet of our Paleolithic and early Neolithic ancestors.

    You may ask what do the dog and Stone Age dietary habits have to do with solving the enigmas of mankind’s ancient past? The answer is everything. Until recently it was believed dogs (Canis familiaris) came from a variety of wild canines such as wolves, coyotes, dingos, jackals, etc. But the latest DNA research shows that the wolf alone is the ancestral race of all dogs.

    This poses a set of very difficult problems. The first dog would have been a mutant wolf. However, wolves are extremely sensitive to the genetic fitness and strength of each member of the pack. They are constantly testing and establishing a stringent social pecking order and only the alphas reproduce. So how would a mutant ever have survived and reproduced given the rigours of pack behaviour? No wolves in captivity have produced viable mutants and geneticists tell us mutants are normally unfit and do not survive.

    We are faced with a real conundrum. If we pose that early human tribes intervened and bred wolves into dogs we are faced with an equally impossible scenario. How could primitive humans have known it was possible to selectively breed a wild animal into one possessing only those traits beneficial to them? We take the characteristics of dogs for granted, however, they present us with a profound mystery. A dog is the embodiment of only those wolf traits that people find useful, attractive and safe. How did genetically illiterate Stone Age humans achieve this feat of genetic engineering?

    This problem is compounded when we are confronted by evidence from our earliest civilisations showing that salukis, sighthounds and the pharaoh’s hound, had already been bred in ancient Sumeria and Egypt. How is it possible our ancestors, recently emerged from the Stone Age, could have successfully engineered purebred lines at the onset of civilisation? In addition, dogs are not only temperamentally different than their wild progenitors, they differ physiologically as well.

    A wild alpha male and female only breed once a year, whereas dogs can breed any time. Wolves shed their winter coats, dogs do not. These diverging physiological characteristics take time to develop, in fact, many generations. Again, how did our ancestors at the onset of civilisation accomplish this?

    This mystery is underscored by the fact most of the modern dog breeds originated thousands of years ago. Science has not even addressed most of these issues let alone have the experts satisfactorily explained how wolves became dogs – 100,000 years ago – nor have they shown the step-by-step transitions. Purebred dogs just suddenly appear in the archeological record as if by magic. This is also true of agriculture and our key cereal and legume crops. Wheat, corn, beans and rice pose a second set of genetic enigmas.

    Research into the dietary habits of Stone Age tribes around the globe show our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors subsisted on leafy plants and lean muscle meats. This makes perfect sense because these foods were readily available, took little or no processing, and wild game could be cooked over an open fire. The problem with our grain crops, and they are the basis of civilisation, is wild grass seeds are so miniscule the cost/benefit of harvesting them was not in favour of it. They also require harvesting, threshing and cooking technology since they have to be boiled extensively. This was technology Stone Age Man lacked.

    The reason grains have to be cooked is that the human gut is not adapted to digest wild grains. This makes it very clear the use of wild grass seeds as a primary food source is of recent origin. Our Paleolithic ancestors did not subsist on them. Once again, this poses a set of formidable problems that need to be studied rigorously. If our ancestors did not harvest and eat wild grains, how could they have domesticated and bred the wild species so quickly?

    Without many generations of trial and error experimentation – culminating in a vast body of agronomic knowledge and agricultural practices that would have included genetics and breeding – it is all but impossible to understand how the agricultural revolution was brought about. Official science tries to explain the evolution of nomadic hunter-gatherers into sedentary, crop-growing farmers by claiming they discovered crops quite by accident. We are told it happened when a primitive villager tossed a seed bearing plant into the trash pile and noticed that it sprouted.

    But that trite tale can hardly explain how they selected the best wild species to use as the basis for the agricultural revolution. There are thousands and thousands of potential wild plants that could be turned into agricultural crops. How is it people with very little experience with wild grasses were able to pick the best varieties to breed? This represents a quantum leap. What we are asked to believe is that our ancestors, without much experience at the seminal stage of civilisation, were able to select and breed the very best varieties of wild grass species.

    How do we know this is true? Because we still grow the very crops they supposedly selected even after 5000 years of continuous technological and agricultural development. We are asked to suspend disbelief and accept they also constructed the largest precision-engineered stone building the world has ever seen – the Great Pyramid of Giza – using only primitive hand tools and backbreaking labor. Something is obviously wrong with this picture.

    Is it logical to assume our Earthly ancestors could (or would) have thrown together the agricultural revolution and then the entire civilisations of Sumer and Egypt out of whole cloth? No it is not and neither do these suppositions represent sound science.

    For those of us in the alternative history camp, one of the most fundamental questions we must impress upon the public and upon ‘official science’ is to ask where are the antecedents and precedents? Show us the slow Darwinian stages of development that official history presupposes. How can you explain the sudden appearance of genetically altered food crops and advanced engineering techniques at the onset of human civilisation?

    We need step-by-step documentation and incontrovertible evidence and it ought to be copious and devoid of missing links since we are supposedly talking about events that occurred thousands and not tens or hundreds of millions of years ago, as is the case with biological evolution.

    Where did our Paleolithic ancestors acquire the knowledge and skills to breed wild plants into food crops while also constructing planned cities? How did they achieve an exacting command of the principles of civil engineering as exhibited in Sumeria and the Harrappan civilisation of the Indus Valley? How did humans go from mud huts and collecting leafy plants to building ziggurats, flush toilets, public bathhouses (Mohenjo Daro), making bread in ovens, and inventing process metallurgy seemingly overnight? In plain language, where is the proof – the missing links – demonstrating your (official science) theories are confirmed in the archaeological record and meet simple standards of logic and commonsense?

    Turning to what our ancestors in Sumer, Mexico, Egypt and Peru have to say about the origins of agriculture and civilisation we find a very different story. According to the ancient records, written and oral traditions, none of the earliest civilisations claimed they invented it. What is of profound interest is they are in unanimous accord in claiming they were given the arts of civilisation by the ‘gods’.

    It is very unlike human nature to give credit to anyone else for anything we have invented or achieved. The ancient Egyptians left copious records of every aspect of their culture in a huge collection of artwork, hieroglyphics and texts. Yet we find no reference in their 3,000 year history as to how or why ‘they’ built the pyramids. What a curious lapse of documentation for such a communicative race assuming they did indeed built the pyramids. Would they have omitted any reference to their most important monuments?

    That seems a preposterous supposition and yet Egyptologists gloss over it as they do the lack of mummies in the alleged ‘pyramids-as-tombs’ scenario they embrace without blushing.

    These are all clues, pieces of a vast planetary puzzle, telling the story of the Genesis Race. The references to these ‘gods’ that arrived on Earth to uplift man are described in the Bible and other ancient texts and traditions. Their megalithic calling cards are found in Egypt, Mexico, Peru and China.

    The Darwinian-based theories of ‘official science’, concerning the origin of Man and human civilisation, lead to a series of intellectual dead ends. If we closely examine the record we find civilisation was founded upon five primary inventions: 1) Agriculture, 2) Urbanisation, 3) Writing, 4) The Wheel, and 5) Process metallurgy.

    Now, what happens when we try to uncover the origins of these key inventions in the archaeological and historical record? We find anthropologists and historians positing that agriculture was probably discovered by accident when our primitive ancestors tossed plants into the garbage heap and noticed the seeds produced new plants. Of course that does not explain what motivated them to plant and harvest wild grass seeds (they almost never ate) and how they learned to selectively breed and domesticate (alter) these plants genetically.

    Well, they brush aside these queries with the same logic. This, too, was probably a serendipitous process that moved forward by a series of benign and happy coincidences. We are given to imagine the first domesticated animal, an example of perfect selective breeding, also took place when Paleolithic tribesman – via unknown techniques – domesticated a line of mutant wolves. Then we learn that process metallurgy, too, was the result of an accident, when someone dropped a piece of malachite into a campfire and observantly noticed that as it melted it produced copper.

    In short, the fundamental paradigm ‘official science’ has formulated on how human life originated and how we created civilisation rests on a series of ‘miraculous’ accidents and impossible knowledge and skills! Egyptologists would have us believe the primitive tribes living along the Nile in oval huts who used mud-bricks to build mastabas for millennia were suddenly capable of advanced quarry operations, stonemasonry, architecture and corporate engineering.

    Of course, they cannot explain how these primitive peoples built a massive, precision-engineered pyramid using only round hammerstones, wooden sledges and human labor. The Egyptian’s could not have built it, did not build it, and never claimed they were the pyramid’s creators. It is simply not possible to quarry, lift, drag and transport 70-ton blocks of granite 500 miles from the Aswan quarry to Giza and up 150 vertical feet and precisely position them in the King’s Chamber as Egyptologists claim was done.

    I have repeatedly challenged Egyptologists, and their irrational, unscientific fellow travellers to demonstrate how the blocks of granite in the King’s Chamber can be quarried and lifted out of the quarry-bed and transported using the primitive tools and methods they claim were used. It cannot be done! Furthermore, this author claims he can show that any academics – mathematicians, anthropologists and/or engineering professors – who believe and teach these absurdities to students are lunatics running the asylums – our scientific institutions and universities.

    This is certainly a serious, bold indictment and yet it must be made because it is true and it is high time to expose the intellectual chicanery and fraud perpetrated upon generations. I am not making these claims to create a controversy but to resolve a long-standing debate that has profound ramifications since it involves eliminating falsehoods and getting to the historical facts. How can I make such strong accusations with complete confidence?

    First, the author has studied the engineering problems intensively and extensively comparing the building of modern-day monuments using state-of-the-art technology to the construction of the Great Pyramid using primitive tools and methods. Second, I have examined the recent record of tests conducted by Egyptologists and others trying to prove they could quarry, move and lift blocks of stone using nothing but ancient tools and techniques. Both studies yielded the same results: the Great Pyramid could not have been built with hammerstones, sledges and ramps.

    One test filmed by Nova was organised by Egyptologist Mark Lehner and involved leading experts in a variety of fields. The team set out to quarry, move and lift a 35-ton obelisk into place. They failed miserably at every step. The master stonemason could not quarry the block using the primitive tools he was given. A Cat was called in to quarry the block and lift it onto a flatbed truck sensing defeat they never even tried to transport it using a wooden sledge. The block was half the weight of one those used in the King’s Chamber.

    A Nissan funded Japanese team conducted another serious test in 1978. They set out to build a small-scale duplicate of the Great Pyramid also using the primitive tools and techniques Egyptologists claim the ancients employed. This group was confident they could demonstrate how it was done. However, when they tried to quarry the blocks they found the hammerstones were not equal to the task. They called in pneumatic jackhammers. When they tried to ferry the blocks across the river on a primitive barge, they sank. They called in a modern tugboat for help.

    Then they loaded a block onto a sledge only to find that it stubbornly sank into the sand when they tried to drag it to the site. They called for trucks and loaders. The final coup d’ grace was delivered when they were forced to call in helicopters to lift and position the blocks into place. Even using modern technology the Japanese team found, to their utter embarrassment, they could not bring the apex of their tiny 60 feet tall replica together. They suffered a bitter and quite humbling defeat in the unforgiving Egyptian desert. Their replica of the Great Pyramid turned out to be a joke.

    We are supposed to believe men using tools marginally better than Stone Age equipment, quarried, lifted and hauled millions of blocks of stone to form a precision-engineered 4-million ton tomb. Stuff of nonsense! The conventional scenario is not just an absurd proposition that can only be maintained using intellectual smoke and mirrors, it is downright silly. The real question is, how could anyone with any commonsense have ever believed it?

    There are, of course, many other problems with the primitive tools and methods scenario and the Great Pyramid. To begin with Mark Lehner commissioned an engineering firm to study the site. They found that the 13-acre base had been leveled with an accuracy equal to that achieved by modern day lasers. Are we to believe a 13-acre limestone bench was planed with that degree of precision using rounded hammerstones to grind down the rock until it was almost perfectly flat?

    Furthermore, the Descending Passage was actually the next phase of this massive construction project. It too had to be dug out of solid bedrock. The problems with this phase of the project are manifold. The passageway was only about 3 by 4 feet, just large enough to accommodate one worker at a time. It was dug 150 feet underground maintaining a precise angle of 26 degrees and a negligible deviation from side to side and bottom to top throughout its length. Then it was opened up into several rooms and another passageway. How?

    Why would the ancients dig a straight tunnel under a 4-million ton tomb and how was the passageway kept straight and true? Egyptian ‘engineers’ had no more than ropes in their toolkits. The author can also prove these two phases alone – leveling the base and digging the Descending Passageway – would have required half the time Egyptologists have allotted to the entire construction project. They, in fact, never even include these two phases in their calculations.

    But we have other important fish to fry. During decades of research the author noted some curious similarities between Sumer, Egypt and the Indus Valley – the sites of our earliest civilisations – that do not add up. As we all know now, the ruins of Sumer are located in modern day Iraq. Our history and anthropology books routinely tell us that agriculture and civilisation were given birth in benign and highly fertile river valleys. But when we stop and closely examine these locations we find they are some of the hottest, driest and most inhospitable places on the planet.

    The temperatures in these locations for 6 months out of the year are typically between 35-48 degrees Celsius. It is true the alluvial flood plains of the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates and ancient Indus rivers were fertile. But it takes considerable agronomic and hydrological knowledge to know this and to convert the marshes and control the floods to turn these wetlands into productive farmland. The question is how did our ancient ancestors, so recently emerged from the hunter-gatherer way of life, so quickly acquire this knowledge and develop these skills?

    When we peer out from the ziggurats of ancient Sumer, the sandblasted pyramids of Egypt or the ruined cities of the Indus Valley, we do not see fruited-plains but vast, blistering, desert expanses. Is it not difficult to envision our primitive ancestors rolling out their blueprints for civilisation while squinting into the sun and deciding this is where the first cities and great monuments would be built and the first real cropland cultivated?

    The scenario jars the mind and makes hash out of the comfortable fantasies painted by ‘official science’. Is something starting to smelly funny or is the author’s nose just too sensitive? I do seem to detect the subtle aroma of too many skeletons and enigmas – having been shoved hurriedly into too many closets and musty catacombs – wafting up from ancient stones and bones…

    We have to examine several other items that do not pass the smell test. Sumer, Egypt and the Indus Valley share some other critical features in common which make them unlikely places for primitive peoples to have developed our firstcivilisations. We should expect to find civilisations evolving where people had immediate access to a wide variety of resources. The most logical scenario would be in river valleys near forested, mineral rich mountains.

    This is a logical expectation since people needed water, fuel (wood) for fires, tool handles and building materials as well as copper, gold and silver to make jewellery and tools and so on. We would expect to find this association not just to establish they had immediate access to these necessary resources, but also that they had been engaged in a prolonged period of extracting, processing and working with these resources.

    Unfortunately, Sumer, the birthplace of civilisation, was completely lacking in forests, minerals and even stones. This is a curious, illogical fact. How did this strange tribe, speaking an odd tongue and calling themselves ‘the black-headed people’, invent civilisation in the middle of a barren desert wasteland? Egypt was also bereft of forests, as was the Indus Valley. The point is not that civilisation was or is impossible in these areas, but that it is supposed to have originated in these harsh, desert environs lacking many basic resources.

    Yet we find the Sumerians ingeniously mining copper and tin and creating the first alloy, bronze, in kilns around 3000 BCE. In rapid-fire succession they invented the wheel, the chariot, the sailboat, writing, cities, labor specialisation, civil engineering and on and on. Ostensibly, the tribes of the Indus Valley and the Nile would soon follow. They did all this while most of the world’s tribes were still living as hunter-gatherers, another fact that demolishes the theories of cultural Darwinists. You cannot explain the radical departure from the human norm by several tribes without invoking some form of racism or inexplicable genetic deviations.

    The other curious features we find in common among Earth’s ‘first’ civilisations are that none of them claimed they invented agriculture, laws, morality or the other prime tools of civilisation.

    The Sumerians claimed they owed everything to the ‘gods’ (Annunaki) that had descended from the heavens to Earth to create and teach mankind the arts of civilised life. The ancient Egyptians referred to the Nefertu who ruled over them during the Zep Tepi (First Time) for thousands of years until they handed over the reigns to the human pharaohs.

    Our real human history as handed down by our ancestors is far more exciting and incredible than the pabulum ‘official’ science has been force feeding us for many generations. Mankind is indeed on the threshold of a re-awakening to a new dawn the time of profound revelations about the truth of our astonishing origins and history is at hand.

    Atmospheric Pollution Could Signal Advanced Extraterrestrial Civilization

    • Astronomers have detected over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Some of these exoplanets have conditions suitable for life. Since exoplanets are so distant, scientists cannot look for signs of life or civilization by sending spacecraft to these distant worlds. The presence of a combination of gases like oxygen and methane in a planet’s atmosphere could be a sign of life or ‘biosignature’. Likewise, a sign of technology (ie: pollution) on an exoplanet, called a ‘technosignature’, could be the byproduct of an industrial process.

    • A new NASA research study examines nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as a possible technosignature. “On Earth, about 76 percent of NO2 emissions are due to industrial activity,” says Giada Arney, co-author of the paper at NASA Goddard. “Since NO2 is also produced naturally, scientists will have to carefully analyze an exoplanet to see if there is an excess that could be attributed to a technological society.”

    • In this study, scientists used computer modeling to predict whether NO2 pollution would produce a detectable signal. Atmospheric NO2 strongly absorbs certain colors (wavelengths) of visible light, which can be seen by observing the light reflected from an exoplanet as it orbits its star. They found that a civilization on an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star, producing the same amount of NO2 as ours could be detected up to about 30 light-years away using a future large NASA telescope. One light-year is the distance light travels in a year, almost 6 trillion miles. Our galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across.

    • The study group also found that cooler and far more common stars than our Sun, such as K and M-type stars, will deliver a stronger, more easily detected NO2 signal. “If we observe NO2 on another planet, we will have to run models to estimate the maximum possible NO2 emissions one could have just from non-industrial sources” to calculate the industrial-sourced NO2, said Arney.

    • Jacob Haqq-Misra, a co-author of the paper at the Blue Marble Institute of Science, Seattle, Washington, noted that, “Other studies have examined chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as possible technosignatures. CFCs were manufactured chemicals used as refrigerants until they were phased out because of their role in ozone depletion. CFCs are also a powerful greenhouse gas that could terraform a planet like Mars by providing additional warming from the atmosphere.” They would be an obvious technosignature since CFCs aren’t produced naturally, as far as we know. It is likely that NO2 would be more prevalent, by comparison, as a general byproduct of any combustion process.”

    • This work was funded by NASA Goddard’s Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration and the NASA Exobiology program. supported by NASA’s Planetary Science Division’s Research Program. This work was performed as part of NASA’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory through the NASA Astrobiology Institute and by the NASA Astrobiology Program as part of the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research coordination network.

    [Editor’s Note] This article proves that NASA is just as complicit as the more obvious deep state organizations, such as SETI, in spending a ton of money and publicity to “search” for extraterrestrial life when it is right under (above) our noses. They trot out highly credentialed establishment scientists to spout a bunch of technical jargon about how they are looking for this ‘techosignature’ or that ‘biosignature’ looking for evidence of a habitable or technologically advanced civilization. Think of all of the time and effort – and deception – that our society will save and redirect once we have full disclosure of the long-standing presence of advanced extraterrestrial beings that have been interacting with our secret space programs for many decades. We already have the answers to all of the questions that deep state scientists continue to dwell on, solely for the theatrics of making average people think that smart people are doing everything they can to detect life beyond this Earth, thereby promoting the outrageous lie that humanity here on Earth is the only intelligent life that we have found in the universe.

    Nitrogen dioxide is part of a group of gaseous air pollutants produced due to road traffic and other fossil fuel combustion processes. In

    the lower atmosphere (about 10 to 15 kilometers or around 6.2 to 9.3 miles), NO2 from human activities dominate compared to non-human sources. Therefore, observing NO2 on a habitable planet could potentially indicate the presence of industrialized civilization.

    Until now, astronomers have detected over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Some of these planets are habitable some have conditions suitable for life. Since exoplanets are so distant, scientists cannot look for signs of life or civilization by sending spacecraft to these distant worlds.

    The presence of a combination of gases like oxygen and methane in the atmosphere could be a sign of life or biosignature. Likewise, a sign of technology on an exoplanet, called a techno signature, could be what’s considered pollution here on Earth — the presence of a gas that’s released as a byproduct of an overall industrial process, such as NO2.

    A new NASA research suggests that we might detect advanced extraterrestrial civilization using its atmospheric pollution. This study is the first time NO2 has been examined as a possible technosignature.

    Jacob Haqq-Misra, a co-author of the paper at the Blue Marble Institute of Science, Seattle, Washington, said, “Other studies have examined chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as possible technosignatures, which are industrial products that were widely used as refrigerants until they were phased out because of their role in ozone depletion. CFCs are also a powerful greenhouse gas that could terraform a planet like Mars by providing additional warming from the atmosphere. As far as we know, CFCs are not produced by biology, so they are a more obvious technosignature than NO2. However, CFCs are particular manufactured chemicals that might not be prevalent elsewhere NO2, by comparison, is a general byproduct of any combustion process.”

    In this study, scientists used computer modeling to predict whether NO2 pollution would produce a practical signal to detect with current and planned telescopes.
    Atmospheric NO2 strongly absorbs some colors (wavelengths) of visible light, which can be seen by observing the light reflected from an exoplanet as it orbits its star. They found that for an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star, a civilization producing the same amount of NO2 as ours could be detected up to about 30 light-years away with about 400 hours of observing time using a future large NASA telescope observing at visible wavelengths.

    The Fermi Paradox

    The Fermi Paradox refers to the contradiction between the extreme high probability of the alien existence and the lack of evidence. Renowned physicist Fermi stated that the billions of stars in our galaxy and beyond should be able to provide plenty of life-giving energy to develop and sustain habitable planets across the universe. Because so many of these planets are millions of years older than Earth, they should hold life-forms that are more intelligent than humans living on Earth today. These beings would be highly evolved and have technology developed far more advanced than what we on planet Earth today.

    Fermi also went on to say that the alien civilizations should have developed interstellar travel by now – something non-classified scientists on Earth today can only imagine.

    The non-classified scientific community is split. Math and logic state that aliens exist but non-classified scientists need solid evidence to support theories – evidence which is intentionally being kept from them and the public by worldwide classified personnel.

    So if aliens do exist, why haven’t they contact the worldwide public?

    To find an extraterrestrial civilization, pollution could be the solution, NASA study suggests

    Artist’s illustration of a technologically advanced exoplanet. The colors are exaggerated to show the industrial pollution, which otherwise is not visible. Credit: NASA/Jay Freidlander

    If there's an advanced extraterrestrial civilization inhabiting a nearby star system, we might be able to detect it using its own atmospheric pollution, according to new NASA research. The study looked at the presence of nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2), which on Earth is produced by burning fossil fuels but can also come from non-industrial sources such as biology, lightning, and volcanoes.

    "On Earth, most of the nitrogen dioxide is emitted from human activity—combustion processes such as vehicle emissions and fossil-fueled power plants," said Ravi Kopparapu of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "In the lower atmosphere (about 10 to 15 kilometers or around 6.2 to 9.3 miles), NO2 from human activities dominate compared to non-human sources. Therefore, observing NO2 on a habitable planet could potentially indicate the presence of an industrialized civilization." Kopparapu is lead author of a paper on this research accepted by the Astrophysical Journal and published online Tuesday, February 9 in arXiv.

    Astronomers have found over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars to date. Some might have conditions suitable for life as we know it, and on some of these habitable worlds, life may have evolved to the point where it produces a technological civilization. Since planets around other stars (exoplanets) are so far away, scientists cannot look for signs of life or civilization by sending spacecraft to these distant worlds. Instead, they must use powerful telescopes to see what's inside the atmospheres of exoplanets.

    A possible indication of life, or biosignature, could be a combination of gases like oxygen and methane in the atmosphere. Similarly, a sign of technology on an exoplanet, called a technosignature, could be what's considered pollution here on Earth—the presence of a gas that's released as a byproduct of a widespread industrial process, such as NO2.

    This study is the first time NO2 has been examined as a possible technosignature.

    "Other studies have examined chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as possible technosignatures, which are industrial products that were widely used as refrigerants until they were phased out because of their role in ozone depletion," said Jacob Haqq-Misra, a co-author of the paper at the Blue Marble Institute of Science, Seattle, Washington. "CFCs are also a powerful greenhouse gas that could be used to terraform a planet like Mars by providing additional warming from the atmosphere. As far as we know, CFCs are not produced by biology at all, so they are a more obvious technosignature than NO2. However, CFCs are very specific manufactured chemicals that might not be prevalent elsewhere NO2, by comparison, is a general byproduct of any combustion process."

    In their study, the team used computer modeling to predict whether NO2 pollution would produce a signal that is practical to detect with current and planned telescopes. Atmospheric NO2 strongly absorbs some colors (wavelengths) of visible light, which can be detected by observing the light reflected from an exoplanet as it orbits its star. They found that for an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star, a civilization producing the same amount of NO2 as ours could be detected up to about 30 light-years away with about 400 hours of observing time using a future large NASA telescope observing at visible wavelengths. This is a substantial but not unprecedented amount of time, as NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took a similar amount of time for the famous Deep Field observations. One light-year, the distance light travels in a year, is almost 6 trillion miles (about 9.5 trillion kilometers). For comparison, the closest stars to our Sun are found in the Alpha Centauri system a little over 4 light-years away, and our galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across.

    They also discovered that stars which are cooler and far more common than our Sun, such as K and M-type stars, will produce a stronger, more easily detected NO2 signal. This is because these kinds of stars produce less ultraviolet light that can break apart NO2. More abundant stars increase the chance that an extraterrestrial civilization might be found.

    Since NO2 is also produced naturally, scientists will have to carefully analyze an exoplanet to see if there is an excess that could be attributed to a technological society. "On Earth, about 76 percent of NO2 emissions are due to industrial activity," said Giada Arney of NASA Goddard, a co-author of the paper. "If we observe NO2 on another planet, we will have to run models to estimate the maximum possible NO2 emissions one could have just from non-industrial sources. If we observe more NO2 than our models suggest is plausible from non-industrial sources, then the rest of the NO2 might be attributed to industrial activity. Yet there is always a possibility of a false positive in the search for life beyond Earth, and future work will be needed to ensure confidence in distinguishing true positives from false positives."

    Other complications include the presence of clouds or aerosols in the atmosphere. Clouds and aerosols absorb light of similar wavelengths as nitrogen dioxide, so they could mimic the signature. The team plans to use a more advanced model to see if the natural variability of cloud cover can be used to distinguish between the two. For this initial study, the researchers used a model that assumes the atmosphere of a planet is a single column from ground to space with many layers. This is a good assumption for most purposes and for quick calculations. But planets are 3-D objects, not single columns. The team's follow-up study will use 3-D models to compare how accurate their initial results were.

    Do aliens exist? Technosignatures may hold new clues

    Scientists have discovered more than 4,000 planets outside our solar system. Trying to answer the question, do aliens exist, astrophysicists including the University of Rochester's Adam Frank are seeking the physical and chemical signatures that would indicate advanced technology. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    In 1995 a pair of scientists discovered a planet outside our solar system orbiting a solar-type star. Since that finding—which won the scientists a portion of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics—researched have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets, including some Earth-like planets that may have the potential to harbor life. These planets may be the key to answering the question, do aliens exist?

    In order to detect if planets are harboring life, however, scientists must first determine what features indicate that life is (or once was) present.

    Over the last decade, astronomers have expended great effort trying to find what traces of simple forms of life—known as “biosignatures”—might exist elsewhere in the universe. But what if an alien planet hosted intelligent life that built a technological civilization? Could there be “technosignatures” that a civilization on another world would create that could be seen from Earth? And, could these technosignatures be even easier to detect than biosignatures?

    Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, has received a grant from NASA that will enable him to begin to answer these questions. The grant will fund his study of technosignatures—detectable signs of past or present technology used on other planets. This is the first NASA non-radio technosignature grant ever awarded and represents an exciting new direction for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The grant will allow Frank, along with collaborators Jacob-Haqq Misra from the international nonprofit organization Blue Marble Space, Manasvi Lingam from the Florida Institute of Technology, Avi Loeb from Harvard University, and Jason Wright from Pennsylvania State University, to produce the first entries in an online technosignature library.

    “SETI has always faced the challenge of figuring out where to look,” Frank says. “Which stars do you point your telescope at and look for signals? Now we know where to look. We have thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. The game has changed.”

    The nature of the search for alien life has changed as well. A civilization, by nature, will need to find a way to produce energy, and, Frank says, “there are only so many forms of energy in the universe. Aliens are not magic.”

    Although life may take many forms, it will always be based in the same physical and chemical principles that underlie the universe. The same connection holds for building a civilization any technology that an alien civilization uses is going to be based on physics and chemistry. That means researchers can use what they’ve learned in Earth-bound labs to guide their thinking about what may have happened elsewhere in the universe and to answer the question, do aliens exist.

    “My hope is that, using this grant, we will quantify new ways to probe signs of alien technological civilizations that are similar or much more advanced to our own,” says Loeb, the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard.

    The researchers will begin the project by looking at two possible technosignatures that might indicate technological activity on another planet:

    • Solar panels. Stars are one of the most powerful energy generators in the universe. On Earth, we harness energy from our star, the sun, so “using solar energy would be a pretty natural thing for other civilizations to do,” Frank says. If a civilization uses a lot of solar panels, the light that is reflected from the planet would have a certain spectral signature—a measurement of the wavelengths of light that are reflected or absorbed—indicating the presence of those solar collectors. The researchers will determine the spectral signatures of large-scale planetary solar energy collection.
    • Pollutants. “We have come a long way toward understanding how we might detect life on other worlds from the gases present in those worlds’ atmospheres,” says Wright, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. On Earth, we are able to detect chemicals in our atmosphere by the light the chemicals absorb. Some examples of these chemicals include methane, oxygen, and artificial gases such as the chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) we once used as refrigerants. Biosignature studies focus on chemicals like methane, which simple life will produce. Frank and his colleagues will catalogue the signatures of chemicals, such as CFCs, that indicate the presence of an industrial civilization.

    The information will be gathered in an online library of technosignatures that astrophysicists will be able to use as a comparative tool when gathering data to answer the question, do aliens exist.

    “Our job is to say, ‘this wavelength band is where you might see certain types of pollutants, this wavelength band is where you would see sunlight reflected off solar panels,” Frank says. “This way astronomers observing a distant exoplanet will know where and what to look for if they’re searching for technosignatures.”

    The work is a continuation of Frank’s previous research on theoretical astrophysics and SETI, including developing a mathematical model to illustrate how a technologically advanced population and its planet might develop or collapse together classifying hypothetical “exo-civilizations” based on their ability to harness energy and a thought experiment asking if a previous, long-extinct technological civilization on Earth would still be detectable today.

    UFO's and Extraterrestrial Aliens: Why Earth Has Never Been Visited by Rich Deem

    Have alien intelligences from other parts of the universe visited the earth? This page is an attempt to rationally look at the issue of UFO's and extraterrestrials. Within the last few years, scientists have gained considerable knowledge about the universe so that the question of extraterrestrial visitations can be addressed from a scientific, rational perspective.

    Aliens visiting from elsewhere in the universe?

    Have we been visited by extraterrestrial beings from elsewhere in the universe? First, I would like to eliminate the idea that we have been visited by beings located outside our own galaxy. Andromeda, the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way is 2 million light years distant. This means that if there were aliens in Andromeda, it would take them longer than 2 million years to come to earth. 1 Another problem is why they would want to visit our galaxy. The Andromeda galaxy is considerably larger than our galaxy. If life were common in the universe, there should be many times more of it in Andromeda, than in our wimpy galaxy. Why would they even want to visit us? A third problem for potential aliens is detecting us. We have been sending radio waves for less than 100 years. It will be another 2 million years before those signals reach our closest neighboring galaxy. The light (and other electromagnetic signals) that they now see represent the way the earth looked 2 million years ago. Beings in other galaxies would have no way of knowing that advanced life forms existed in our galaxy.

    SETI - aliens in our own galaxy?

    Scientists have been actively searching for extraterrestrial intelligence in our galaxy for the last forty years. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has extended out to 40,000 light years from earth (in comparison, the galaxy is 100,000 light years across). 2 To date, no signal from any extraterrestrial stellar system has ever been detected.

    How many alien civilizations in our galaxy?

    The Drake Equation (named for Frank Drake, the originator of the equation) is a way to estimate how many intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations might inhabit our galaxy. Below is the Drake Equation:

    N = R* x fs x fp x nE x fl x fi x fc x L

    These are the values based upon the most recent astronomical data:

    A most optimistic estimate for the number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy is 150. This would mean that each intelligent civilization would be separated by an average of 2,000 light years. Such vast distances make contact unlikely and finding other advanced civilizations improbable. If these civilizations exist, they will not detect our radio signals for another 1900 years. How will they even know we are here? For information on how these results were calculated, see the appendix. John Gribbin's new book, Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique, concludes with this statement, "The reasons why we are here form a chain so improbable that the chance of any other technological civilization existing in the Milky Way Galaxy at the present time is vanishingly small. We are alone, and we better get used to the idea."

    Fermi Paradox - Where are they?

    Enrico Fermi, a prominent nuclear physicist of the last century, asked the question, "Where are they? Shouldn't their presence be obvious?" Given at least 10 billion years for the existence of the Milky Way galaxy, one would think that intelligence would have developed before now - if life were common in the universe. Even at slow interstellar speeds, humans with advanced rocketry skills might be able to explore the galaxy in a few tens of million years. Some have suggested that aliens would choose not to reveal themselves to us. However, Frank Drake estimated that at least 10,000 advanced civilizations exist in the Milky Way. Carl Sagan raised the estimate to 1,000,000. Would all those civilizations stay at home or choose to conceal themselves from us? It seems highly unlikely. It would seem more likely that they do not exist.

    Interstellar space travel - BIG problems

    Obviously, our current rocket technology is incapable of providing the speed needed to make interstellar travel realistic. Matter/anti-matter engines might provide the power to accelerate near the speed of light. However, there is no way to contain or generate large amounts of anti-matter. The only way that we have produced anti-matter is through extremely large (miles across) particle accelerators. However, the meager few anti-matter particles generated are rapidly destroyed through interactions with ordinary matter. Nuclear power would provide a long-lived fuel supply for interstellar travel. Even so, such fuel would last only tens of years before being spent. Fusion power is yet to be harnessed, but, likewise, fuel would eventually run out. According to Frank Drake, "To send a spacecraft the size of a small airliner at one-tenth the speed of light requires as much energy as the US now produces in more than a hundred years." 3 In fact, the minimum amount of fuel required for such a spacecraft is 100 tons (assuming that a fusion reactor converts mass into kinetic energy at 100% efficiency). 4 This does not sound practical to me!

    Assuming that fuel and propulsion problems could be eventually solved, there are other, more serious, problems to contend with. Traveling near the speed of light is no simple problem. Running into small particles (like the size of a grain of sand) would punch major holes in any spacecraft, due to the high speed of impact. According to Frank Drake, "At relativistic speeds, even a collision with a particle of a few grams results in something close in energy to a nuclear bomb blast. Not good news for the space travelers." 3 A major biological problem seldom mentioned in the press is the blue shifting of the light from ordinary stars when traveling near the speed of light. The Doppler effect of traveling at such speeds would blue shift ordinary visible light all the way to the wavelength of gamma and x-rays. Shielding gamma rays is next to impossible (they can even travel through many feet of solid metal). When they do strike matter (like space traveler's bodies), the results are devastating. This problem alone might restrict the speed of space travel to a fraction of the speed of light.

    Other significant problems would be involved in trying to keep biological organisms alive for many years of space travel. The lack of gravity would likely be fatal within a couple years (determined from the effects of prolonged weightlessness among the astronauts of the Space Station). Generating gravity would be possible through spinning, but might severely restrict the design of propulsion systems. In addition, it would be impossible to carry enough food and water for such a trip. Two solutions are possible - though not within the technology that we currently possess. One solution is to recycle all carbon and water. This process would have to involve capturing all biological waste (and dead bodies) and converting it back into food and water (doesn't sound appetizing, does it?). The idea of making a self-contained bio-habitat is appealing, but impractical, due to the large amount of space required. A recent attempt to do this on earth was a miserable failure, since the designers failed to provide enough space to support all members of the small crew. A second possible solution to the food problem would be to put the travelers into suspended animation. Currently, we have no idea how to do this, and it does not seem possible to do so.

    What about all the sightings, Roswell, abductions, etc.

    UFO believers would ask about Roswell, UFO sightings and alien abductions. The problem I have with the whole Roswell/government conspiracy thing is that there is not one piece of physical evidence. The government has never been able to keep any kinds of secrets - much less over a period of 40 years. Regarding abductions, none of the people involved have been shown to have any signs of tampering, which would be readily apparent by MRI.

    PBS has a good series on why scientists are skeptical about UFOs and abductions. See the comments of


    This paper has shown that the probability of aliens visiting the earth is virtually zero. Potential aliens in other galaxies are too far away to detect our presence (since radio signals will not reach them for millions of years) and the travel times make intergalactic travel impractical. Recent scientific studies demonstrate that the universe is much less hospitable to life than it would seem from our unique Solar System and planet. A large proportion of our galaxy is uninhabitable. Parts of it would not even be expected to produce rocky planets. The highly unlikely collision that produced our large moon prevented the earth from being a waterworld. 5 It also ejected the majority of our primordial atmosphere, which prevented the earth from going through a runaway greenhouse effect similar to what happened to Venus, our sister planet. Finally, our Solar System is unique in that it has large gas giants located only in the outer regions. Other systems discovered have gas giants located either near their star or in both inner and outer regions of their planetary system. The presence of gas giants near the star would eject any rocky planets from orbit. The presence of gas giants in the outer region of planetary systems is absolutely necessary for the survival of advanced life forms. Without Jupiter, the number of catastrophic collisions that the earth would experience would be at least 10,000 times greater. So instead of suffering massive species extinction events every 100 million years, the earth would experience these events every 10,000 years. 6 Only bacteria and other simple life forms would be able to survive this kind of bombardment - no advanced life could ever form in the vast majority of planetary systems. These problems indicate that there would be no more than 150 advanced civilizations within our galaxy - and, more likely, we are completely alone in our galaxy.

    Interstellar space travel is much more difficult than indicated in movies and television series, such as Star Trek and Star Wars and the like. First, it is not possible to travel at speeds greater than the speed of light - the physics of the universe prevent it. Second, traveling near the speed of light is impractical for biological organisms. Collisions with particles even the size of a grain of sand would be catastrophic. An even worse problem is that the light from ordinary stars would be blue-shifted all the way to the gamma end of the spectrum when traveling near the speed of light. These gamma rays would destroy all biological life - even if it were in suspended animation (if that were possible). In essence, these problems would restrict the speed of travel to well below the speed of light. The most optimistic estimate for the presence of extraterrestrial civilizations would put them 2000 light years apart. With no intermediate habitable stopping points, space travel over this distance would be impractical. So, even if we are not alone in this galaxy, it would be highly unlikely that any extraterrestrial civilization could have visited us. What about all the "evidence" for extraterrestrials and UFOs? See the links below for more information.

    Actual photo of aliens at Area 51

    Related UFO Links

    • UFOs and the Existence of Supernatural Demonic Forces
    • Weird Life: Must Life Be Based on Carbon and Water?
    • Crop Circle Confession: How to get the wheat down in the dead of night By Matt Ridley
    • Mysterious Circles Fact or Fiction? - Just a couple of "good ole boys" with an artistic bent having fun on Friday nights! Sorry, no mystery here.
    • Circular Reasoning: The 'Mystery' of Crop Circles and Their 'Orbs' of Light (Skeptical Inquirer September 2002)
    • Nickell, Joe, and John F. Fischer. 1992. The crop-circle phenomenon: an investigative report. Skeptical Inquirer 16:2 (Winter), 136-149.
    • How to Make Your Own UFO (from NASA)
    • Alien Autopsy: Table of Contents - Have a good laugh at their mistakes!
    • The Truth Is, They Never Were 'Saucers' - Psychic Vibrations (Skeptical Inquirer September 1997) - The original 1947 sighting said they looked like boomerangs that "flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water," but the reporter's account called them "flying saucers." The legend had begun.

    Related Pages

    Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee

    A recent (2000) secular book that recognizes the improbable design of the earth. Paleontologist Peter D. Ward and astrobiologist Donald Brownlee examine the unusual characteristics of our galaxy, solar system, star, and Earth and conclude that ET may have no home to go to.

    Appendix - how the results were calculated

    3 stars/year. However, in the past, the rate was higher. The average rate over the history of our galaxy was

    10 stars/year. 7 fs (fraction of "suitable" stars capable of supporting a habitable planet) 95% of stars are smaller than the Sun. 8 Small stars put out less energy, requiring potential life-containing planets to be closer to their star. The gravitational tidal effects result in synchronous rotation (where one side of the planet always faces the star), would affect atmospheric freeze-out due to the cold dark side. Large stars (more than twice the size of the Sun) burn erratically and rapidly (burn out in less than 1 billion years - too short to develop advanced life). 8 Variable stars, neutron stars, and white dwarf systems are too unstable to support life. Only the area within 10,000 light years of the Sun are suitable stars (the galactic habitable zone). 9 Radiation levels are too high near the center of our galaxy due to high densities. In addition, planetary orbits are likely to be less stable, due to stellar interactions. Stars in the outer region of our galaxy are unsuitable, since the rate of star formation is too low, resulting in low metallicity. Only about 20% of stars fall within the galactic habitable zone. Not only is the Sun within this zone, but it is between spiral arms, which puts it in a low density area. The Sun is at the co-rotation radius of the galaxy, which means that the orbits of surrounding stars are stable - proceeding at the same rate. 10 In other regions of the galaxy, stars rotate at different rates around the galactic center, going in and out of the spiral arms as the galaxy rotates. The co-rotation radius is the only radius in the galaxy where stellar orbits do not interact. (0.05 * 0.2 = 0.01) fp fraction of suitable stars with planets. To date, about 10% of stars studied have planets orbiting them. 11 Rocky planets cannot form unless the amount of metallicity is at least 60% of that of the Sun. The Sun is an unusually metal-rich star (richest out of 174 well-studied stars). 8 The number of rocky planets is unknown, since none have been detected to date. Part of the problem is due to the limits of detection. This should change by 2009 when the Kepler Mission becomes operational. 11 Optimistic estimates claim that rocky planets are common (at least 75% of systems will have them). However, if the abundance of rocky planets is similar to the percentage of stars that have gas giants, the estimate could go as low as 10% (and possibly much lower). nE average number of "Earth-like" planets. Not all rocky planets would be capable of supporting advanced life. Small rocky planets would loose their atmospheres (like Mars) shortly after formation. Large rocky planets would hold too much atmosphere, resulting in runaway greenhouse effect. Probably less than 10% of rocky planets would be right size to support advanced life. The habitable zone for planets is relatively small, representing less than 10% of the area where rocky planets might form. The planet must be able to support plate tectonics. Without plate tectonics, planets would be waterworlds (no dry land) and necessary nutrients would never be recycled. Intelligent life capable of communicating with us could not be exclusively aquatic, requiring the presence of land. Plate tectonics are a function of the thickness and composition of the crust and the presence of a large metallic core. None of the other rocky planets in our Solar System, other than earth, exhibit plate tectonics. Venus, which is nearly the same size as earth, does not have plate tectonics. Although driven by radioactive decay that keeps the mantle liquid, the ability of plate tectonics to function seems to be due to the removal of

    70% of the primordial crust of the Earth to a position in orbit overhead (during the collision that formed the moon). 12 If that crust were returned and replaced on Earth it would fill the ocean basins with wall-to-wall continent. This would choke plate tectonics, as on Venus, and displace the oceans to flood the land to a depth of several miles. Nick Hoffman, Senior Research Scientist at La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia, claims that extraterrestrial "worlds will be, almost without exception, waterworlds." 13 Although collisions would have been common during the accretion phase of formation of the Solar System, a highly unlikely collision would be required to eject the earth's crust into orbit and deposit the core of the collider into the earth's core. The probability of such an event would likely be less than 1 in 10,000. Other problems involve the presence of other gas planets in the stellar system. The current information on extrasolar planets indicate that a large percentage of the giant planets tend to migrate inward towards their star after formation, which would eject any Earth-sized planets from the habitable zone. A very optimistic estimate of this value would be 0.01. It is more likely that this value would be less than 0.00001. fl average fraction of Earth-like planets with life. This value is quite disputable and subject to a wide latitude of possible values. Many scientists assume that since the earth developed life at a time when the conditions were inhospitable, that life emerges on virtually every planet that is capable of supporting it, There are some major flaws with this idea. First, it is now known that the "prebiotic conditions" assumed to have been present soon after the earth's formation never existed. Oxidation of zircons over 4 billion years ago demonstrate that free oxygen was present on the earth before life emerged. 14 None of the prebiotic chemistry works in the presence of even small amounts of free oxygen. Even with unrealistic "prebiotic conditions" the chemistry will not produce all the necessary biomolecules required for the first living system. In addition, hydrothermal sea vents, the current choice for the origin of life, would be unsuitable, since cell membranes cannot assemble in the presence of the salt of the oceans (See Is the Chemical Origin of Life (Abiogenesis) a Realistic Scenario?). Among all the 30,000 meteors collected on earth, none contain any evidence that life exists outside of the earth. The assumption that fl is nearly 1 is based upon the rapid appearance of life early in the history of the earth, which many claim indicates that it is easily produced abiotically in this universe. However, the science indicates that the biological precursors of living systems cannot be produced naturalistically, nor can they be assembled under conditions that existed on earth. Realistically this value would be very small - probably even zero. fi average fraction of life-bearing planets evolving at least one intelligent species. Intelligence is not something that would be expected to appear automatically. Taking the earth as an example, it took over 3 billion years for intelligent species to appear. Many worlds on which life might survive would be inhospitable to advanced life forms. For example, the rotation of the earth at its creation was complete in a scant 8 hours. At such rotation rates, a calm day would be characterized by 1,000 mph winds. Needless to say, intelligent beings would find it difficult surviving such conditions. The only reason the earth's rotation period is now 24 hours is because of our large moon. The gravitational braking of the moon has slowed the earth's rotation to a reasonable rate, while the earth's gravity has slowed the moon's rotation period to be in synchrony with its rate of revolution. Our large moon provides extraordinary stability to the inclination of the earth's orbit (23.5°). 15 Most planets exhibit up to 90° flips over periods of millions of years. Flips in which one pole faces the star would result in temperature instabilities of major proportion. The side facing the star would get very hot, while the side facing away from the star would be extremely cold. The length of the planet's day would be the equivalent of the planet's year, with many months of scorching temperatures followed by many months of frozen winter. Plants would be unable to survive such conditions, resulting in the collapse of the entire planet's ecosystems. Our Solar System is unique in that it has large gas giants located only in its outer regions. Other systems discovered so far have gas giants located either near their star or in both inner and outer regions of their planetary system. The presence of gas giants near the star would eject any rocky planets from orbit. The presence of gas giants in the outer region of planetary systems is absolutely necessary for the survival of advanced life forms. Without Jupiter, the number of catastrophic collisions that the earth would experience would be at least 10,000 times greater. So instead of suffering massive species extinction events every 100 million years, the earth would experience these events every 10,000 years. 5 Only bacteria and other simple life forms would be able to survive this kind of bombardment - no advanced life could ever form in the vast majority of planetary systems. Since we have discovered no other planetary systems (out of nearly 200 found to date) with large gas giants in a location to protect an inner planet from devastating impacts, we must put these odds at less than 0.01. The odds of a rocky planet having a collision to form a large stabilizing moon would also be much less than 0.01. Therefore, a very optimistic estimate of fi would be 0.0001 (0.01 x 0.01). It is much more likely that the value would closer to one in a million. fc average fraction of planets with intelligent civilizations capable of interstellar communication. It would seem that any intelligent civilization would eventually develop the ability to communicate through radio signals (unless they destroyed themselves with nuclear weapons). It would seem that this value would be close to one, although it would be difficult to estimate scientifically. L average lifetime that a civilization remains technologically active and will use radio communication. The lifetime of civilization is difficult to estimate, but we can get an idea from our own planet. It took 4.5 billion years for advanced life to appear on the earth. The earth will be completely inhospitable to life within the next billion years due to increased solar luminosity (maybe sooner with human-caused global warming). 16 According to Peter Ward, "The presence of complex life on the Earth will end in no more than a billion years (and perhaps much sooner), due to a sequentially predictable breakdown of habitable systems on our planet.") Therefore, we can expect an average advanced civilization to exist for about one billion years. However, it is likely that additional factors may make this time much shorter. We are currently releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate that could cause a runaway greenhouse effect in a period of a few hundred years. Fortunately, it seems that the oceans have absorbed a large amount of that extra carbon, potentially saving us from our own self-induced doom.

    What Are the Odds of Alien Contact?

    The search for extraterrestrial intelligence now has an accepted acronym, SETI, and a growing number of interested participants. The odds of galactic company can only be estimated, and a primary tool to predict the number of other civilizations out there is the Drake Equation. Nearly everyone interested in SETI has heard of it. But views of its utility vary widely. To some, it is a useful way to estimate the number of technological civilizations in our galaxy and the chances of detecting an extraterrestrial message. Others view it as a wasted effort, given the huge range of conjectures involved in its components. There is a middle ground to use it to update and assess the reliability of relevant data that we have and the ways to improve upon the uncertainties. It can certainly be an effective tool for stimulating curiosity on this subject.

    Frank Drake presented the equation in 1961 at what may have been the first formal SETI conference at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia. The intent was likely to stimulate discussion and evaluate proposed research, not to arrive at a true estimate of the number of intelligent ETs whose signals we could detect by multiplying its components. In its original form, the Drake Equation is:

    N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L where:

    · N is the number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy, who, for this exercise, emit radio, light, or other transmissions that are detectable from afar.
    · R* is the rate of star formation per year for the galaxy.
    · fp is the fraction of those stars with planets.
    · ne is the average number of planets capable of supporting life (think of e for “earth-like” or “ecologically fit”).
    · fl is the number of those that actually develop life.
    · fi the number of those where life becomes intelligent.
    · fc the fraction of those emitting detectable signals into space
    · L the lifetime of a communicating civilization.

    Multiplying the terms would yield estimates that range from a galaxy teeming with ETIs (extraterrestrial intelligent beings) to us alone. Though ET has yet to phone in, advances in astronomy since 1961 have firmed up the estimates of some of these terms. Let’s revisit each of them.

    N is usually considered the number of communicating civilizations in just our Milky Way galaxy. But keep in mind that there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies and their stars much farther away in the visible universe.

    The factor R* is estimated

    1 by some astronomers, based on the current rate of star formation in our entire galaxy. But the rate of star formation was once higher, and dividing the number of stars in the galaxy (200-400 billion) by its estimated age (roughly 10 billion years) would yield an R* closer to 10 per year, the number I will choose to plug in.

    ALIEN MATH: Astrophysicist Frank Drake formulated his famous equation (above) to estimate the number of ET civilizations out there. “Just learning that we are not alone will be mind-blowing enough,” writes Richard Lawn. “But why not tack on the odds that we will understand a message from them?” Image courtesy of the SETI Institute illustration by Danielle Futselaar

    fpis one of the more constrained fractions because of recent advances in astronomy. Even a decade ago it was a conjecture, based on the theoretical likelihood that gas and dust left over from the birth of new stars would coalesce into planets. But data is now available. We have detected planets orbiting stars by observing the wobble in the Doppler shift of their spectrum as orbiting planets tug their sun to and fro during their orbit. We can also directly observe stellar eclipses as the planet passes in front of its home star. This produces a periodic dimming of the star light, even though we don’t have telescopes powerful enough to actually see the dark round disc of the planet against the background star. Following ground-based observations, the recently completed Kepler Satellite mission has scored thousands of extra-solar planets.

    With this data, astronomers now claim that roughly half of stars have planetary systems, each of which is likely to contain more than one planet. The current champion is the TRAPPIST-1 system, located a mere 39 light-years from Earth, with 7 rocky planets in orbit. Keep in mind the limitations of current searches and the selection effects involved. Only two types have stars (relatively low mass M and G class stars) have been more thoroughly searched, so extrapolations to other star types are required. In addition, it’s the large planets and ones orbiting close to their sun that are easiest to spot, since they will cause more gravitational wobble on their star and be more likely to cast a detectable shadow as they cross in front of it. Therefore, many small, “Earth-like” planets have escaped detection. It’s probably safe to plug in the estimate of fp = 0.5, though most astronomers might now conclude that the total number of planets actually exceeds the number of stars out there.

    Estimates of ecologically fit for life, ne, are often said to mean that the planet orbits in the “Goldilocks zone” where it has a surface temperature just right to have liquid water. This is a reasonable prerequisite for life, though alternate scenarios are possible.

    For example, spacecraft have recently found that Saturn’s moon Enceladas and Jupiter’s moon Europa have liquid oceans beneath icy crusts which might conceivably harbor life, though not likely to be the kind that would broadcast radio or lasar signals into the cosmos. Requirements in addition to having the right distance from a star of given luminosity would reduce ne. This list of possible prerequisites for an Earth-like ecology includes: having the right kind of atmosphere to stabilize the surface temperature (avoiding a runaway greenhouse effect that has super-heated Venus), having an atmosphere that is “breathable” for its life-forms, having both open oceans and solid land, possessing a large moon to stabilize the planet’s rotation, and a few more. I allow these fitness extras to reduce my estimate of ne from nearly 1 to about 0.5.

    Personally, I like the odds that planetary life begets intelligent species and that they communicate into space.

    Now we get to speculate about life. Many scientists claim that life formed “soon after” the Earth solidified, and its surface cooled from an original molten state resulting from its birth pangs of rocky collisions and supercharged volcanism roughly 4 billion years ago. “Soon” in this case means a few hundred million years. If so, the advent of life might be thought of as “easy” and fl is near 1. But there is more to this issue. If one seeks an evidence based-value of fl, the geological proof of the earliest life is uncertain. Rocks that are reliably dated by radioactive decay still don’t contain the kinds of recognizable fossils that we come to expect from far later life forms. It has been argued that regular microscopic features in rocks more than 3.8 billion years old were formed by bacteria-like organisms in that era, but non-living mineral processes could also account for them, and the debate is on. More generally accepted evidence of life does appear in the geological record about 3.5 billion years ago.

    Another way to estimate fl considers the chemistry and biology of the origin of life. This process is far from solved. Landmark experiments have shown in the lab that organic molecules, including amino acids and nucleic acids (the eventual building blocks of proteins and RNA and DNA), can form from simple precursors like carbon dioxide, ammonia, water, and other inorganic molecules. Such building blocks of life have now been observed in interstellar clouds, meteorites, and comets. However, to create the first living cells required a confluence of molecules fighting entropy to extract energy from sunlight (or alternative sources of heat) to sustain their molecular engines and build molecular structures. Plus, at some point, these linked chemical reactions and “proto-cells” had to find a way to reproduce and encode the instructions for building future generations. This seems like a hard task. But given time, space, and many opportunities to try, we know it has happened at least once. Thus, some contend that life will form wherever it can and fl = 1, while others argue that it is very unlikely and represents a bottleneck in the Drake Equation.

    Ingenious: David Krakauer

    One way to think about culture is as dominoes arrayed in a line, with one tipping over another, a sort of cascade of influence,” said David Krakauer. “When Newton and Leibniz were formulating infinitesimal calculus, they were borrowing from previous. READ MORE

    Choosing odds from an example of one is a hazardous exercise. Indeed, this conundrum supports the scientific value of searching for even primitive life forms beneath the surface of Mars or in the oceans that underlie the ice layers on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. If we found that life arose independently on two or three different planets or moons in our solar system, I would revise my guestimate of fl to 1. But for this exercise, I will choose a conservative value of fI = 0.1, rather lower than the current popular choice.

    Personally, I like the odds of the next two components in the equation, fi and fc, that planetary life begets intelligent species, and that they eventually communicate into space. Once life has gotten going, Darwinian evolution seems likely to set in. It’s called natural selection because it really is. The best functioning varieties that produce the most viable descendants win out in the game of life. Of course, that’s an over-simplification of modern evolutionary theory, but the kernel of truth is there. Evolutionists use the term “adaptive” to refer to a trait that offers a Darwinian advantage in surviving numbers of the like and in the ability to morph into new species. Evolution is unpredictable and choosing a value of fl approaches guesswork. (One sobering thought is that life on Earth remained microbe-only for nearly 3 billion years before multicellular animals arose.) I think, however, that intelligence is powerfully adaptive. So, I am willing to be optimistic and guess 0.5 for fi. Perhaps this is an over-estimate, given the possibility of planet-scale catastrophes such as the asteroid collision that killed off the dinosaurs and many other species 65 million years ago, which was only one of several mass-extinction events that we know of in Earth’s history.

    Next, what are the odds that intelligent species communicate with other planets? It’s not fc = 1. Dolphins are certainly intelligent, but they are unlikely to build powerful radio transmitters and point them skyward. I set fc = 0.5, hoping that half the planets that have evolved intelligent species sport at least one life-form that signals outward either intentionally or inadvertently. This is guesswork, and it is risky to presume human-like attitudes and abilities onto alien species.

    So far, my personal tally for all of the Drake factors is 0.0625.

    We now come to L. By our definition of a technological (transmitting) civilization, we have been around for about 100 years. How sanguine are you about the future of Homo sapiens? Or for that matter, do you foresee the evolution of a more stable intelligent life form on Earth? Part-cyborg/part human? Or just a triumphant computer with self-repairing capability? And are you more pessimistic and presume that a technological civilization becomes inherently unstable once it invents weapons of mass destruction and the means to ruin the ecology of its home planet? Do you favor L = 500 years, or 5,000, or 5 million, or 5 billion? Do you bump this up by allowing repeated episodes of development of technological civilizations on a planet following an Armageddon? The range of uncertainty of L swamps that of all the other factors in the Drake Equation. This is perhaps the greatest value of the exercise. I personally can’t come up with a more precise conjecture than between 500 and 5 million years.

    The bell-shaped curve of probability indicates ET will be millions to billions of years farther along in its trajectory of evolution than us.

    So, with all of the above considered, my current guess for N ranges from about 30 to 300,000. In other words, our closest neighbors might be well across the galaxy from us or amongst the nearest stars. That’s not very predictive and awfully dependent on one’s mood and the news of the day.

    For further consideration, a number of extensions have been suggested to revise the original Drake Equation. Might not even a rare super-advanced civilization spread throughout the galaxy and show up in many places (perhaps humanoid, with slightly different masks on their faces, a la Star Trek)? On the other hand, what if ET does not want to bother to communicate to other planets? And if it does, would we be able to comprehend anything a vastly advanced intelligence would try to say to us? Yes, we heard from someone, but the message seems like pure gibberish, or resembles how your cat perceives your learned conversations.

    This could be a serious issue. Will we know for sure we are hearing a signal from ETIs rather than “noise” from natural astronomical objects or from local chatter? And will we be able to understand a message? The odds dictate that the ETs we hear from will be extremely advanced compared to us. We have been capable of interstellar signaling for about 100 years, counting from the first radio and TV shows through the advent of radio telescopes and powerful laser bursts. Stars like the sun last for about 10 billion years (some far longer and some far shorter, which might have insufficient time to evolve technological life). So, the bell-shaped curve of probability indicates that it is far more likely that we receive a message from an ET who will be millions to billions of years farther along in its trajectory of evolution than us. The odds of hearing from someone a more comfortable few hundred years ahead of us are miniscule, and those more primitive than us are unable to send radio signals. Will we understand these hyper-advanced beings? Will they bother to make themselves understood to primitive Earthlings? (I presume that the burden of having comprehensible conversation should fall on the more advanced creatures. In the otherwise wonderful science-fiction movie Arrival, I was puzzled that it was left up to Amy Adams to figure out the language of the visiting cloud creatures, rather than the other way around.)

    The Drake Equation was formulated to estimate the number of ETI civilizations out there. Just learning that we are not alone will be mind-blowing enough, but why not tack on the odds that we will understand a message from them? And what about the odds that while someone decodes a message, much of humanity will ignore it or not believe it? After all, there is still a Flat Earth Society. The science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clark famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Others have extended this axiom to state that any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial will be indistinguishable from God.

    In the end, the Drake Equation is not a vehicle for precise predictions and budget planning. It’s been said it was never meant to be solved. It’s value lies in the thought-provoking question marks. After all, no one is asking Congress to devote a sizable percentage of the national budget to SETI, nor even a large percentage of the NASA budget. But it shouldn’t be zero percent, as it is now. The pay-off is much too great to devote zero effort to the search. And we certainly have not exhausted the search. If N = 100,000, it means we should search more than 3 million stars at multiple wave lengths to have a solid chance of making contact. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, our chances clearly improve if we actively seek out a signal, rather than merely “waiting for the flying saucer to land in Harvard Square.”