Active SETI: If the Mountain Will Not Come to MyHomeET
SETI researchers must be getting bored sitting around waiting for a message. To bide the time, some have come up with a game called “Active SETI” – sending our messages to the aliens. It’s not that this game hasn’t been played before. The Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft each carried messages from earthlings, and the Arecibo radio telescope beamed a signal in 1974 to a star cluster. Besides, our TV programs, since long before Lost in Space, have leaked into interstellar space at the speed of light, at least until cable TV came along.
Nature discussed Active SETI seriously this week.1 The opening paragraph underscored the split between SETI researchers and normal people: “One of the strengths of the community involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – known as SETI – is its imaginative capacity to take seriously things that most people dismiss out of hand.” But their sympathies were not with the normal folk, but with the SETI researchers – even if some admonishment was in order. Though not opposed to sending messages, the editors regarded the risks as serious enough to warrant a meeting of the minds: “It is not obvious that all extraterrestrial civilizations will be benign, or that contact with even a benign one would not have serious repercussions.” (Think Darth Vader.)
Next day, Science Magazine included a short news bit about Active SETI in its Random Samples weekly feature.2 If the Editors of Nature are worried about the risks, it’s too late. A French broadcasting company has already spilled the radio beams. On Sept. 30, the French Center for National Space Studies beamed up a TV program intended for our ET friends (assuming that they are friends, who only want to serve man). ARTE, a French-German TV station, produced the show Cosmic Connexion and encouraged viewers to send their own messages along for the ride. If it’s any consolation to the editors of Nature, the targeted sun-like star could not receive the show till 2051, and then there is the return trip to factor in if any terrorists at the star Errai will be tuning in.
If some 1970-era taxpayers were offended at Carl Sagan’s Pioneer plaque, which depicted, in etched outlines on a gold-anodized aluminum plate, a naked man and women gesturing peace, well, we’ve come a long way, maybe. In order to appeal to modern alien tastes (as well as those of neo-Euro onlookers of the Year 2006), the show produced by Cargo Films brought the ambassadors to life as show hosts – dressed only in white paint. Presumably the communication needed to include body language. “The Pioneer couple already went into the cosmos,” a co-director rationalized, “so they seemed like the best to send again.” If no one lives at Errai, though, our ambassadors will have been all dressed up with nowhere to go.
1Editorial, “Ambassador for Earth: Is it time for SETI to reach out to the stars?”, Nature 443, 606(12 October 2006) | doi:10.1038/443606a.
2Random Samples, “Galactic Broadcasting,” Science, Volume 314, Number 5797, Issue of 13 October 2006.
The secularists never hesitate to ridicule, mercilessly, any Christian or creationist who shows the slightest hint of beliefs they consider foolish. No comment.
Except, begging your pardon, that there was once a certain Emperor in similar attire (01/31/2003).