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What SETI Guru Wants to Know

Seth Shostak, a SETI advocate, has two key questions for aliens.

SETI Finds Intelligent Humans

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is 50 years old this year. SETI’s latest scientific discovery was the detection of a human-made satellite in Earth orbit. In a sense, this counts as a success: the detection of a signal of intelligent origin from an extra-terrestrial source (beyond terra firma). The false alarm helped calibrate the instrumentation, but did little to garner support for the effort to find aliens. The SETI Institute was all SETI-ready to party hardy at the 50th anniversary of Frank Drake’s first search, but instead, found itself struggling to keep its doors open after a severe shortfall of private funds, highlighting questions about the scientific status of the long-shot project.

Selling Confabulation as Science

Science is supposed to be all about demonstrable proof through experiment. Should some scientists get away with confabulation – mere storytelling? Look at these recent headlines published on science news sites and consider whether some serious housecleaning is in order.

SETI at Night

For 50 years, searchers for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI) have thought that radio waves would provide the best signals, being able to traverse at the speed of light with little scattering. Now, two physicists suggest another way: looking for the lights of their cities at night.

Aliens Among Us

Some SETI researchers are looking for intelligent design on Earth – by aliens! Paul Davies has written seriously about the possibility of “alien bioengineering” that could be detected in DNA. NASA’s tax-supported Astrobiology Institute gave the idea good press, apparently unaware that most SETI researchers and astrobiologists vociferously reject the theory of intelligent design.

Are Aliens Part of Evolution’s Plan, Too?

What would the discovery of intelligent aliens mean for Christianity? A recent article made a splash asking that question. Maybe, though, the question should be turned around: what would it mean for evolutionary science?

Science Without an Object: Astrobiology, Alien Science

Can science exist without an observable object? In recent years we have seen serious scientists ponder alternate universes and parallel universes, dark matter, dark energy and other imponderable entities. String theory has yet to rest on observable data, and physicists at CERN are getting worried about not finding the hypothetical Higgs boson. Sooner or later, these theories need to detect their subjects or lose credibility in the science club. Perhaps nowhere else has the disconnect between hype and observation reached the absurd limits of astrobiology and alien science.

SETI Blurs Line with Hollywood

Down again, up again; the SETI Institute got a reprieve for its Allen Telescope Array from actress Jodie Foster, star of the Sagan SETI saga Contact. And just in time; NASA needs contact to protect earth from aliens who might invade to punish us for global warming.

Earth Uniqueness Up; SETI Down

Our earth seems special – maybe because it is. Some astronomers are seriously considering that life might be rare or unique on our rare (or unique) planet. If so, hopes for finding sentient aliens on the celestial radio dial drop accordingly. The 50th anniversary of the first SETI search came, unfortunately for search enthusiasts, came at a time when funding is harder to get.

Ups & Downs of SETI

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence arouses excitement in some, boredom in others.  The SETI Institute has taken lumps recently; due to a $5 million shortfall in funding, they had to mothball a search using the Allen Telescope Array.  But PhysOrg announced that an unspecified group of astronomers will be using the Green Bank Radio Telescope […]

SETI in Reverse

The SETI Institute has had to close down its search with the Allen Telescope Array (08/12/2010) due to lack of funds.  But while incoming messages might be missed, outgoing messages are still en route.  The Voyager record is approaching interstellar space.     PhysOrg, Live Science and the BBC News all told about the budget […]

Is This What Darwin Had in Mind?

Evolution is a word loosely used in science these days.  Reporters and scientists talk about “the evolution of” this or that sometimes carelessly, without regard to how the explanation fits old Darwinism or neo-Darwinism.  Has the word evolution become a kind of catch-all hypothesis, for which rigor is no longer necessary? Survival of the discreetist:  […]

If Pigs Have Wings, SETI Could Be Robots

The SETI program is still waiting to catch a sentient signal from deep space, but in the absence of data, people are free to speculate.  Michael Dyer, a computer science professor at UCLA, is certain that the first aliens to visit Earth will be robots.  He even attached a probability to it, according to Adam […]

Philosophy Roundup

Philosophy of science is a broad discipline incorporating many sub-disciplines such as intellectual history, sociology, ethics, rhetoric, logic, demarcation of science from pseudoscience, classification, discovery, verification, explanation and more.  A dozen recent news stories discussed some of these topics. Medical ethics:  PhysOrg reproduced an AP story about medical research on humans in the US in […]

Intelligence as a Cosmic Reality

The “I” in SETI takes “Intelligence” seriously.  It requires that intelligence is a recognizable, quantifiable property of nature.  The origin of intelligence is a question that separates theists from materialists – whether it is a fundamental or emergent property.  Before engaging that question, it might be instructive to see how scientists who are not necessarily […]
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