Extraterrestials Will Give Us a Battery Soon
After decades of searching, scientists have found no trace of extraterrestrial intelligence. Now, some of them hope to make contact by broadcasting messages to the stars. Are we prepared for an answer?
Images transmitted by the Cosmic Calls.
Alexander Zaitsev, Chief Scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, has access to one of the most powerful radio transmitters on Earth. Though he officially uses it to conduct the Institute's planetary radar studies, Zaitsev is also trying to contact other civilizations in nearby star systems. He believes extraterrestrial intelligence exists, and that we as a species have a moral obligation to announce our presence to our sentient neighbors in the Milky Way—to let them know they are not alone. If everyone in the galaxy only listens, he reasons, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is doomed to failure.
Zaitsev has already sent several powerful messages to nearby, sun-like stars—a practice called "Active SETI." But some scientists feel that he's not only acting out of turn, but also independently speaking for everyone on the entire planet. Moreover, they believe there are possible dangers we may unleash by announcing ourselves to the unknown darkness, and if anyone plans to transmit messages from Earth, they want the rest of the world to be involved. For years the debate over Active SETI versus passive "listening" has mostly been confined to SETI insiders. But late last year the controversy boiled over into public view after the journal Nature published an editorial scolding the SETI community for failing to conduct an open discussion on the remote, but real, risks of unregulated signals to the stars. And in September, two major figures resigned from an elite SETI study group in protest. All this despite the fact that SETI's ongoing quest has so far been largely fruitless. For Active SETI's critics, the potential for alerting dangerous or malevolent entities to our presence is enough to justify their concern.
"We're talking about initiating communication with other civilizations, but we know nothing of their goals, capabilities, or intent," reasons John Billingham, a senior scientist at the private SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Billingham studied medicine at Oxford and headed NASA's first extraterrestrial search effort in 1976. He believes we should apply the Hippocratic Oath's primary tenet to our galactic behavior: "First, do no harm." For years Billingham served as the chairman of the Permanent Study Group (PSG) of the SETI subcommittee of the International Academy of Astronautics, a widely accepted forum for devising international SETI agreements. But despite his deep involvement with the group, Billingham resigned in September, feeling the PSG is unwisely refusing to take a stand urging broad, interdisciplinary consultation on Active SETI. "At the very least we ought to talk about it first, and not just SETI people. We have a responsibility to the future well-being and survival of humankind."
Billingham is not alone in his dissent. Michael Michaud, a former top diplomat within the US State Department and a specialist in technology policy, also resigned from the PSG in September. Though highly aware of the potential for misunderstanding or ridicule, Michaud feels too much is at stake for the public to remain uninvolved in the debate. "Active SETI is not science; it's diplomacy. My personal goal is not to stop all transmissions, but to get the discussion out of a small group of elites."
Michaud is the original author of what became the "First SETI Protocol," a list of actions to take in the event of a SETI success. In the late 1980s, several international organizations committed to its principles: First, notify the global SETI community and cooperate to verify the alien signal. Then, if the discovery is confirmed, announce it to the public. Finally, send no reply until the nations of the world have weighed in. A future "Second SETI Protocol" was meant to refine the policy for sending mes- sages from Earth, but the effort quickly became complicated. Everyone agreed that if a message were received, broad global dialogue concerning if and how to respond must take place before any reply could be sent. The rift arose over whether or not the Protocol should also address Active SETI transmissions made before any signal is detected.
At a meeting last year in Valencia, Spain, a divided PSG voted to change Michaud's draft of the Second Protocol. They deleted language calling for "appropriate international consultations" before any deliberate transmissions from Earth, overriding the concerns of Billingham and Michaud and triggering Nature's editorial. As Michaud describes it, "Last fall, this became an unbridgeable gap. They brought it to a vote but there was no consensus. Those with dissenting views were largely cut out of the discussion." Michaud and Billingham feel that by not explicitly advocating a policy of international consultations, the SETI PSG is tacitly endorsing rogue broadcasters.
Seth Shostak, the current chair of the SETI PSG, maintains that Nature got it wrong, that in Valencia there was no organized effort to discourage open and transparent debate about the wisdom of sending signals. As the SETI Institute's senior astronomer, Shostak has been involved in the science and policy of SETI for many years, and often seems to act as public spokesman for the Institute and for SETI in general. He says it's inappropriate for the PSG to set global guidelines for Active SETI. "Who are we to tell the rest of the world how to behave? It would be totally unenforceable."
Michaud and Billingham agree that the PSG can't make policy for the whole world. But rather than sweep the question under the rug, they believe it is the responsibility of the SETI community to facilitate the wider conversation that must take place. "We feel strongly that the discussion must involve not just astronomers, but a broad spectrum of social scientists, historians, and diplomats," explains Billingham.
"This was simply about jurisdiction," Shostak insists. The First Protocol, he says, is about self-policing; the Second isn't. "If we found a signal, it would be a result of our own research. Therefore we felt it was responsible to have an agreed-upon policy about what to do next." Shostak also worries that drafting guidelines for sending messages to aliens could generate bad press. SETI has always struggled for respectability. In the 1970s and 80s, NASA supported some listening programs, but government funding was cut off in 1993 amid congressional ridicule. Thanks to private funding, SETI has rebounded since then, but is still vulnerable to association with tabloids and talk radio guests claiming personal contact with aliens. Publicizing the real debate over rules of conduct for talking to extraterrestrials, Shostak reasons, wouldn't do much to help counter this vision.
Long before he was an eager practitioner of Active SETI, Alexander Zaitsev was already a respected astronomer investigating planets using huge blasts of radar energy from the 70-meter radio telescope at the Evpatoria Deep Space Center in Crimea, Ukraine. Planetary radar studies rely on powerful, focused beams to "illuminate" distant objects, though much of this energy misses its target. The beams would be fleeting if seen from other stars that, by chance, lay along their path. But aimed and modulated to contain pictures, sounds, and other multimedia, they very easily become calling cards from Earth. On balance, it's relatively simple to send signals, so why have we just been listening?
SETI doctrine states that anyone we hear from will almost certainly be much more advanced than we are. Simply put, our capabilities are so rudimentary that any chance of detecting an alien transmission would require that it be broadcast powerfully and continually on millennial timescales. We can't predict much about alien civilizations, but we can use statistical mathematics to derive simple, robust relationships between the number of putative civilizations, their average longevity, and their population density in the galaxy. The chance of getting a signal from another baby race like ours is infinitesimally small. As Shostak says, "We've had radio for 100 years. They've had it for at least 1,000 years. Let them do the heavy lifting."
This is one reason why most SETI pioneers advocated a "first, just listen" approach. But there is another: What if there is something dangerous out there that could be alerted by our broadcasts? This ground has been explored in numerous scientific papers and, of course, in countless works of science fiction. Few people alive today embody the convergence of hard science and fictional speculation better than David Brin, an author of both peer-reviewed astronomy papers and award-winning science fiction novels. In an influential 1983 paper titled "The Great Silence," Brin provided a kind of taxonomy of explanations for the lack of an obvious alien presence. In addition to the usual answers positing that humanity is alone, or so dull that aliens have no interest in us, Brin included a more disturbing possibility: Nobody is on the air because something seeks and destroys everyone who broadcasts. Like Billingham and Michaud, he feels the PSG is dominated by a small number of people who don't want to acknowledge Active SETI's potential dangers.
Even if something menacing and terrible lurks out there among the stars, Zaitsev and others argue that regulating our transmissions could be pointless because, technically, we've already blown our cover. A sphere of omnidirectional broadband signals has been spreading out from Earth at the speed of light since the advent of radio over a century ago. So isn't it too late? That depends on the sensitivity of alien radio detectors, if they exist at all. Our television signals are diffuse and not targeted at any star system. It would take a truly huge antenna—larger than anything we've built or plan to build--to notice them.
Alien telescopes could perhaps detect Earth's strange oxygen atmosphere, created by life, and a rising CO2 level, suggesting a young industrial civilization. But what would draw their attention to our solar system among the multitudes? Deliberate blasts of narrow-band radiation aimed at nearby stars would—for a certain kind of watcher—cause our planet to suddenly light up, creating an obvious beacon announcing for better or worse, "Here we are!"
In fact, we have already sent some targeted radio messages. Even now they are racing toward their selected destinations, and they are unstoppable. Frank Drake sent the first Active SETI broadcast from the large radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in November 1974. In its narrow path, the Arecibo message was the most powerful signal ever sent from Earth. But it was aimed at M13, a globular star cluster about 25,000 light years away. At the earliest, we could expect a reply in 50,000 years.
More recently, Zaitsev and his colleagues sent a series of messages from their dish at Evpatoria. In 1999 and 2003 they sent "Cosmic Call" I and II, transmissions containing pictograms meant to communicate our understanding of the universe and life on Earth. In 2001, Zaitsev and a group of Russian teenagers created the "Teen-Age Message to the Stars," which was broadcast in August and September of that year in the direction of six stars between 45 and 70 light years from Earth. The Teen-Age Message notably included greetings in Russian and English, and a 15-minute Theremin symphony for aliens. Unlike Drake's Arecibo message, Zaitsev's messages target nearby stars. So if anyone wishes to reply, we may receive it in the next century or two.
Both Cosmic Call transmissions included an "Interstellar Rosetta Stone" (IRS) designed by Canadian scientists Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumas. Using simple symbols and equations, the IRS progressively builds a mathematical foundation for the introduction of our understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology, ultimately giving a glimpse of life on Earth. Here are several annotated selections from the IRS. Click to enlarge.
Along with the famous plaques attached to Pioneer 10 and 11 and the two phonograph records carried by Voyager 1 and 2—four spacecraft that will soon leave our Solar System—these messages are mostly symbolic efforts unlikely to betray our presence to the denizens of planets orbiting other stars. Our civilization is still hidden from all but those ardently searching for our kind, or those so far beyond our level of sophistication that we couldn't hide from them if we wanted to. To date, all our "messages to aliens" are really more successful as communications to Earth, mirrors reflecting our dreams of reaching far beyond our terrestrial nursery.
For now, the dissenters have given up on the SETI PSG, but there's still hope for a solution to the standoff. At the PSG's 2007 meeting held in Hyderabad, India this September, the group implicitly accepted the reality of Active SETI risks by adopting a standard called the "San Marino Scale," a formula for assessing the risk of a given broadcast program. Michaud admits that the scale "is a useful starting point for discussion."
When pressed, everyone involved in the recent controversy agrees that harmful contact scenarios cannot be completely ruled out. Active SETI critics like Billingham, Michaud, and Brin don't support a blanket ban on transmissions, and even Zaitsev accepts that open and multinational discussion is needed before anyone pursues transmission programs more ambitious and powerful than his own. The major disagreement is actually over how soon we can expect powerful transmission tools to become widely available to those who would signal at whim.
At present, the radio astronomy facilities potentially capable of producing a major Active SETI broadcast are all controlled by national governments, or at least large organizations responsible to boards and donors and sensitive to public opinion. However, seemingly inevitable trends are placing increasingly powerful technologies in the hands of small groups or eager individuals with their own agendas and no oversight. Today, on the entire planet, there are only a few mavericks like Zaitsev who are able and willing to unilaterally represent humanity and effectively reveal our presence. In the future, there could be one in every neighborhood.
So far SETI has turned up no evidence of other intelligent creatures out there seeking conversation. All we know for certain is that our galaxy is not full of civilizations occupying nearly every sun-like star and sending strong radio signals directly to Earth. In the absence of data, the questions of extraterrestrial intelligence, morality, and behavior are more philosophy than science. But even if no one else is out there and we are ultimately alone, the idea of communicating with truly alien cultures forces us to consider ourselves from an entirely new, and perhaps timely, perspective. Even if we never make contact, any attempt to act and speak as one planet is not a misguided endeavor: Our impulsive industrial transformation of our home planet is starting to catch up to us, and the nations of the world are struggling with existential threats like anthropogenic climate change and weapons of mass destruction. Whether or not we develop a mechanism for anticipating, discussing, and acting on long-term planetary dangers such as these before they become catastrophes remains to be seen. But the unified global outlook required to face them would certainly be a welcome development.
from my entry in wikipedia: recently I read an article about such attempts. The article also quoted american(s?) as condemning these attempts because there is a possibility that we won't hear anything back from space because there is a space-faring race of pirates that kill every civilisation that ever made themselves known. +++ stop press +++ yey, I found it [http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2007/12/who_speaks_for_earth.php?page=all&p=y here]
Paranoia! IMHO extraterrestials will contact us very soon with a schematic for a good battery because these advanced beings clearly know that we have an energy crisis and are in danger of blowing ourselves up before they can shake our paws.
Hmmm maybe the americans are angry that the russians are sending out MESSAGES OF LOVE and the extraterrestials are getting the wrong impression that russians are lovely people and americans are cold-hearted technocrat military fetischists. It certainly could be. But judge for yourself.. here is the original article on Russian love-making music for aliens:
Design and Implementation of the 1st Theremin Concert for Aliens
Alexander L. Zaitsev, IRE RAS
The idea and project of the 1st Theremin Concert for Aliens were stated in the Arecibo Proposal "One-Dimensional Radio Message for Blind Aliens" (AP number Zaitsev000704074140) on July 4, 2000. Unfortunately, this Proposal was not accepted by Arecibo reviewers for realization because of their misgiving that such interstellar radio transmission may be a dangerous affair. Next, the ground and description of this Project were presented at the SPE-2000 Conference in Evpatoria on September 11, 2000, in order try to transmit this Concert from the Evpatoria Planetary Radar (EPR) as a part of the SPE events. But only the third attempt to implement the Theremin Concert was successful – music for potential Extraterrestrial was firstly broadcasted from the EPR to 6 nearby Sun-like stars on August-September, 2001, during transmission the TAM (A Teen-Age Message to the Stars at the http://www.setileague.org/articles/tam.htm).
A review will be given of the theory of interstellar musical radio transmission, the collaborative processes between scientists, engineering, musicians, amateurs of astronomy, as well as, the plans for future development.
There are two interconnected, inverse and direct, problems in concept of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) – Search for ETI by terrestrial intelligence (SETI) and Messages to ETI from terrestrial intelligence (METI). The key element of SETI is the Object of search, namely Universe, where we hope to detect the ETI and then to decode theirs Messages, and so the essence of SETI is Space Science. In turn, the key element of METI is the intellectual Subject, who creates new messages for potential ETI and hope that They will detect and perceive these Messages, and so the essence of METI is Space Art. Of course, both SETI and METI have both scientific and art components, but it’s important to underline that dominant of SETI is Science, and dominant of METI is Art. Also, the Messages for ETI might content both terrestrial knowledge and art, however scientific objective laws, known to terrestrials probably similar to ETI one, in turn the terrestrial subjective Art is unique and definitely unknown to ETI.
The classification of human interstellar messages might be done in concordance with proposed difficulty of theirs perception by unbeknown mentality. The most ready for perception will be an unmodulated carrier or regular radio signals, which might be used by Them for detection of our transmission and for radio science investigation of propagation effects at the receiving point. So, such radio transmission may be named as Interstellar Sounding (ISS). The next one is the message with one-dimensional information, oriented to perception by one-channel, ear-like sense organs – it might be a music, voice, or similar process as a one-variable function. And such radio transmission may be named as Interstellar Broadcast (ISB). The third type of human radio transmission is two-dimensional information, oriented to perception by multi-channel, eye-like sense organs – it might be a flat pictures, images, or similar processes in the form of two-variable functions. By analogy, this radio transmission may be named as Interstellar Television (ISTV). Both Arecibo Message 1974 and Evpatoria Message 1999 (“Cosmic Call”) were the ISTV messages. It is quite possible that in future more complexes 3D Messages for ETI will be created, too, for example, in order to show Them the terrestrial Architecture.
An initial pulse, which launched project "Music for Aliens" was the thesis on "universal, perceived by any carrier of intellect, nature of music", which I detected at the site "Russian SETI". As a design result of this project the following conclusions were formulated:
the main essence of music is melody and namely melody should be transmitted inside of first musical Interstellar Message,
transmitting music should be a monophonic, single “part” music, in order to lighten its perception by unbeknown mentality,
transmitting energy should be concentrated inside of single spectral line, that is necessary to use musical instrument with minimal level of overtones,
theremin, electronic non-contact musical instrument, is the most optimal source of music signal because it produces a quasi-monochromatic wave with smooth frequency variations and without phase breaking, therefore such signal has the high delectability across interstellar distances,
it should be not digitized, but proper analog music, because 15-minute musical signal (duration of Theremin Concert) after analog-to-digital conversion will take a few weeks to transmit it at a rate 10 bit/sec (namely such rate is needed to provide enough signal-to-noise ratio across interstellar distances),
to transmit, the theremin’s signals should be up-shifted by SSB (single side band) mixer without any additional modulation or manipulation directly into radar band (S-band for Arecibo Radar, or C-band for Evpatoria Radar),
it is necessary to provide two inputs in planetary radar after its modification for on-line connection with theremin for live Concert and for connection with audio tape recorder,
both classical, folk and modern melodies should be included in Concert program.
Above conception was expounded in the Arecibo Proposal "One-Dimensional Radio Message for “Blind” Aliens" (AP number Zaitsev000704074140) on July 4, 2000, that text is at http://lnfm1.sai.msu.su/SETI/eng/articles/zait_eng.html.
The first recording of the 1st Theremin Concert for Aliens was made in Moscow by famous performer Lidia Kavina, and it included four musical compositions:
Melody of Russian folk song "Kalinka-Malinka".
Further also two other theremin musicians – Yana Aksenova and Anton Kerchenko were invited. They went to Evpatoria and performed live Concert during Interstellar Broadcasting.
Update of Evpatoria Planetary Radar (EPR) consisted in its re-equipment with special interface and software for connection of theremin and cassette tape recorder.
For the first time, the 1st Theremin Concert for Aliens was transmitted on August 29, 2001 from the EPR to the Sun-like star HD 197076 in the Dolphin Constellation. The 15-minute performance consisted of following melodies:
Russian romance "Egress alone I to the ride".
Beethoven. Finale of 9th Symphony (Anthem of European Union).
Vivaldi. Seasons. March. Allegro.
"Kalinka-Malinka" – Russian folk.
In sum, there were six METI sessions from the EPR to six Sun-like stars on August 29, September 3 and 4, 2001. The List of target stars and Concert program were composed by teens from different sites of Russia. Teens sent theirs suggestions via Internet and by post mail to the Moscow Center of Teens Activity, where worked a special Jury, which selected the most interesting suggestions. More info is at TAM page of http://ebe.allwebco.com/Science. The lease of 70-m dish and power transmitter of the EPR was paid by Education Department of Moscow City Administration. The hard and soft equipment was manufactured in IRE RAS.
Future Interstellar Messages would be composed with using any other sources of self-oscillation musical signals, similar to theremin – violin, organ, voice, trombone. It seems to me the most interesting variant – using in the next Concert for Aliens the female voice "mezzo-soprano" for singing a series of Songs without Words or the songster-songstress dialogue in composition "Melody of Love".
After early exposure to the instrument with it's inventor during her childhood, she continued to develop into a world class musician on all levels and has expanded the repertory for the theremin both through commissions and as a composer in her own right. Her teaching, instructional videos, concretizing, recordings and workshops have spread awareness of the instrument, and laid the foundation for many new thereminists and established it for subsequent generations. She's played more different models of theremin than any other player and has been a significant influence on theremin builders around the world.
Lydia's performance collaborations with other players and her incredible flexibility in playing styles has broadened the musical realms for serious theremin music as well as helped to support the careers of other thereminists.
Evpatoria dish used to send message.
The antenna is 70m of diameter with a 150kW transmitter at 6cm.
Evpatoria (1999): In 1999, an interstellar message was broadcasted in direction of 4 stars. This transmission took place at the Evpatoria installations in Ukraine. With its 70 m. dish and a 150kW transmitter at 6cm, Evpatoria is one of the most powerful deep space radars. Four years later another broadcast was performed from Evpatoria in the direction of 5 others stars.
The concept of both messages was based on the work on two Canadian physicists: Stephane Dumas and Dr. Yvan Dutil. An American company called 'Team Encounter' 2001 orchestrated the whole adventure under the name of Cosmic Call. The message sent in 1999 is a series of small pictures of 127 by 127 pixels. Each page contains symbols conveying the information. The whole message starts by describing mathematical concepts and symbols. The following pages are a progressive introduction to basic notions of physics, chemistry and biology. The message is more than merely symbols put on a page. Some concepts and knowledge described in it can only be achieved by a great deal of understanding the nature surrounding us. For example, by displaying the periodic table of atoms we do more then just saying we know those atoms. It states that we understand the fundamental structure of matter. Knowledge of Science is like a tree. Knowledge of a small branch implies that the big one is well understood.
The Interstellar Rosetta Stone (ISR) is a message also created by Canadian scientists Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumás. The size of the ISR is 263906 bits with 127 symbols in each of 2078 lines. Unlike their message of 1999 which consisted of 23 'pages' where each page was 127 X 127 binary elements, the ISR uses a slightly different approach: Different 'pages' have different numbers of 'lines'. The contents of the ISR, representing an attempt to create an elementary encyclopedia of terrestrial knowledge, was not significantly changed from the Dutil-Dumás message of Cosmic Call 1999.
Arecibo (1974): In 1974 this was the first message ever deliberately beamed into space. It was made from Puerto Rico as part of the ceremonies held to mark a major upgrade to the Arecibo Radio Telescope and was aimed at the star cluster M13, roughly 21,000 light-years away. This type of message was first conceived of by Frank Drake and the idea was explored by The Order of the Dolphin as a good method of encoding and conveying information into space with Radio Telescopes. The message was supposed to convey several pieces of information including:
- the Arecibo telescope
- a man
- a double helix meant to represent DNA
- the solar system.
The transmission was made for only three minutes and was largely a symbolic effort. It is unlikely it will ever be received by another intelligent life form. However, mankind has been unintentionally transmitting signals for decades - mainly in the form of high-frequency television, radio, and radar signals that bleed off into space. The oldest of our TV signals have already reached several thousand other star systems. So who knows - while we are actively listening for signs of ET, we may be communicating our own existence by accident!
The Arecibo Message space to travel endlessly
The previous radiomessages for aliens, 'Arecibo' (1974) and 'Evpatoria' (1999) were the logical ones and represented the binary stream of FM information, which should be arranged into two-dimensional forms to perceive by eye-like sense-organ. And I guess the primary one-dimensional message is more understandable by unfamiliar aliens and the music is the most universal expression of intellectual activity by means of one-channel ear-like radiolink. Further, the Theremin instrument is the most preferable for interstellar transmission since Theremin produces quasi-sinusoidal narrowband signals with continuous phase under performance, which are more easy for extraction from noise. So, I suggest to implement the 1st Theremin Concert for Aliens from Arecibo or Evpatoria Radar facility. The Theremin virtuoso Lidia Kavina agrees to give such Concert with appropriate classic and cosmic repertoire either in on-line mode at observatory's concert-hall or off-line Concert in audio studio. The Theremin's signal lies at about (0-10) kHz, and it should be shifted by SSB mixer to radar band and transmitted into space toward any star cluster or Sun-like star.
(Alexander L. Zaitsev)
Isn't it ironic that the US launched a spacecraft with a record of the human voice, that of Waldheim, fascist, Wehrmacht lieutenant, Fourth Secretary-General of the United Nations, President of Austria.
He (and Jimmy Carter) recorded the greetings on the Voyager probe.
Combined with the TV signal from the 1936 Olympics, and Wernher von Braun, those darn Nazis (and "ex"-Nazis) did well at getting themselves into space.
Kurt Waldheim had tried to conceal his participation as a ranked official (lieutenant) in the Balkans (Thessaloniki to be specific).
It is interesting that this fact was already known worldwide at the time he became UN Secretary General:
A former Yugoslav intelligence official, Anton Kolendic, said he informed his Soviet counterparts “in late 1947 or 1948” that his government was seeking Mr. Waldheim on suspicion of involvement in war crimes. But the Russians did nothing. And according to a bipartisan letter from Congress sent to President Bill Clinton, the Central Intelligence Agency was aware of Mr. Waldheim’s wartime record years before he stood for election as secretary general but chose to conceal it.
With regards to whether he participated in the massacres and deportation of the Salonika Jews, again from the same NYT article:
“I never heard or learned anything of this while I was there,” Mr. Waldheim said in an interview with The New York Times in 1986. But according to Mr. Herzstein, the historian, Mr. Waldheim prepared numerous reports on the deportations for his army superiors, including General Löhr. Stumble It!