Extraterrestrial Intelligence: The Search Gets Harder

The opportunity to understand much more about wherever we fit into the vastness of the cosmos is underneath risk from shortsighted choice makers who have politicized science.

For a lot of the 20th century, governments close to the world desired to boldly go where no man had gone prior to. More lately, even though, austerity budgets around the globe and political mindsets that view science with suspicion have threatened the survival of the varieties of projects that place people on the moon.

I got my PhD in the 1970s, when we ultimately had the engineering to commence answering the query that, for millennia, has boggled the minds of priests, philosophers, and anyone who’s looked up to the stars: Are we alone? After all these centuries, I belong to the first generation that can start answering that question.

I joined the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, helping to located the SETI Institute. The institute’s searches have been funded totally by NASA till 1993, when a single senator terminated our funding. We’ve been raising funds privately since then. But last year, we had to temporarily shut down because we couldn’t secure funding to preserve our operation going – and our operating cost is only $100,000 a month, which is essentially a rounding error in a federal spending budget.

NASA itself, probably the finest-acknowledged scientific institution on the planet, is under enormous fiscal pressure, although it has fared much better than some other agencies in latest budgets. Now, for the first time, American astronauts have to hitch a ride with the Russians if they want to get to space.

It is very worrisome to see politicians refusing to invest in science and engineering when we need to have it the most – when our survival depends on our capacity to use it to get ourselves out of the holes that we’ve dug. This dynamic is responsible, for instance, for the never-ending fight to safe funding for climate science.

We would all be better off if our elected officials could think ahead, not just to next year’s price range, but tens, even hundreds of years down the line. Civilizations used to be capable to consider a longer view, simply since issues altered significantly less quickly. (Keep in mind, there was a 400-year gap among the printing press and the typewriter.) That’s not the case today, when issues are turning over in time scales of years, or even months. Individuals are obtaining used to the concept that their resources will change. What they discover to use today, they are going to have to relearn to use three months from now. This is, fundamentally, a new point of view.

But there are still difficulties that have intrinsically longer time scales that are set by the planet and the laws of physics, such as the warming and cooling of the planet, shifting of the tectonic plates, desertification, and so considerably more.

Sources and more information:

• In The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence

The Drake equation (sometimes called the Green Bank equation or the Green Bank Formula) is an equation used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. It is used in the fields of exobiology and the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The equation was devised by Frank Drake, Emeritus…

• SETI Institute: SETI Institute Teams Up With Zooniverse to Empower Citizen Scientists in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

TED Prize enables launch of new citizen science initiative, Science Channel dedicates the month of March to SETI Science Programming As part of the TED Prize Wish made by renowned astronomer Jill Tarter, the TED Prize today launches SETI Live (setilive.org): a site where — for the first time — the public can view data being collected by radio…

• Live Chat: SETI and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

• ‘SETI’ Site Up Again And Searching For Intelligent Life

• The 6 Most Likely Places to Find Alien Life

• Extraterrestrial Intelligence: The Search Gets Harder