Dec 28 2009

the Impossible dream?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 12:47 am

For 50 years we’ve been Waiting for ET to phone us.

West Virginia. It is 6 am on an April morning in 1960 and Frank Drake is freezing cold. He peers up towards the focal point of the radio telescope. He mounts a flimsy ladder to the top and climbs into a space about the size of a garbage can. For the next 45 minutes, he tunes the receiver inside, which feels like starting an old car. He climbs back down and begins to listen.

Drake and colleagues were conducting a seminal experiment: the first modern search for extraterrestrial life. For four months, the researchers used the Tatel Telescope in Green Bank to listen for any intelligent signals from the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani that might be hidden on the same wavelength as radiation emitted naturally by hydrogen. Drake named the effort Project Ozma after the princess in the 0z books by Frank Baum, who wrote that he used a radio to learn of events there.

April 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of Project Ozma, and those involved in the search for extraterrestrial life, or SETI, will be raising a glass. Not only did the experiment inspire countless people to continue the search, it brought alien-hunting into the mainstream and arguably seeded the science of astrobiology.

Other famous searchers for things that were never found:

   Albert Einstein and Unified Field Theory.

   Don Quixote and defeatable windmills

   Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth

   Isaac Newton and a way to turn lead into gold

   AI researchers and actual machine intelligence

   Modern physics and cold fusion

You get the idea.  Some things just SOUND plausible, even likely.  The argument that “the universe is just so big that there has to be intelligent life out there” is like that.  It just instinctively sounds right.

That doesn’t make it right.

And even if they are there, the aliens are almost certainly far, far ahead of us, so far that we wouldn’t recognize one of their artifacts or communications methods if we saw it.  Or, they are so far behind us that they’re still working on inventing the bow and arrow, or controlling fire.  The odds of intelligent aliens in a detectable state of technological development anywhere near us are so small as to be laughable.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll all for funding more SETI, though I’m not acquiescent about more active approaches.  ET may not be nice.

But I don’t expect much to be found.

3 Responses to “the Impossible dream?”

  1. Bill says:

    From Larry Norman in his song – U.F.O.

    and if there’s life on other planets
    then i’m sure that He must know
    and He’s been there once already
    and has died to save their souls

    Interesting thought, but begs the thought – would an Alien be made with a soul?

  2. harmonicminer says:

    Hmmm… if we are to analogize to the biblical record…. other possibilities exist.

    1) The aliens never “fell”…
    2) They did fall, but are in a different place in “salvation history”… maybe something analogous to before the flood, or after the flood but before Abraham, or after Abraham but before Jesus the Messiah
    3) A bit further out, they have already had their return of the Messiah as Judge, and now they are living on their “new earth” already… Since the prophecies in the NT and OT on the point could be construed to mean “local solar system and planet” when discussing the new creation…. This is VERY conjectural, based on nothing but speculation…

    But since we’re making wild guesses….. I strongly suspect that we are it. The wildest guess of all, the one seemingly most foolish to modern science….

    Time to reread Screwtape Letters, I think.

  3. Bill says:

    It is always fun to stretch your mind in these types of thoughts. I think Larry was trying to say – God made the entire universe, with a metaplan. If he chose to include others, he would have a plan for them as well. Perhaps not the same plan, but certainly under his power, authority and control. The study of our freedom within his control is another one that will stretch our minds.

    By the way, the Screwtape letters that Focus on the Family recently put out was really well done (audio book). I have it passing around work. Both Christians and non are enjoying the listening and it has brought about some really good dialog.

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