Monday, June 17, 2013

The "experts" at SETI




They are the "experts" on aliens.

Or at least that's what I've heard.  Funny thing though, I honestly can't think of anyone qualified for that moniker when it comes to this subject.

I am referring of course to folks such as Jill Tartar, Seth Shostak, et. al. at SETI.

This is not to say that they aren't nice people.  I haven't seen any indication to the contrary, even if Seth Shostak gets quite snooty and caustic at times, especially with UFO researchers such as when he needlessly took a dig at Dan Akroyd on live TV over the Chicago O'Hare sighting.  To be fair, many in the UFO field have attacked Shostak with emotional fervor rather than facts, so I suppose one can forgive his snark.  A bit.  After all, he sees himself as doing a public service.  Last month he did a fine interview about coordinating SETI efforts with new finds from the Kepler and even appearing on MSNBC to reassure us that an alien invasion is not imminent.

No, it's not any of this that gives me pause about SETI.  It is...as I believe I have said before...their "esoteric myopia." There has always been a steady mantra from their camp that goes something like, as suggested by the late and great Mac Tonnies, "can't get there from here." That's right, folks.  Interstellar travel is nigh impossible.  How do we know?  Well, look at us.  After all, we're lucky if we can get anywhere with chemical fuel rockets.  Extraterrestrials must have the same issues, right?  Forget about Project Orion and poppycock of that sort.  It just can't happen.  Yes, I know Stanton Friedman says none of the SETI crowd is qualified to speak to such an issue of engineering, but what of it?

So our best bet is to send and listen for radio signals.  Of course they'd still be using radio.  Why wouldn't they?  Not only are alien radio signals somewhere in the universe, we're bound to find them...and in a relatively short amount of time according to SETI.  Anyone who thinks to the contrary of waiting for radio signals or is not dismissive of the idea that someone else could figure out effective interstellar travel is worthy of scorn.

It's this prevailing thought in science that we have everything figured out that causes me repeated concern.  Our perceptions are the correct ones and other intelligent life in the universe must be remarkably like us in many regards.

We have no idea what other life is like.  To make any assumptions based on our own puny and limited experience is to likely set ourselves up for a great deal of failure.

I just don't understand the dogged persistence over such closed-mindedness.  As an academic, I know full well the stubborn resistance against shifting paradigms, but this case bothers me more than usual.  Perhaps it's because this is such an exciting topic, making contact with alien life, and it has been rendered as boring and tedious as listening to contemporary radio.  Or more likely, static.

Fortunately, there are exciting concepts emerging from other SETI-like circles.  One idea is to scan extrosolar planets for excessive infrared signatures.  This phosphoresce would be expected from a technological civilization.  How would we search for such an infrared sign?  A proposed infrared telescope such as the The Colossus (pictured above) would do it.  Other ideas include looking into our own human DNA.  If, as certain parties have alleged, aliens have been experimenting on the human race in the past, there may be clues to such actions in our own selves.  That's a mighty big "if" I'm aware, but it's time to get innovative.  Speaking of which, I'm also not ready to discount the presence of artifacts on Mars.

No, I do not have a degree in astronomy.  I have never worked for NASA.  Heck, I can't even make the claims that Richard Hoagland does.  I am no expert on the nature of alien life.

Then again, neither is anyone else as near as I can tell.


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