Russian astrophysicist and SETI pioneer Nikolai Kardashev passed away on August 3, 2019. Known for the Kardashev scale of extraterrestrial civilizations, in 1963 he conducted the first Soviet search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) by examining the quasar CTA-102 for signs of a technological civilization. In the following year, Kardashev organized the first Soviet conference on communication with extraterrestrial intelligence (CETI) at Byurakan Observatory in Armenia. Also in 1964, Kardashev proposed a scale that now bears his name, which is used for classifying extraterrestrial civilizations in terms of their energy use. Civilizations ranked on the Kardashev Scale range from Type I civilizations capable of using the energy resources of a single planet, to Type II civilizations that use the full energy of a star, to Type III civilizations that have access to the energy of an entire galaxy.
By Morris Jones
2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the mission of Apollo 11, when humans walked on another world for the first time. While the flight was a tremendous achievement for science, technology and exploration, there's one aspect that's rarely discussed. In some ways, Apollo 11 was a proto-project for METI.
By Morris Jones
In these high-tech times, most communications on Earth move very quickly, sometimes at the speed of light. Telecommunications and information technology have made it practical to quickly send messages around the world, and to practically any place in the world. We still have traditional postal systems, but their speed of delivery is modest compared to electronic systems. Thus, physical mail is sometimes dubbed "Snail Mail" for its slow pace.
By Morris Jones
"Warning: The following broadcast contains the voices of deceased persons." That's unlikely to shock most readers of this blog. But for some Indigenous Australians, it's enough to make them switch off.
Messages like this sometimes appear in Australian media broadcasts. They reference cultural taboos amongst some (but not all) Indigenous Australians, but are only included when the voices of deceased people of Indigenous background are used.
Seeing a SpaceX Launch
by James Benford, President of Microwave Sciences
On Sunday night, October 7, SpaceX launched a satellite into a polar orbit for Argentina from the Vandenberg, California launch site. The Falcon rocket flew north along California and came in sight where I was in Lafayette, 375 miles north of Vandenberg. I happened to be looking southward when the rocket came into view and I took the attached photos. The first photo shows the rocket with its exhaust streaming just before the first stage dropped away.
by Derek Malone-France, Trustee, METI International
This Saturday, October 6, the "METI Debates" will be organized by the Universidad de los Andes at the Uniandino Debate Tournament (TDU). METI is a co-sponsor of the event, along with the Center for Citizen Inclusion and Rights (INCIDE), and the Universidad del Rosario.
It is with sadness that we report the passing of Patricia Margaret Sterns, a longtime leader in space law.
John W. Traphagan
In my class on SETI at the University of Texas at Austin, my students’ first exam asks them to respond to the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”. The episode raises questions about the dangers of potential contact with extraterrestrials and our capacity to understand their motivations. The phrase “To Serve Man” can be read two ways: 1) to provide service to humanity, or 2) to provide humanity as a dinner entrée. I ask students to think about whether or not the scenario in the Twilight Zone episode makes sense and, consequently, whether or not contact with aliens might be dangerous.
By Morris Jones
Much attention in the METI world is focused on designing codes or languages that could be understood by extraterrestrials. We don’t think they would speak any languages commonly used by humans, so attempts are made to produce something close to a “universal language”. Mathematics heavily influences this process, and with good reason. It’s a more objective reflection of the universe, and taps into rules and laws that would apply to extraterrestrials as much as us. Addition works the same way on Earth and Proxima Centauri. But even the way humans interpret and communicate mathematics is subjective. It’s not only the code and symbolism we use. It could even reflect cognitive processes that could be unique to humans, and not necessarily shared by creatures with different minds.
John W. Traphagan, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin
During the spring 2018 term at the University of Texas at Austin, I am teaching a course called Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Culture, Religion, and Imagination. The aim of the class is to explore how humans have addressed questions about whether or not we are alone in the universe and to consider recent developments in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Focusing primarily on the 20th and 21st Centuries, the course considers how ideas about extraterrestrial intelligence have intersected with other aspects of society, such as religious ideas, and approaches SETI as a cultural phenomenon related to how scientists and others imagine the nature of intelligence, both human and non-human.