Aug 1 2017 - 5:14pm

By Morris Jones

SETI astronomers sometimes pick up strange signals. They don’t look like the regular type of radio transmissions we get from stars and other natural things in space. When this happens, they pay attention. These signals could be transmissions from extraterrestrials. 

Jun 26 2017 - 1:53pm

By Ted Peters, METI International Advisory Council

METI scientists need to defend their message-sending to possible new neighbors on planets elsewhere in the Milky Way metropolis. Fearing that hostile aliens will receive these messages and order their armies to conquer and colonize Earth, METI critics such as Stephen Hawking raise a challenging ethical question. How might we connect this question with a dozen other astroethical questions formulated to deal with space exploration within our solar ghetto? (1) does planetary protection require protection of off-Earth ecospheres? (2) do extraterrestrial microbial life and of off-Earth ecosystems have intrinsic value? (3) should space scientists invoke the Precautionary Principle? (4) should earthlings clean up space junk? (5) what should we do about satellite surveillance? (6) should we weaponize space?  (7) how should we adjudicate the competition between scientific research and economic interests, including space tourism? (8) should we terraform Mars? (9) should we colonize Mars? (10) how can we protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats such as solar flares, asteroid collisions, and gamma bursts? (11) does astroethics require a single planetary community of moral deliberation? (12) should we stretch the common good into a cosmic commons? Can we stretch these existing ethical issues drawn from within our immediate solar ghetto to include the entire Milky Way metropolis, including our first encounter with exoplanetary civilizations?

Jun 5 2017 - 1:45pm

By Morris Jones
We haven’t found extraterrestrial intelligence yet, but that hasn’t stopped us from wondering what they would be like. Science fiction has plenty of answers, with just about anything you could imagine meeting up with the crew of the USS Enterprise at some point. But there’s one overwhelming trend in sci-fi. Aliens look humanoid. That’s understandable for some reasons. It’s much easier to dress up an actor in a rubber suit or put green make-up on his face than construct an animatronic fifty-legged giant insectoid with five heads. Sci-fi shows make extraterrestrials not too different from us for economic reasons. But they could be on to something more realistic than they know. Extraterrestrials will almost certainly look different from humans, but they will probably not be as wildly different as some fantasy writers expect.

May 30 2017 - 2:44pm

By Morris Jones

Our search for extraterrestrial intelligence employs as many methodologies as possible. It makes sense. The more you look, the greater the chances of discovering ETI. There’s another issue. We are not really sure of how extraterrestrials would communicate with us. Would they use radio waves, lasers, or something more exotic? Perhaps the universe is awash in extraterrestrial signals that we cannot even receive. SETI and METI practitioners spend a lot of time wondering how a message would be encoded in terms of language and content. It’s also important to consider the medium of transmission.

May 29 2017 - 4:56pm

By John Traphagan, Trustee, METI International

An interesting question that often arises in relation to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is: What impact would contact actually have on humans? Several years ago, in an attempt to quantify the importance of candidate SETI signals we receive, astronomers Ivan Almar and Jill Tarter proposed a scale to measure social consequences of contact, based on the Torino Scale used to quantify the consequences of an asteroid approach to Earth by relating the likelihood of impact with potential damage the asteroid might cause.

Aug 30 2016 - 4:52pm

Social media and news outlets the past few days have been abuzz with the prospects of a strong signal apparently coming from the star unromantically known at HD 164595, which is about 94 light years from Earth. Reading news reports, one would think that the signal was intercepted last week, but actually it was picked up over a year ago in May of 2015.

Jun 25 2016 - 4:53am

By John Traphagan, Trustee, METI International

I’ve often thought it interesting that when SETI scientists imagine extraterrestrial civilizations, they usually think in terms of unified worlds that have one civilization. The image is very much unlike our world, in which we have multiple civilizations that are fractured and in conflict with other societies. The Brexit event of the past couple of days is a good example of just how fractured our world is as well as representing some solid data not in support of the idea that humans are becoming increasingly unified.

May 18 2016 - 5:30am

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – In an effort to provide new guidance to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), biologists and linguists gathered in Puerto Rico to explore the nature of intelligence in the universe. “SETI has traditionally focused on the instrumentation needed to contact other civilizations. In reality, SETI has been the Search for Extraterrestrial Technology. In this new approach, we’re putting the intelligence back into SETI,” said Douglas Vakoch, President of METI International. “By studying the variety of intelligence found on Earth, we can gain new insights into sending messages to life on other planets.”

May 1 2016 - 12:24pm

By Marlin (Ben) Schuetz, Director, Boquete Optical SETI Observatory

With clear skies and only little wind during March and the first half of April the weather was excellent for SETI searches. The 2.5 to 3 hour observing sessions logged an average of 20 stars a night.   Added to that, the instruments all performed well and the recent photometer improvements have exceeded expectations.  My month’s successes were even topped off with fixing a nagging problem with the car.  What’s not to like?

Apr 7 2016 - 8:40pm

By John W. Traphagan, Trustee, METI International

In general, when we think about scientific inquiry, much of its power rests in the idea that everything is open to question.  Turning a scientific gaze upon the world enlightens us and opens our potential to understand more deeply, while often challenging us to reconsider previously held beliefs and ideas.  But science is not an unambiguously moral good. 

Einstein questioned the ethics of building the atomic bomb.  We know that research like the Tuskegee study of syphilis in African Americans has deep moral problems related to racism and informed consent.  More recently, Stephen Hawking and others have raised ethical questions about whether or not we should engage in sending messages to the stars—the risks of letting ET know we’re here may outweigh the benefits of making contact if ET happens to be in a particularly foul mood when they answer our interstellar phone call.