Extraterrestrial Cofounder is Far From Giving Up Search

on January 30, 2010

BBC News: “Why Hasn’t ET Made Contact Yet?Despite the ongoing lack of evidence for extraterrestrial life, one cofounder of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is far from giving up.

Drake also proposes permanent “beacons” broadcasting information about earth into space.

BBC News journalist and blogger Jonathan Amos spoke with Frank Drake, SETI cofounder and developer of the famous equation that bears his name, about the prospects for finding intelligent life. (The Drake equation attempts to quantify the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy through the use of several variables.) The occasion of the Amos–Drake conversation was the Royal Society’s “Detection of Extraterrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society” conference, at which Royal Society president Lord Rees said the chances of discovering alien life now are better than ever.

Of course, Drake and others’ efforts to hear from those hypothetical civilizations—primarily by the use of radio telescopes—has, so far, turned up empty handed. His defense of the formerly government-funded project is that we’re searching only a fraction of our galaxy.

Drake also told Amos that alien civilizations might use technologies that are, well, “alien” to us and thus undetectable by our current means. For that reason, SETI recently began searching for laser pulses from alien civilizations. Drake also proposes permanent “beacons” broadcasting information about earth into space.

The search for extraterrestrial life (whether intelligent or simple) is thoroughly entwined with evolutionary ideas. For example, the values used in the Drake equation are based on beliefs about how long it took life to evolve on earth, how long it took for “intelligence” to evolve here, etc. Thus, the values are based more on dogma than on data—as is the entire search for alien life.

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