Friday, July 31, 2015

7 Incredible Ways That Science Is Desperately Attempting To Contact Intelligent Alien Life

7 Amazing Methods We’re Using To Contact Aliens

The internet is filled with conspiracy theorists and crackpots desperately trying to tell us that aliens have visited earth, abducted cows, or taken over the US government. This kind of tabloid fodder distracts us from the fact that scientists are working their asses off in trying to answer one of our most pressing questions: are we alone in the universe?

There is a whole branch of astronomy dedicated to communication with extraterrestrial intelligence (known as CETI), and Stephen Hawking is pretty big on aliens himself, famously saying back in 2010 that we should be wary of advanced alien civilisations because they’d look “to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach”.

Despite that ominous statement, Hawking recently announced Breakthrough Listen, the most far-reaching project yet in listening out for alien communications. While he maintained that an advanced alien civilization might regard us as nothing more than bacteria (thanks, Steve), he concluded about alien life that “we are alive. We are intelligent. We must know”.

If making contact with alien forces spells the end of mankind, so be it. We’re doomed on Earth anyway, and at least an alien invasion will give humanity something other than itself to blame for its inevitable demise.

7. Infrared Technology

While Infrared is slowly being pushed aside by Bluetooth in everyday technologies like TV remotes, it’s always had a higher calling. IR technology has played a crucial role in mapping out space, and now it’s being taken on to help in the search for extra-terrestrial life. Who’s laughing now, Bluetooth?

Astronomers at the Lick Observatory in the US have begun using infrared light detectors to try and intercept interstellar signals. Powerful infrared signals can be momentarily brighter even than stars, which means they’re visible across thousands of light years of space.

Uniquely among SETI projects, this one is searching for optical signals rather than radio signals from extraterrestrials. While detecting an extra-terrestrial IR signal would require it to be pointing in earth’s direction, it marks an experimental new means of seeking out alien life.

6. Sending Gold Vinyl Records Into Space

The Voyager 1 probe, launched in 1977, is the farthest-from-earth object humanity has ever created. At this moment, it’s around three times further from the sun than Pluto, and is now thought to be traversing interstellar space.

Tucked away inside the Voyager 1 is the Voyager Golden Record, a vinyl record filled with sounds, music, and speech (in 55 different languages) that captures the things happening here on earth. Some of the specific sounds include squealing monkeys, Beethoven’s String Quartet, and a personal greeting from Jimmy Carter.

The Golden Record idea works under a lot of assumptions – that the craft makes it to its destination star (the ETA is 40,000 years), that there’s extra-terrestrial life surrounding that star and finally, that aliens will know how to play a vinyl record. Luckily, we left universal instructions on how to play it, just in case.

5. The Breakthrough Initiative

In July 2015, Stephen Hawking inaugurated humanity’s latest attempt to reach out into the cold dark of space in the hope of finding extra-terrestrial life.

The ‘Breakthrough Initiative’ is a 10-year project that will point the Parkes and Green Bank Telescopes in the United States towards the millions of stars and 100 galaxies surrounding Earth, listening out for anomalies and signals that could reveal the presence of extraterrestrial technologies.

The $100 million project has been lauded as the most comprehensive and ambitious attempt yet by humanity to find out if we’re alone in the universe. The digi-tons of data generated by the project will also be made publicly available, allowing anyone – from hobby scientists to conspiracy theory crackpots – to analyse the data and try to answer one of humanity’s biggest questions.

4. Learning To Translate Alien Languages

With all the space-snooping we’re doing from Earth, surely it makes sense that ET life – should it exist – is trying to listen out for us as well, right? SETI astronomer Dr John Elliott seems to think so, which is why he’s developing an algorithm that he believes will be able to translate extraterrestrial messages beaming across space.

Elliott is working on the premise that all communication has some kind of structure. His algorithm would work out whether signals that reach Earth’s observatories are language-like or non-language-like; if they are, the algorithm would look for patterns and key communicative components in the signals to unravel them, and eventually translate them into human.

3. Sending Pictures Of Naked People Into Space

Before the golden vinyl record, humanity packed another cryptic message into the cosmos, aboard the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 in 1972-73. This time it was the Pioneer Plaque, a picture message depicting two naked people and a map pointing the aliens right to Earth.

Looking at this image, it’s little wonder the aliens didn’t get back to us. Just look at it – to send an interstellar invitation with a naked man waving welcomingly is making a massive assumption about the aliens’ sexuality. The other possibility is that these nude pics might give the impression that Earth is some kind of sexually liberated paradise fully of young and beautiful nudists. If the aliens do get the message (in an estimated 25,000 years), then they’ll be pretty pissed to find that most of us are fully-clothed, and not as in-shape as the image suggests.

Since this plaque was sent, SECI researchers have agreed that picture messages may prove too difficult to decipher for ETs. That’s probably just as well, given that we sent out a map without knowing whether the ETs are hostile like most Hollywood films would have you believe, or friendly – like the Coneheads.

2. Large Hadron Collider

A lot of otherworldly and terrifying possibilities have been attributed to CERN’s colossal atom smasher. Some say it can destroy our universe, others say it is an attempt to open a portal to an Ancient Grecian-style underworld. But, more credibly, plenty of scientists are suggesting that the Hadron Collider can potentially open portals to other dimensions.

There are plenty of scientific theories that point to extra dimensions, and one way to find them would be to detect mini black holes in our own dimension. The only thing on Earth capable of harnessing enough energy to detect these mini black holes is the LHC.

The LHC hasn’t yet detected any mini black holes, but scientists believe that this could be a result of the LHC’s energy levels not being high enough, rather than them not existing. If we do manage to prove the existence of alternative dimensions, then that opens up a whole new universe of possibilities for detecting alien life.

1. The Theremin

The theremin is one of the earliest examples of a musical instrument, invented in the 1920s by Leon Theremin. It’s controlled using a couple of antennae, which detect the position of the musician’s hand using electrical signals, and are then amplified through to a speaker.

As it happens, the signals produced by the theremin can easily travel interstellar distances, which in 2001 led Russian scientist Alexander Zaitsev to propose that humanity composes a Theramin-based concert, which we could then broadcast out to neighbouring stars.

Zaitsev’s initial requests were rejected on the grounds that broadcasting humanity’s presence could put it at the mercy of more advanced extra-terrestrial civilisations. Eventually he got his way however, and a trio of musicians composed seven Russian folk songs on the theremin. The songs were sent to the nearest stars via the Yevpatoria RT-70 telescope in 2001, and are expected to reach six neighbouring stars between the years 2047 and 2070.

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