Author of the Month

The Odds of Contacting ET Are Nil, Despite That They Are Already Watching
By Jim Elvidge

Books by Jim Elvidge

The Universe - Solved! (Hardcover)

The Universe - Solved!

US - UK - CA

Jim Elvidge

Why worry about ET, Stephen Hawking?

Jim Elvidge holds a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. He has applied his training in the high-tech world as a leader in technology and enterprise management, including many years in executive roles for various companies and entrepreneurial ventures. He also holds 4 patents in digital signal processing and has written articles for publications as diverse as Monitoring Times and the IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. Beyond the high-tech realm, however, Elvidge has years of experience as a musician, writer, and truth seeker. He merged his technology skills with his love of music, developed one of the first PC-based digital music samplers, and co-founded RadioAMP, the first private-label online streaming-radio company. For many years, Elvidge has kept pace with the latest research, theories, and discoveries in the varied fields of subatomic physics, cosmology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and the paranormal. This unique knowledge base has provided the foundation for his first full-length book, "The Universe-Solved!"


Spock, Vulcan logic

Famous astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, made the news recently when he called for us to stop attempting to contact ET.  No offense to Dr. Hawking and other esteemed scientists who have similar points of view, but I find the whole argument about dangerous ET's, to use a Vulcan phrase, "highly illogical."

The Concept of SETI is Fundamentally Flawed

First of all, there is the whole issue around the ability to contact ET.  As I showed in my blog post "Could Gliesians be Watching Baywatch", it is virtually impossible to communicate with any extraterrestrial civilization beyond our solar system without significant power and antenna gain. The world's most powerful radio astronomy dish at Arecibo has a gain of 60 dB, which means that it could barely detect a 100 kilowatt non-directional signal generated from a planet 20 light years away, such as Gliese 581g, but only if it were pointed right at it. More to the point, what are the odds that such a civilization would be at the right level of technology to be communicating with us, using a technique that overlaps what we know? To estimate that, first we need to estimate the duration that even we will be using radio waves to communicate. We began broadcasting in the early 1900's with reasonably clean and large signal levels many years later. As I write this, we are seeing the end of the radio era. Ham radio is a dying hobby. Shortwave radio, once teeming with interesting stations, is now a desert of sporadic third world, communist, and religious radio broadcasts. Over the air TV broadcasting is giving way to cable and satellite, and over the air communications techniques are increasingly low-powered and local (e.g. wifi) and/or spread spectrum, which are all basically undetectable far from earth. In summary, our period of useful radio transmissions is about 50 years. Assuming (and this is a BIG assumption) that our neighboring ET friends also have a 50-year window of radio technology, we can use this and a form of Drake's equation to estimate our odds.

The Drake equation is:

N=R*•fp•ne•fl•fi•fc•L , where:

  • N is the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy with which we might expect to be able to communicate
  • R* is the rate of star formation in our galaxy (or, number of stars per age of the galaxy)
  • fp is the fraction of those stars which have planets
  • ne is average number of planets which can potentially support life per star that has planets
  • fl is the fraction of the above which actually go on to develop life
  • fi is the fraction of the above which actually go on to develop intelligent life
  • fc is the fraction of the above which are willing and able to communicate
  • L is the expected lifetime of such a civilization.
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