Finding frugal aliens: ‘Benford beacons’ concept could refocus search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life
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But the effort has so far proved fruitless, and the scientific community driving the SETI project has begun questioning its methodology, which entails listening to specific nearby stars for unusual blips or bleeps. Is there a better approach? UC Irvine astrophysicist Gregory Benford and his twin, James — a fellow physicist specializing in high-powered microwave technology — believe there is, and their ideas are garnering attention.
In two studies appearing in the June issue of the journal Astrobiology, the Benford brothers, along with James’ son Dominic, a NASA scientist, examine the perspective of a civilization sending signals into space — or, as Gregory Benford puts it, “the point of view of the guys paying the bill.”
“Our grandfather used to say, ‘Talk is cheap, but whiskey costs money,'” the physics professor says. “Whatever the life form, evolution selects for economy of resources. Broadcasting is expensive, and transmitting signals across light-years would require considerable resources.”
Assuming that an alien civilization would strive to optimize costs, limit waste and make its signaling technology more efficient, the Benfords propose that these signals would not be continuously blasted out in all directions but rather would be pulsed, narrowly directed and broadband in the 1-to-10-gigahertz range. Their concept of short, targeted blips — dubbed “Benford beacons” by the science press — has gotten extensive coverage in such publications as Astronomy Now. Well-known cosmologist Paul Davies, in his 2010 book The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, supports the theory.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
September 7, 2021 at 9:48 PM #444511HassleCatParticipant
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We thought they probably developed radio and television similar to the way we did, so we might pickup stray signals. Now we’re thinking (hoping) they might be smarter and more efficient than that, and could be sending microwave pulses toward us. Of course, they would have to know we’re here and anticipate we’re listening for them. Long odds. Very long odds.
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