Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagFrank Drake

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Alien creature has a message for humans. Grey kind humanoid from an other planet portrait series.

Breakthrough Team Proposes Caution in Messaging Extraterrestrials

Carl Sagan had warned about making oblivious assumptions about exactly what’s out there

At Universe Today, science writer Matt Williams tosses another hypothesis into the ring as to why we don’t see ET: Maybe, universally, everyone is listening but no one is broadcasting. Or few are, anyway. Now why might that be? He outlines a distinction between two different approaches to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (ET): SETI and METI Most efforts to date have been SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) where we are looking for them. That encompasses projects like Cornell Astronomer Frank Drake’s pioneer Project Ozma (1960) and the current Allen Telescope Array. More projects now, Williams says, are METI (Messaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). We could include in that group the three-word Soviet Morse Message (“peace,” “Lenin,” and “SSSR,” radioed into space…

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Full moon in a black night sky

Sixty Billion Stars. And No Aliens? What Now?

Are we approaching a crisis of faith in ET?

At Universe Today, Matt Williams asks if it is time to update the Drake Equation, by which you could settle — in your own mind — how likely the aliens are. It began to be developed nearly sixty years ago at a conference at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. And everyone took for granted that we would be hearing from the aliens soon. That was the basis of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) — keeping the hope alive. Rather than being an actual means for quantifying the number of intelligent species in our galaxy, the purpose of the equation was meant to frame the discussion on SETI. In addition to encapsulating the challenges facing scientists,…

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Young girl playing with dolphin in Xel-ha park, Rivera Maya, Mexico

The Surprising Role Dolphins Have Played in the Search for ET

Dolphins, with their apparent alien intelligence, have been seen by scientists interested in ET as a stand-in

In a recent essay, Thomas Moynihan, a researcher with Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, puts the explosion of interest in dolphin intelligence in context: It began during the Space Race (1957–1998) — which helped fuel and fund the search for extraterrestrial intelligences. Its development also coincided withe Cold War (1946–1991) between the US and the USSR. In 1961, amid the growing tensions, neuroscientist John C. Lilly claimed that he had made contact with the first “alien” intelligence. But, as Moynihan says, Lilly “wasn’t talking about little green men from Tau Ceti, he was talking of minds much closer to home: bottlenose dolphins.” Why dolphins? As Moynihan recounts, from ancient times, mariners knew that dolphins were intelligent and modern zoologists like…

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The region 30 Doradus lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.

Maybe There Are Just Very Few Aliens Out There…

The Rare Earth hypothesis offers science-based reasons that life in the universe is rare

Recently, science and science fiction writer Matt Williams has been writing a series at Universe Today on why extraterrestrial intelligences never make contact with us. Last week, we looked at the hypothesis that, to avoid the heat destruction of their advanced technology, the aliens have put themselves into a digital slumber until the universe cools down. This week, let’s look at a quite different approach, which Williams outlines in “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” IV: What is the Rare Earth Hypothesis?” (July 29, 2020): That is “the possibility that life-bearing planets like Earth are just very rare.” We don’t see aliens because they are very uncommon: This is what is popularly known as the “Rare Earth Hypothesis,” which argues that the emergence…

Bottlenose Dolphin NASA public domain

Dolphinese: The Idea That Animals Think As We Do Dies Hard

But first it can lead us down strange paths
Down one of them, some researchers met a dolphin. Unfortunately for the dolphin. Read More ›