The search for life on other planets is ramping up, with the SETI Institute ~ the world's best-known organization dedicated to searching for alien life ~ now unveiling plans to scan a million stars over 10 billion communication channels.
And the big question is: If we do find another civilization, what do we say?
"Most conversations about this subject until now have been among academics," Douglas Vakoch, heading up the new effort at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) told the Los Angeles Times. "We want to really expand the discussion."
So far, SETI has no plans to actually send the messages into space. Vakoch said that before anything like that is undertaken, it should be subject to international discussion.
According to the LA Times:
Over the last few years, a Russian group has sent greetings in Russian and English to targeted stars in our galactic neighborhood, generating a major dust-up in the small but passionate SETI community. Critics say the Russians are acting out of turn, without asking permission to open what would amount to diplomatic relations with another civilization. The problem is that nobody has the authority to grant permission.The first serious effort to contact intelligent life outside Earth was made in 1974, using the big radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The three-minute transmission by a group at Cornell University attempted to describe Earth and its inhabitants in binary code.
Some observers say there is no need for us to broadcast a message. We're already doing that in the form of leakage into space of our radio and television signals. Those signals, however, are much too weak to travel far. A coordinated communications effort would require a powerful transmitter, a highly focused beam and a receiver pointed in the right direction.
Click here for the complete Los Angeles Times article.