Thursday, November 22, 2012

"...If There Were Intelligent Life Up There...."

Ant:  We've searched dozens of these floor tiles for several common types of pheromone trails. If there were intelligent life up there, we would have seen its messages by now. (The world's first ant colony to achieve sentience calls off the search for us.)
(from XKCD, used w/o permission)

SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, almost always assumes that space aliens will use radio for communications.

It makes sense, sort of. People on Earth use radio for most long distance communications. Now.

Let's take a step back and look at people on Earth, technology, and time:
  • 3,390,000 years ago - first (known) tool use
  • 1,000,000 years ago - first (known) use of fire
  • 151 years ago - Maxwell starts experimenting with electromagnetic waves
    • Including radio waves
Granted, people who used fire 1,000,000 years ago didn't look quite like the British Royal family: but folks who use tools and fire are, arguably, people. Even if they're obviously not British.

People have been using radio for a very long time, by American standards. Looking at the big picture, though? We've used radio for 151/1,000,000 the length of time we've been using fire.

1,000,000 years from now?

It took humans about
  • 1,000,000 years to go
    • From using fire
    • To discovering radio waves
  • 150 years to go
    • From knowing how radio waves work
    • To competition between cable and satellite television services
Maybe humans have stopped developing new technology.

Maybe there simply isn't anything about the universe that the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, CERN, and IISc, don't already know.

Then again, maybe not.

Vaguely related posts about people:

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