Re: "Web-mediated SETI": Robert Bradbury Replies

Robert J. Bradbury (
Fri, 29 Oct 1999 22:15:19 -0700 (PDT)

On Fri, 29 Oct 1999, Robert Owen, provided a letter from Claud Bauer and Allen Tough's response:

> > The simple answer is, "Yes, 60 of them". Check out their credentials at
> >

Since I'm on Allen's list it is worth clarifying my position.

I base my position on the following:
(a) Drake's articles on what happens if ETI beings evolve relative

(b) Papers by by Michael D. Papagiannis (first president

      of IAU commission 51) and papers by and discussions with
      Robert Freitas (author of Xenology, NASA's "Advanced Automation
      for Space Missions" study and "Nanomedicine").  Both individuals
      (and others) have suggested that they could be "here" and we
      haven't seriously looked for them and in some cases don't
      even *have* the technology required to look for them.
  (c) My own careful review of several hundred articles of the SETI
      "body of knowledge" where I find it clear that the Russians
      have a much better idea of how to look for advanced civilizations
      (presumably due to Academician Kardashev's influence) compared
      with most western scientists (who are stuck in a 4 decades old
      thought pattern).

Since I believe that (a) is inevitable for advanced civilizations and (b) is certainly true, and I'm finding more and more astronomical evidence in favor of the Russian perspective (c), I have absolutely no problem with the concept of "THE ARRAY OF SEARCH STRATEGIES, "Web-mediated SETI"

Now with regard to Claude Bauer's response:

> > >Are there really scientists who believe that ET monitors the Web
> > >and would respond to an invitation posted there? Frankly, I find that a
> > >little bizarre...

Not only is it possible for ET to monitor the Web, but it is possible for ET to monitor everything that is said, communicated and probably done on the planet. I'd probably give better than even odds that they could also probably monitor everything that is *thought*. Anyone who *doubts* that is *illiterate* with regard to the capabilities of nanotechnology and should go read "Engines of Creation" and "Nanomedicine" (for starters).

Now, whether they would respond to an invitation posted on the web, I don't know. At least it shows that we are up to the level of recognizing their potential (which ~15 years ago we certainly were incapable of).

What *I* find *bizarre* is the millions of dollars and hundreds of millions of computer hours that are going to waste searching for *radio* signals from ET where the odds are 1 in 10,000,000 (i.e. 10^-7) [1] of a civilization being in a stage where we would overhear or would transmit such signals to us.

But there again, millions of people play the lottery with worse odds so what can you say.


1. The odds of a civilization being in a communicative "mode"

(the L parameter of the classical Drake equation) is the length of time between the discovery of radio and the full-scale development of nanotechnology (where you would cease energy wasting radio-transmissions to anyone except specific entities that you would know the location of and want to communicate with). In our civilization it appears that that period is ~150 years (10^2). That must be divided by the age of the universe (or the age of the universe in which ETC could exist). Looking at our evolution alone, that would be 150 / ~7*10^9 years (assuming the universe is 12 billion years old and it takes 5 billion years to evolve intelligence). That give ~2 x 10^-8, so I'm being conservative. The odds of a civilization being at that stage within a few hundred or even a few thousand light years of us are *very* low (multiply by the ratio between the cubic volume of 1000 ly^3 and the volume of our galaxy). The distance limitation has to do with the power involved in non-intentional (evesdropped) signals vs. intentional signals. Any civilization with the ability to devote significant power to directional, intentional signals (> 10^6 W) on a continual basis will also have the observational capacity to know to whom it is directing those signals. Civilizations don't waste power on those not worth communciating with, and unfortunately we probably fall into that category. Of course, if they are already here, then the power costs are minimized and contact may be feasible.