May 17th, 2009
The SETI project, acronym for “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence”, has been scoping out the universe for signs of alien life since the 1960’s.
Normally, they try to track radio waves from distant points in the universe to see if there is any clear distinguishable communication happening.
Ragbir Bhathal is an astrophysicist from the University of Western Sydney and member of SETI. He has been searching for alien life for over 20 years, but not by scanning the cosmos for traditional radio waves, but instead for laser pulses.
He theorized that the likely form of communication of advanced alien life forms would be these laser bursts. These bursts could be easily distinguished from background noise, because the signal would likely be in a repeated, non-random pattern if there was a sender on the other end.
And he has found one such signal.
While he’s quick not to jump to conclusions on the matter, it’s certainly an exciting discovery. Until now, SETI has not found much evidence of anything. In the 1970’s they discovered a short blip of radio wave (dubbed the Wow Signal because of the discoverer’s comment on the printout).
That discovery, which until now was the most likely candidate for extraterrestrial life, pales in comparison to Bhathal’s discovery.
Bhathal’s discovery appears to be a regular-patterned laser pulse emanating from space. Of course, as per the scientific method, his discovery will be under complete scrutiny and review by his peers.
This swings the door open for the question: “What will happen when SETI discovers definitive proof of alien life?”. Because the discovery of alien life would practically nullify our world’s religions, it would probably be denied outright– no matter how conclusive the evidence was.
Unless of course God just happened to forget to tell the prophets about his other experiments that he has running on other planets! This is all hypothetical of course, but it’s an interesting question.
If the discovery of alien life became an accepted notion, I imagine that nihilistic chaos would probably break out after the period of denial.
Either way, if they are able to find the signal again and reproduce it, this will be an exciting time for human history. Of course, interstellar communication is not very feasible, as these signals would have been sent millions of years ago. In order for two alien civilizations to effectively communicate, they need to exist not only at a similar point in space, but also in time. We may not have found proof of the aliens yet, but with 100 billion galaxies, each containing up to trillions of stars, it’s not exactly a far-fetched notion