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Publisher's Summary

Tim Folger reports on a worldwide collaborative effort to search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

This article was published in the January 2011 edition of Scientific American.

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  • ©2010 Scientific American

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    • Overall
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Robert
    • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    • 02-08-11

    A little 'Seedy'

    Content is interesting and informative, but anyone familiar with SETI will be rather annoyed by the reader's pronunciation of the SETI acronym. It is grating to hear it pronounced "SEETIE" (or basically, seedy) so many times. Still, though, nice little article.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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      5 out of 5 stars

    Fascinating and well worth it!

    This is fascinating audio article that presents a behind the scenes look at how the scientific community would react if it discovered proof of alien life. This isn't based on speculation but an actual incident where, for the better part of the day, a group of astronomers believed they had discovered just such proof. *** It then goes on to discuss related issues, such as how you would confirm a signal was extraterrestrial, the likely dissent in the scientific community, how one might decipher the transmission (my favorite part), how long that might take (years?) if at all, speculation as to what that message might be, whether we should be transmitting our own messages (Stephen Hawking says it may not be safe), how far our television transmissions have traveled in the galaxy already, and so on.

    One of the more amazing comments was from an astronomer at Berkeley who has "played a leading role in the discovery of dozens of extra-solar planets"; he predicts that space based telescopes will be able to map the continents and oceans of planets in other solar systems by the end of the century. Conversely, an alien civilization with a mere 1,000 year technological head start on us would likely have far more impressive capabilities, e.g. the ability to listen to our satellite communications.

    It ends with a discussion on the Fermi Paradox (the apparent conflict between predictions that intelligent life is abundant in the galaxy/universe and the lack of evidence for such alien life).

    My only "complaint" is that it wasn't longer. (However, at 23 minutes in length, it's longer than most "half hour" TV shows, when you factor in commercials) If you're interested in astronomy and/or the search for alien life in the universe, it is very much worth the mere $1.36 (just don't use a credit!)