The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

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Eye Contacts Halloween exist or not, our fascination with them continues to drive many efforts, from the Perseverance rover collecting samples of Martian rocks to space telescopes searching for signs of life on distant exoplanets. But perhaps the most ambitious endeavor of all is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, known as SETI. It entails sending out our own signals, a message designed to attract attention from intelligent aliens. It’s also an area of research that sometimes veers into the realm of sci-fi.

For example, in the 1997 film Contact, an SETI scientist intercepts a signal from a faraway planet. She then tries to communicate with the alien civilization that sent it using radio wave signals. But how could she do that without knowing the alien language? The answer to that question is complicated, and it would be difficult even for a human with the highest level of education.

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But SETI scientists keep looking, just like your grandma always told you to, hoping that someday they’ll find the love of their lives. As part of this effort, they’ve developed ways to make a more efficient search. One suggestion involves building a giant radio telescope that could be constructed modularly. It would work a little like your smartphone, allowing scientists to add more antennas or break ground again when they didn’t get any results. The philanthropic organization Breakthrough Initiatives is planning a similar approach, with its Breakthrough Message program. But its outreach won’t start until 2020 at the earliest.

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