Watching And Waiting, For A Friend To Play With

Perhaps ETs Are Moody As Well As Blue

Please Phone!

Please Phone!

For nearly 50 years, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI, has been going on. Since 1984 the SETI Institute has been conducting the search in an organized manner, examining the radio region of the electro-magnetic spectrum for evidence of artificially produced signals. The results have, unfortunately (or fortunately, in the opinion of some), amounted to nothing. So far.

But why, you may ask, have they chosen to search using radio? There’s an intelligent answer to that question. Radio, you see, is a relatively cheap, efficient and easy way to communicate across vast distances. After all, even we can do it. So it makes sense that anyone out there who actually wants to communicate with us will use radio (more precisely, the radio region of the spectrum) to do it.  But the nagging question remains: what if ET prefers other parts of this vast spectrum, or some other, completely different technology?  Are we using radio just because it’s all we know?

“No, officer. I didn’t lose my keys over here. I lost them over there, by the bushes.”

“So why are you looking here, sir, by the lamp post?”

“Because that’s where the light is, officer.”

If ET prefers to use some other means of communication then it would be a lot harder for us to detect him if we go on looking at the narrow radio portion of the electro-magnetic spectrum.  Is there a better way?  The folks at WETI think there is. Think of when you’ve tried to re-unite with someone that you’ve lost in a crowd.

When you’ve lost a companion in a large crowd, the best strategy is not to run around looking for the other person, but to remain in place and wait for them to find you. It would be outlandishly foolish to give up one’s own known position to reach the unknown position of another person, who might have wandered off from that position already anyway. And since, in a philosophical sense, both humans and extraterrestrials are lost in a huge and very empty crowd called outer space, the very same logic applies there.

??? Hey – wait! Just what is it that they propose we do? The answer is, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The WETI Institute has chosen an entirely novel approach to achieve that goal. Instead of actively searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, the idea is to simply WAIT – until the others find us.

That seems easy enough to do. Effortless. In fact, they already have an Effortless Action Committee that you, too, can join.  Soon you will even be able to download the WETI@HOME software, which according to their web-site, efficiently waits in background, doing absolutely nothing but waiting, efficiently.  It uses almost no resources, and doesn’t even connect to the network. It doesn’t need to because we’d do just as well waiting for aliens that use some sort of “Universal Hacking Tool” to efficiently interface with the WETI@HOME application anyway.  It’s like looking for the keys where the light isn’t, you see.

Thanks to Nancy Atkinson at Universe Today for this bit of comic relief.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, post-modernism, Space

2 Comments on “Watching And Waiting, For A Friend To Play With”

  1. Becky Says:

    “When you’ve lost a companion in a large crowd, the best strategy is not to run around looking for the other person, but to remain in place and wait for them to find you.”

    And if both parties stay in place, they’ll never find each other. Maybe just as well, but not as interesting.

  2. joe Says:

    Ah yes! This strategy clearly fails the “What if everybody did that?” rule.
    Good observation, Becky! Thankx.

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