SETI – Seth Shostak

     Seth Shostak with the SETI institute was Art Bells guest yesterday.  He spent basically three hours denying that they have ever received a meaningful signal.  The problem is that the SETI institutes criteria for validating a signal as being of alien origin requires that the same signal can be received not only by other stations but also a day later.  This may seem reasonable unless you understand the problem of antenna gain and relative alignment of the transmitting and receiving antennas.

     In order for a signal from a distant star system to be received here on Earth either you need to harness the entire power of a star and turn it into a radio frequency signal, or you need high gain antennas on BOTH the transmitting and receiving stations.  High gain antennas are by their nature also highly directive having a very narrow beam width.

     Now when you consider that the transmitting station is on some planet that is rotating, and it’s orbiting it’s star, and the star is orbiting the galactic center, and the galaxy is moving relative to ours, and the receiving station on our planet is rotating, and the planet is orbiting our star, and our star is orbiting the galactic center, and we’ve got that same relative motion to the distant galaxy, we’re only going to receive a signal during a chance alignment of the antennas.  The odds of that alignment recurring are virtually zero unless the transmitter is aware of our existence and intentionally aiming at us and we’re looking at the same portion of the sky.

     The protocol as it is designed would deny the alien origination of any signals that weren’t intentionally transmitted directed towards us.  I think the odds are good that SETI has in fact detected lots of real alien signals, such as the WOW signal, but dismissed it based upon their broken protocol.

     They had Steven Greer on Art Bells show a few days prior.  Steven Greer claimed that he had talked to Frank Drake at a party and Dr. Drake had told him that there were a number of alien signals detected but it had been kept secret.  Seth Shostak denied this. He said he asked Dr. Drake and Dr. Drake denied knowing who Steven Greer was.  Now it sounds like a big pissing war or cover up but I can see how Seth might have indeed met Dr. Drake, may have been sufficiently uninteresting that Dr. Drake didn’t remember him, and Dr. Drake might have said something about signals being received but they didn’t meet the protocols requirements or some such.

     There is a simple solution to the strange paranoia around the topic of SETI and that is simply to make their raw data available, unedited, in real-time so that no opportunity for editing exists, and let people do their own processing.

     I participated in the SETI at home program for a while and they used fast Fourier transforms to break the samples down into their spectral contents and look for a signal.  In the modern era of digital signal processing, much more efficient transforms have been developed that allow real time processing with much less computer power than was required by a Fourier transform.  I think if they made the raw data available in real time you’d have people writing software using newer more efficient transforms and perhaps digital signal processors that are much more efficient at chomping this type of data than regular CPUs.

     So Seth, if you’re out there and see this there is a way you can convince people you really aren’t hiding anything.  Make the raw data available in real time and let people devise their own methods of processing it.  They may tease out information that you didn’t even think to look for.

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