It’s all in the deltas

UD notes the death of Frank Drake, father of the Drake Equation estimating likely planets for intelligent life.

Drake was working at the Green Bank Radio Telescope during the early days of radio astronomy, in the late 1950s, when he was inspired by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison’s famous 1959 paper in Nature about using radio transmissions at 21cm wavelength to communicate across interstellar distances. Encouraged by the director of Green Bank, Otto Struve, Drake conducted the first ever radio SETI search in April 1960. Called Project Ozma, the search utilised the 26-metre dish at Green Bank to scan two nearby stars, epsilon Eridani and tau Ceti, for extraterrestrial radio transmissions.

Well, it wasn’t the first scientific search or the first radio search.

Astronomers had been watching the moon and Mars for centuries, often seeing enticing signal-like light patterns on the moon.

The Navy started officially sending and receiving in the 1920s. The official search really ended when they built giant in-ground antennas. Using an immovable antenna means that you know where the target is. Or else it means that you’re just faking the search.

= = = = = START REPRINT:

Yet another apparent “signal” from outer space, this time through China’s shiny new radio telescope. To their credit, the Chinese scientists are realistic:

“These are several narrow-band electromagnetic signals different from the past, and the team is currently working on further investigation,” Zhang Tongjie, head scientist at the China Extraterrestrial Civilization Research Group at Beijing Normal University, told the Science and Technology Daily. “The possibility that the suspicious signal is some kind of radio interference is also very high, and it needs to be further confirmed and ruled out. This may be a long process.”

There’s a long record of misinterpreted “alien” signals, starting with Marconi. Most of them were inductively coupled from telegraph or telephone lines, mistakenly seen as coming from a distant source.

The intrinsic fault with these huge in-ground reflectors is that they can’t move. Optical telescopes and radio direction-finders have always been turnable to seek the best focus on a signal.

Our first radar was turnable and portable. The German direction-finder for spies and dissidents was turnable and portable.

An in-ground reflector can be focused to some extent by moving the detector array around, but it must rely on the earth’s rotation to face different directions. An active signal will be coming from one place. Whether it’s Morse-like or audio-like, you have no chance of reading it when you can only face it once per day.

An ideal detector array would be out beyond Earth’s orbit. A dozen detector satellites would be orbiting the sun in a variety of planes, each capable of turning to hold its focus on a likely signal.

Addendum after reading more: Earlier interesting receptions, from Marconi through the 1950s, counted as possible signals because they seemed to be Morse-like or audio-like. Recent receptions are NOT signals. The researchers find these emissions interesting because they’re narrow-band spectral peaks in a STEADY wave. A steady wave is not a SIGNAL. It’s not an attempt to convey intelligence or information. Lots of things in the universe emit light or electromagnetic waves, and some of them have a resonant peak, or may have been ‘tuned’ by passing through huge dust clouds that absorb and refract frequencies selectively. A rainbow is not a signal.  A rainbow comes and goes because the sun enters the correct refraction angle and then leaves the angle.  Still not a signal, just an artifact of a periodic rotation.

This is not a signal:

This might be a signal:

= = = = = END REPRINT.

We need more art, not more science.

These scientists don’t know what a signal is. They think a steady beam on one frequency is a signal, and they think a steady regular pulsing is a signal. A real musician or a real poet (if any still exist) would have a better chance of recognizing the semi-regular patterns that carry meaning. Real music and real poetry and real speech have several layers of semi-regular rhythm creating a predictive pattern in the cerebellum. Meaning strikes when a note or word departs from the predictive pattern. It’s all in the deltas.

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