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"The search for extraterrestrials does not require equipment and a budget of tens of millions of dollars"

This is what Paul Schoch, founder and CEO of the SETI League, says in an interview with the scientist website, an association that searches for radio signals from aliens by scanning the skies using amateur equipment. Shuch chaired a session that dealt with the search for intelligent life in space as part of the IAC Congress that took place in Jerusalem last week

Paul Schoch, founder of the SETI League. Archive image.
Paul Schoch, founder of the SETI League. Archive image.

"The search for aliens does not require equipment and a budget of tens of millions of dollars." This is what Paul Schoch, founder and CEO of the SETI League, an association that searches for radio signals from aliens by scanning the skies using amateur equipment, says in an interview with the Hidan website. Shoch chaired a session that dealt with the search for intelligent life in space as part of the IAC Congress held in Jerusalem last week.

"First of all, SETI is not the name of an organization but a scientific field, it's like chemistry or biology are not the names of certain organizations. SETI science brings together a variety of methods to detect the electromagnetic signature of extraterrestrial civilizations. "
"The most recognized body in the field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the SETI Institute in California. The SETI Institute is a sort of continuation of NASA's SETI Office which was closed. In the early 12s, NASA established a modest office of SETI activities at NASA's Ames Space Center in Mountain View, California. On October 1992, XNUMX, they began a search project that was planned to last ten years and which was funded by the government, as part of the NASA budget. The goal was to locate radio signals from intelligent civilizations."
"Just one year later, the US government stopped funding the project. I especially remember the speech of Congressman Richard Bryan from Nevada, before Congress: "You have been looking for a whole year, you have spent millions of dollars, and not a single little green man has come and asked to be brought to your leader . It proved, according to O'Brien, that there was no one out there. He is wrong. What he proved is something we suspected for a long time - that there is no intelligent life in Washington. "

"Following the closing of NASA's SETI office, its employees opened a donation-funded non-profit - the SETI Institute, which took it upon itself to continue the activities of NASA's SETI program. But in fact he continued only half of it. NASA's plan included a search for radio signals from intelligent civilizations: a survey of the entire sky, and focused listening. The focused listening was done using two of the world's largest radio telescopes Arecibo and Goldstone, which are highly sensitive. They are able to track a specific star and listen to the transmissions emanating from it (mostly natural emissions in the radio field). They had a catalog of the thousand sun-like stars that are closest to us and that have a chance of having Earth-like planets.”

Does that sound like a very small number?
Shoch: "If the guess is wrong, it does not mean that there is no life in the universe. A thousand stars is nothing compared to the 400 billion stars in our galaxy which is one of a hundred billion galaxies, so if you were looking at a thousand stars, you've actually covered zero percent of the sky. Realizing that putting all the resources on a thousand stars is a high investment, NASA's ST office activated a component of scanning the whole sky. When scanning the entire sky, there is no need to point the telescope in a certain direction. It is possible to direct antennas with wide reception and cover the whole sky systematically over time."
"In this way we will be able to get on the signals of such an advanced culture whose signals are so strong that we can receive them even with modest radio telescopes. Using these two complementary methods, NASA estimated that within a decade it would be able to record success.”
"In 1994, the STi Institute, made up of former NASA office personnel, renewed the focused search among the thousand stars. At the same time, another organization was established by me and my friends, and I had the honor of being its founder and CEO - SETI League and our mission is to take over the execution of the survey of the whole sky. We had an asset that NASA radio amateurs and microwave experts all over the world didn't have. Thousands of people started working together on the voluntary searches and communicated with each other through the then new medium - the Internet. This way they could do collaborative science using small radio telescopes. My job as a microwave engineer was to design these radio telescopes, build a prototype and publish the plans. We have encouraged many people around the world to build these systems. It's an inexpensive solution. The project was actually a continuation of the Argos project at NASA's SETI office, named after the monster from Greek mythology that had a hundred eyes, fifty of which were pointed in every direction at once. Mythology says that when Argos died, the gods took his poor and transferred them to the tail of a peacock. In our case when Argos died, his eyes were passed on to hundreds of passionate radio enthusiasts all over the world. And they began looking for a coordinated search from different areas around the world for the elusive signals. We are in the STI League without any budget, we have reached the same success rate as the well funded STI Institute. In other words, we also did not find any sign of intelligent civilizations in space."


What is the cumulative viewing time and how many telescopes are viewing the sky at any given moment?
"Currently, in the Argos network we have about a hundred active telescopes at any given moment (as mentioned, these are small telescopes of AB hobbyists). This is a much smaller number than is needed to perform a reasonable job. Our dream is to scan the entire sky continuously in real time. About 4,000 devices operating simultaneously are required. This critical mass has never been achieved. Although these are cheap systems, 3,000-4,000 euros per device. Still there is an incremental cost. Multiply 4,000 devices by 3-4 thousand euros and you will arrive at a respectable amount. Among our operators are radio amateurs, microwave experts, signal processing experts. Although we have achieved much less than we thought, but still, this is the largest radio telescope observation project of all the other projects in the world combined. "
"At least we can be satisfied with one important scientific achievement - we proved that extraterrestrial intelligence is not widespread because otherwise we would already have encountered its signs in life as we know it, at least technological life is not as widespread as we thought. "
Shoch who participated in a special session that dealt with the search for extraterrestrial intelligences and which also included lectures dealing with the question of how long the life of a civilization lasts, while examining the ancient dominant cultures on Earth, and especially ancient Rome which collapsed after a thousand years. The conclusion was that every empire eventually collapses, therefore even if we discover signals from a culture tens of thousands of light years away, most likely it no longer exists.
Schoch disagrees with the claim of Prof. Stephen Hawking who fears the effect of discovering such a transmitter on our culture - which will be similar to the meeting of Cortez, the representative of the Spanish conquest with the Native Americans in the 16th century which ended badly for the Native Americans. "In the case of the Spaniards, we are talking about a physical meeting. I do not believe that receiving radio signals without physical contact, which is impossible due to the vast distances and low speeds at which it is possible to physically move in the universe, will not have such an effect."
"If we discover the signals, we will at most know that we are not alone, and if we do not discover such signals, then already in the search so far, celestial phenomena such as quasars and pulsars have been discovered, and they have made an important contribution to science."


  1. Moshe, learn - on this site it is forbidden to say things that contradict the opinion of some compulsive commenters whose names we shall not mention.

  2. Moses
    Your sweeping statement teaches something about you. You are not a great sage and you probably won't be either soon or in the future

  3. In my opinion... we are alone.
    (Despite the infinite amount of galaxies, stars and everything else)

  4. Regarding Hawking's claim: perhaps receiving the transmitter will not create a problem, but transmitting messages to extraterrestrials (SETI has done this in the past) it is not clear what they are trying to achieve with this

  5. The whole search for signs of life on other planets is ridiculous and impractical.
    Could astronomers in the 17th century have been able to pick up signs of life from the Earth of 2015?
    of course not. Because they didn't know about radio.
    The thought that a civilization more advanced than us uses inefficient radio transmissions as communication is ridiculous. Already today, only 150 years after the invention of the first radio device, we are moving to a different form of communication while using electromagnetic radiation.
    Who said that 100 years from now we won't switch to using neutrinos, or gravitational waves, or radiation that you don't even know about?
    The chance that we will find life exactly, but exactly at the level of our one-to-one reduction, or that exactly when we point our radio receivers into space, a broadcast will reach us precisely on the radio - ridiculous and presumptuous.

  6. Paul Schoch is right - they should have started by checking the information that has accumulated over the past decades here and not by ignoring it and the scientific (and official) studies that have been done... there is no logical reason to search for radio waves and support an entire organization, whose entire contribution to the world is embodied in a screensaver....

    Hanan Sabat
    The Israeli association for the study of UFOs and extraterrestrial life

  7. What is particularly interesting was the dominant conception that held for so long and that is that there is no life outside the earth, even though already 100 years ago and more they knew how huge and unfathomable the universe is, which has millions of galaxies. Apparently the simple and basic conclusion should have been the opposite - if there is life in our solar system and there are countless solar systems in countless galaxies - then the universe is infested with life!!
    It is interesting that most of humanity seems to have jumped some kind of phase: now there is almost universal agreement that there is life outside the earth. Now the main debate is whether there is intelligent life. According to this way of thinking, it is clear that there is intelligent life, only that it is difficult to locate them because they may be using communication methods that we have not even thought of yet.

  8. When I heard about their project, I was particularly enthusiastic about the possibility of running an application on the PC that is analyzing
    Part of the huge amount of information they collect I will contribute to human knowledge to science,
    It seemed to me at the time that the negative attitude towards this project originated
    In a lack of scientific understanding of the importance of such a discovery, during the time I ran the application that looked pretty cool
    Gives you the feeling that in a moment you will be the one to discover the first letter from ET and all this while it is happening
    Performs everything automatically, I delved into what they do and from their websites I understood correctly at least at the time
    that the ability to inhibit the sensitivity of the detection devices even in the terrible plate in Puerto Rico will not be able to detect the electromagnetic aura that is created around a planet such as the Earth
    Even from a distance of about 4 light years which is the closest star to us which means that if there is no direct transmission in our direction
    We won't be able to receive this signal from anywhere, so it lowers the chance to close to zero, not out of knowledge, I thought that with the sensitivity of the devices they cover considerable parts of our galaxy otherwise why try at all,
    A direct broadcast aimed at us at the time could be received from a distance of about 1000 light years, this too according to the data from their website, but why would something send an electromagnetic signal to some random planet in a galaxy that has only been around for the last 200 years
    began emitting electromagnetic waves of unnatural origin from the moment the intelligent primates started playing with electricity, I recently read various articles that showed that today there is a detection capability for much greater distances
    I didn't delve deeper and I don't know the distance they are currently able to receive an electromagnetic aura that is not a direct transmission,
    Because it is clear that the distance of our electromagnetic disturbance is less than 200 light years so there is no reason for anything
    From a distance of over 200 light years to send us a targeted signal, these if very boring to him.

  9. Even if they find it, they will not publish it, because it will be a huge technological, economic and military advantage for those who surpass the broadcasts.
    They would prefer to keep it a secret and keep quiet.

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