Posted on Saturday, May 10, 2014
By Kadri

Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, edited by Douglas A. Vakoch
Rating: 8/10

Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence covers some of the fascinating topics and problems that were discussed at the fourth biennial NASA's Astrobiology Science Conference in 2010.

This voluminous collection gives an interesting insight into SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) research from various angles, starting from passive SETI – listening to ET in radio or other wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, to discussions on whether or not humankind should or even could engage in active SETI – send out messages for other civilizations to find, and how it could be done.

SETI research has been going on for over fifty years, and it was interesting to read about how scientists from other countries like Japan or Italy are taking steps towards SETI – the SAZANKA project in Japan being especially curious because of the large count of observatories that were engaged in observations at the same time, although no signals from ETI were received.

Some other interesting chapters include one where the reader can find out how an advanced civilization might be found because of using solar energy and having large surface areas under solar cells, as it can make the planet, that might be visible in infrared wavelengths, appear to change in brightness, as normally solar cells don't absorb infrared light, but instead reflect it.

In addition of-course there are several chapters about sending messages to ETI and the pessimistic and optimistic views about whether or not we should send messages, as it might be dangerous if the Extraterrestrials are nearby and violently minded and likely to come and destroy humankind; but if their far away then there might be no bad outcomes, but we might never receive an answer to the message – which also means that the content of the message is very important, as it might be the last sign of human civilization in space. Should it be the whole human knowledge about the Universe? Or should it be “Hello from Earth, we're peaceful.”? One can read about what kind of messages to the stars have been sent out this far, when and with what content, and are those likely to be detected.

But the content isn't the only important part, as the way how the message can be sent has implications for how much information can be transmitted. Would there even be civilizations capable of continuously letting other star-systems know of their existence and might it even be economically possible?

This book will certainly give a more rounded impression of some of the areas of research and philosophy of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, together with more technical details and overviews.

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