I got to talking with my buddy Josh last week about SETI (The search for extraterrestrial intelligence) and how they use radio telescopes to scan the sky for transmissions from other intelligent civilizations.
I happen to be a fan of SETI and feel they should definitely get the funding they deserve to continue their research. It’s pretty sad that they lost their government funding in my opinion. But maybe they are better off for it in the long run.
Anyway. SETI has started studying light transmissions on top of radio transmissions now. This is pretty smart in my opinion. I’ve always felt that radio alone is a pretty poor mechanism for interstellar communication. I mean the universe is huge and should there be other civilizations out there within earshot, who is to say where they are on the technological scale.
We humans existed on this planet as fairly intelligent beings for tens of thousands of years before ever getting radios or radio telescopes. If you think about it, radios came along pretty quickly once electricity was discovered and technology really started progressing. Who is to say that 200 years from now (a relatively short time in the span of this planet) that we will still regularly be using radio technology.
So what am I really saying here? Well, just that there could easily be civilizations out there that are intelligent and just haven’t gotten to radio yet. They could still be ten thousand years away from such a thing. Or they could be a thousand years ahead of such a technology and using something like quantum communications instead. For all we know the universe could be filled with signals coming from everywhere and we just don’t have the technology to know about it yet because it’s not radio or light.
But as Josh pointed out, that’s all we have right now. To this extent I agree with him. We shouldn’t give up radio astronomy simply because it might not be the right kind of signals. We don’t know that and we don’t have anything else to use anyway. So something is better than nothing.