Interstellar Communication: A Collection of Reprints and Original Contributions

Interstellar Communication: A Collection of Reprints and Original Contributions

Interstellar Communication: A Collection of Reprints and Original Contributions

Interstellar Communication: A Collection of Reprints and Original Contributions

Excerpt

A. G. W. Cameron

This book is a scientific anthology in which are reprinted some of the more important articles that have dealt with what is currently the greatest question in scientific philosophy. This question can be asked in the form, "How many technologically advanced societies exist in our galaxy and how can we communicate with them?" Or we could simply say, "Where is everybody?"

Only a few years ago we tended to think that we were unique in the universe. The solar system was thought to have resulted from a close passage of two stars: an exceedingly rare event. But more recently we have tended to think that the formation of planetary systems is a usual event accompanying star formation. We have also begun to think that the spontaneous generation of life is a natural and normal occurrence on a primitive planet if the composition is earth-like and the temperature reasonable. Hence we are now completing the Copernican intellectual revolution and admitting the probability not only that we are not unique in the universe but that there may be millions of societies more advanced than ourselves in our galaxy alone. If we can now take the next step and communicate with some of these societies, then we can expect to obtain an enormous enrichment of all phases of our sciences and arts. Perhaps we shall also receive valuable lessons in the techniques of stable world government.

Harlow Shapley set the stage for our discussions in his book Of Stars and Men. In attempting to answer the question, "Are we alone?", he suggested that we take an overly cautious view of the probabilities of life in the universe and do some simple computations. Suppose one star in a thousand has planets. Suppose only one in a thousand of these planetary systems has a planet suitably placed with a favorable temperature to support life. Let us further suppose that only one in a thousand of these is big enough to hold an atmosphere. Let us further . . .

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