Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hold the Phone - Aliens Might Not Call Back for 1,500 Years

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hold the Phone - Aliens Might Not Call Back for 1,500 Years

Article excerpt

So much for UFOs. Extraterrestrial life might be out there, according to scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., but it is unlikely that our cosmic neighbors will get in touch for at least 1,500 years.

We shouldn't be worrying about how long we wait, say the scientists behind a new paper, "A Probabilistic Analysis of the Fermi Paradox." Chances are that any "messages" the Earth has sent out into the universe in the form of TV or radio signals have likely only reached a tiny fraction of the universe: 0.125 percent of the Milky Way Galaxy, to be precise.

Experts dispute when the first television or radio broadcast strong enough to make it into outer space was broadcasted, with some arguing that the first representation that extraterrestrial beings might have of life on Earth could be the face of Hitler during the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, says Steve Shostak of SETI.

Regardless, humans have been sending out high frequency radio waves since at least Word War II. So if there's something out there, why hasn't it picked up the (metaphorical) phone by now?

"In the case of the Earth, the argument here is, they need to know we're here," Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) who is unaffiliated with the Cornell project, tells The Christian Science Monitor. "How long have we been sending signals into space? If they're more than 70 light years away from Earth, they don't know that there's some sort of intelligent species there."

One of the paper's authors, Cornell undergraduate Evan Solomonides, presented his research yesterday at the American Astronomical Society's meeting in San Diego, Calif. Mr. Solomonides co-authored the paper with Yervant Terzian, Cornell's Tisch Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy.

Mr. Solomonides was inspired to examine the question of "why haven't we heard back yet" during a class taught by Dr. Terzian at Cornell. He performed a statistical evaluation based on two separate ideas, the Fermi Paradox and the Mediocrity Principle, to come to his 1,500 year prediction. …

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