SETI astronomer and astrophysicist Seth Shostak is convinced that humans will know about an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization by 2036. If he is wrong, he will buy coffee Starbucks for you, Shostak told the website The Debrief in an interview last week:
“SETI doubles in speed approximately every two years because speed depends a lot on computers. So just follow Moore’s Law, and you know, I’ll bet everyone a cup of Starbucks that we’ll find something by 2036. ”
Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and Director of the SETI Research Institute Center explained that people have a general misunderstanding of how the SET it works. The media portrays him and his colleagues as a bunch of scientists who sit with headphones on listening to the background noise of the cosmos and get excited when they hear something out of the ordinary. In reality, SETI’s huge computer network listens. As these computers become better and faster, they can hear more signals.
“We don’t sit in front of computers and look at the data. It would be like watching millions of TV channels at the same time. ”
As computers get faster, SETI can actively monitor more channels simultaneously. A universe is a big place, and as processing power becomes faster, SETI computers can see more of it. Shostak bases his prediction on Moore’s Law, a half-century theory postulated by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who assumes that a computer’s processing speed will double every two years. While some in the technology industry claim that Moore’s Law is no longer applicable due to changes in design, quantum computing and even nano-biotechnology, the theory is still generally accepted. It is responsible for the speed with which technological development has occurred in recent decades.
Shostak also pointed out that our general understanding of the cosmos has changed dramatically in recent years.
“I think the big thing that has happened in the last twenty years or more has been the discovery of exoplanets. People know that this is true. They know that we find many planets and they know that planets are common. ”
Shostak noted that there was always a general optimism that someone was out there. While there is something naturally human about not wanting to be alone, our understanding that there are many other Earth-like planets has given people an impulse to want to go further. Shostak expects 2036 to be a crucial year because SETI computers will have increased in speed and efficiency.
“It is when we will have looked at about a million star systems and it is my instinct that says that a million is the right number to find something.”
Due to the distance between Earth and other planets and star systems that may contain intelligent life, direct communication will be impossible. Since radio signals and lasers have a speed limit of just under 300,000 km / s, the light years between Earth and the source of any potential communication can mean that any signal detected can vary from a few years to thousands of years. Simply put, someone yells, ‘Hey!’ and it takes years for that ‘Hey!’ to be heard by us.
He admits that his bet is based on hope, it is literally a chance in a million, but it is based on some real science. If not, at least you will get a free coffee.