How to search for alien life without SETI

Look Ma, no SETI. 10 other ways to search for intelligent life in the Universe. (Via Sarah Zielinski)


  1. Some of those suggestions made me feel a bit too much like I was sitting in on a script meeting for the fourth Indiana Jones movie.

  2. The real thing to note is that the more plausible of these (4, and 5) are things we can with the James Webb Telescope and are almost impossible without it. But Congress is trying to cancel Webb. Without the James Webb Telescope the US will have essentially no substantial orbital astronomy to replace Hubble and Spitzer when they die (and neither is going to last for that much longer). We need the James Webb Telescope. 

  3. Certainly some of those options could be good, but some of them just sound like someone thinking out loud, rather than an actual idea, such as “look for a propulsion signature”. Uh, what kind? And how?

    Besides, SETI is not looking only for directed signals, but for non-intentional radio communication as well. While neutrinos might be a good way to send signals – how can we effectively seek a signal that we ourselves cannot make and don’t use? Radio is a very likely communication method for any intelligent species, at least for a portion of their technological lifecycle.

    We should be using a variety of means to search for life, but SETI is (should be) a core part of that search.

  4. “2 ) Look for huge alien structures: When people bring this one up, the best example is always the Dyson sphere, a hypothetical structure that a civilization would build around an entire star to capture all of its energy.”

    I had this idea.  The idea to build such a thing, not to look for one.

  5. Unique gravitational wave signatures resulting from exotic physics experiments.  I always hear how the LHC is creating conditions that haven’t existed since before inflation… if we detect such a signature even without direction or location, it might suggest we’re not alone, like a fleeting voice on a shortwave.

    Anyway, I think dark matter is Dyson spheres.  And dark energy is Horton exhaling.  ;-)

    Oh, and don’t forget to look for messages left by the prior iteration of the universe, as in Excision, or Contact.  

    (edit- Excession. Though Excision would make a nice title for a sequel.)

    1. None of our current experiments will create gravity ways in any substantial fashion. I’m not a physicist but I can’t see any obvious way anything like the LHC would do that sort of thing. 

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