06 May 2011

Hat Creek SETI array offline, for now

I have mixed feelings about this story, (L.A. Times), which reports that the Allen SETI array (named for contributor and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), in Hat Creek, Calif., near Mt. Shasta, is being mothballed, at least for now, due to lack of funds. On the one hand, it's part of the overall cutback in scientific research thanks to the essentially pessimistic and negative world view that's come to prevail in our culture and politics, and that's a bad thing. But on the other hand, I have a pretty strong intuitive feeling that the way SETI is being conducted, essentially looking for a relatively nearby alien civilization that's more or less like us... is not likely to succeed in any reasonable amount of time. See this for why I think about it this way.

I have a feeling we're more likely to discover evidence of an extremely ancient and very advanced civilization at a great remove, and purely by accident, than for this kind of search to succeed.

I would support modest investment in continuing this project, especially since the hardware is there and there is enough interest among professionals in the field to maintain the effort, but, to tell the truth, I would be truly astounded if they were to succeed in my lifetime.

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