The Mountain View-based organization that has been scanning the skies for signs of alien life for more than 25 years is now searching for funding to continue its mission. Cutbacks in state and federal funding have forced the SETI Institute to shut down its Allen Telescope Array of dishes. However, scientists say they’ve been forced to turn off their electronic ears just when they’ve identified a number of planets that could harbor life. We discuss SETI and its importance.

Guests:
Andrew Fraknoi, chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College
Tom Pierson, CEO and co-founder of the SETI Institute

  • Chrisco

    Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody out there? Hello? Is there anybody in there. Just nod if you can hear me….

  • Chrisco

    I should follow-up my previous comment with that Floydian trope: Pink Floyd, Still First in Space.

  • Lee Thé

    The odds against SETI succeeding are infinitesimal, but the reward for its being successful would be of such enormity that it’s well worth continuing the project indefinitely.

    The more we learn about the universe and life, the more certain we can be that other civilizations are out there–and the more rare we know they’re likely to be. So the glass keeps getting fuller and emptier all the time.

    The odds are terrible for the reasons set forth in the book “Rare Earth.” If civilization needs a roughly Earth-sized planet with a Moon-sized moon in the liquid water zone around a stable star (G-H-K), not too near the hard radiation zone of the galactic core–then even if advanced civilizations always arose under such conditions, they could still be so few and far between that the nearest such civilization might be 100s of light years from here, precluding anything but intergenerational communication at best.

    BTW we need that moon to stabilize Earth on its axis–otherwise it would periodically roll over with one pole facing the Sun, and the resulting weather would destroy pretty much any life on Earth above bacteria.

  • David Corby

    SETI is the whole reason that I am going to school to earn an astronomy degree. “Are we alone?” is one of humanities oldest questions. We are on the verge of solving that question and possibly opening up new fields of study. We won’t know if we are alone unless a systematic search of the skies is made.

    Under funding SETI searches is extremely short sighted. Were would science be if somebody had taken away Galleleo’s Telescope?

    • LogicDriven

      This is what happens to good citizens when they have never heard anything but mainstream media and NPR. This poor guy really cares about astronomy but has no idea about exopolitics- the politics of disclosing to the american people what we really know. its sad really.

      Dr mr Corby
      Get ready to be indoctrinated by the deniers of contact. watch as they refute the facts from real patriots with their fingers in their ears. If you really want to learn about the cosmos, don’t listen to those who have never made contact. they are mostly frauds- really really smart frauds- mouth pieces for the national security state.
      if you really want to see whats going on. start here: http://www.disclosureproject.org/access/aboutexecsumm.shtml

  • Joe

    We can only look backward, not forward, to see what benefits that exploration brings. We must keep exploring on all fronts, space, oceans, biology, mathematics, etc.

  • Matthew

    did you catch that: “adult nerds should buy their own toys”. pretty much sums it up. props to who ever sent that in.

    • Lee Thé

      This is the utilitarian argument–that space exploration of any sort is immoral as long as people are starving.

      By that logic we should all be required to wear identical, functional smocks and have no arts or sports.

      Oh wait, there is a society like that: the Taliban.

      • Joe

        Why do we have NASCAR races when gas is so expensive?
        Why do restaurants throw away food every night when people are starving to death?

        Exploration must continue because we cannot tell what benefits we may discover.

    • David Corby

      SETI has the toys. They don’t have the funding to keep the toys running.

    • Joe

      So you sent a cynical email, they mentioned it on the show, nobody replied, and now you want attention? I’ll write a letter to the federal government to inform them of your serious comment.

  • Scott V

    We should be concerned about what the aliens think of us.
    Humans are pack predators that evolved the ability to store emotional information in their memories.
    This makes all structured memory emotional and humans insane.
    They will do anything that they strongly feel and do it as a group.
    The environmental destruction is obvious from space.

    Would you let us off of the planet?

    PS: humans transition to emotional storage in puberty. Some stay logical all their lives. We call those humans “Genius”. We have millions of ignored geniuses – they lack the social interaction that comes with storing emotional information in memory. Only the least logical geniuses get attention – they can deal with the emotion based humans (the insane ones).
    So there may be hope . . .

  • Scott V

    We should be concerned about what the aliens think of us.
    Humans are pack predators that evolved the ability to store emotional information in their memories.
    This makes all structured memory emotional and humans insane.
    They will do anything that they strongly feel and do it as a group.
    The environmental destruction is obvious from space.

    Would you let us off of the planet?

    PS: humans transition to emotional storage in puberty. Some stay logical all their lives. We call those humans “Genius”. We have millions of ignored geniuses – they lack the social interaction that comes with storing emotional information in memory. Only the least logical geniuses get attention – they can deal with the emotion based humans (the insane ones).
    So there may be hope . . .

  • Ejo

    We already have enough trouble finding intelligent terrestrial life, why bother about intelligent extraterrestrial life?

  • LogicDriven

    See the hundreds of high ranking government whistleblowers to the so called UFO matter by searching youtube for DISCLOSURE PROJECT. And stand with REAL transparency activists. Don’t be lulled into NPR’s faux intellectualism, search the facts for yourself. When astronauts, and Naval Commanders and CIA/NRO operatives, British MOD officials (over 400 of them in total) step forward and put their life on the line to tell you the facts that the MAINSTREAM MEDIA (KQED) won’t WE THE PEOPLE must use LOGIC to assess the validity of their claims. Ask yourself why you have never heard of CSETI the organization not controlled by the CIA that has made contact many many times.. SETI is a JOKE- we should cut the funding from those who can’t find anything in 20 years- they are lying. look for yourself and stop quibbling over trivial BS. They are here, and many G-20 nations have admitted they are here- you just have to understand the systematics around info dissemination in a national security state called America.

  • Rlb93311

    This is an example of poor useof funds. Time to go. Not a priority over education, healthcare, deficit reduction, etc

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor