Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Finding frugal aliens: 'Benford beacons' concept could refocus search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life

Date:
July 21, 2010
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
By looking at the point-of-view of ET civilizations sending beacons, an astrophysicist and microwave-expert brother advocate new approach for SETI to find signals of intelligent alien life.

Astrophysicist Gregory Benford -- standing before the UCI Observatory -- believes an alien civilization would transmit "cost-optimized" signals rather than the kind sought for decades by the SETI Institute.
Credit: Steve Zylius / University Communications

For 50 years, humans have scanned the skies with radio telescopes for distant electronic signals indicating the existence of intelligent alien life. The search -- centered at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. -- has tapped into our collective fascination with the concept that we may not be alone in the universe.

Related Articles


But the effort has so far proved fruitless, and the scientific community driving the SETI project has begun questioning its methodology, which entails listening to specific nearby stars for unusual blips or bleeps. Is there a better approach?

UC Irvine astrophysicist Gregory Benford and his twin, James -- a fellow physicist specializing in high-powered microwave technology -- believe there is, and their ideas are garnering attention.

In two studies appearing in the June issue of the journal Astrobiology, the Benford brothers, along with James' son Dominic, a NASA scientist, examine the perspective of a civilization sending signals into space -- or, as Gregory Benford puts it, "the point of view of the guys paying the bill."

"Our grandfather used to say, 'Talk is cheap, but whiskey costs money,'" the physics professor says. "Whatever the life form, evolution selects for economy of resources. Broadcasting is expensive, and transmitting signals across light-years would require considerable resources."

Assuming that an alien civilization would strive to optimize costs, limit waste and make its signaling technology more efficient, the Benfords propose that these signals would not be continuously blasted out in all directions but rather would be pulsed, narrowly directed and broadband in the 1-to-10-gigahertz range.

"This approach is more like Twitter and less like War and Peace, " says James Benford, founder and president of Microwave Sciences Inc. in Lafayette, Calif.

Their concept of short, targeted blips -- dubbed "Benford beacons" by the science press -- has gotten extensive coverage in such publications as Astronomy Now. Well-known cosmologist Paul Davies, in his 2010 book The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, supports the theory.

This means that SETI -- which focuses its receivers on narrow-band input -- may be looking for the wrong kind of signals. The Benfords and a growing number of scientists involved in the hunt for extraterrestrial life advocate adjusting SETI receivers to maximize their ability to detect direct, broadband beacon blasts.

But where to look? The Benfords' frugal-alien model points to our own Milky Way galaxy, especially the center, where 90 percent of its stars are clustered.

"The stars there are a billion years older than our sun, which suggests a greater possibility of contact with an advanced civilization than does pointing SETI receivers outward to the newer and less crowded edge of our galaxy," Gregory Benford says.

"Will searching for distant messages work? Is there intelligent life out there? The SETI effort is worth continuing, but our common-sense beacons approach seems more likely to answer those questions."

--


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. The original article was written by Tom Vasich, University Communications. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. James Benford, Gregory Benford, Dominic Benford. Messaging with Cost-Optimized Interstellar Beacons. Astrobiology, 2010; 10 (5): 475 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2009.0393
  2. Gregory Benford, James Benford, Dominic Benford. Searching for Cost-Optimized Interstellar Beacons. Astrobiology, 2010; 10 (5): 491 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2009.0394

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Finding frugal aliens: 'Benford beacons' concept could refocus search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721094231.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2010, July 21). Finding frugal aliens: 'Benford beacons' concept could refocus search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721094231.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Finding frugal aliens: 'Benford beacons' concept could refocus search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100721094231.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Prepares for Next Phase of Hubble Successor

NASA Prepares for Next Phase of Hubble Successor

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists and engineers prepare for the next phase of the James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific successor to the Hubble. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins