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Paul Horowitz: “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” | Talks at Google

Paul Horowitz visited Google’s office in Cambridge, MA to discuss the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project at Harvard University.

Establishing an electromagnetic communications link across a thousand light-years presents unique technological challenges. In his talk, Prof. Horowitz visits some highlights of the science and technology of SETI — Do THEY exist? Is communication possible? What is the best way? Is this just completely insane? — and describes interesting searches his project and others have been doing.

Paul Horowitz is a Research Professor of Physics and of Electrical Engineering at Harvard, and is co-author of The Art of Electronics.

SETI at Harvard was supported in part by grants from NASA, The Planetary Society, and the Bosack/Kruger Charitable Foundation.

Sidney Harris cartoon © ScienceCartoonsPlus.com, used with permission.

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45 Comments

  1. Wait, is this guy telling me that we just have to build an interferometer at say, Lagrange points L2 and L3 of Saturn's orbit and we can read licence plates on alien worlds?

  2. Prof. Horowitz & company have done some amazing technological stuff! Knowing now that there are lots of planets out there & building ever higher resolution devices, it's likely that they will be able to detect signals, if there are any.

    The problem with there being any is the coincidence requirement – that "they" be sending while we're listening . Allowing for signal travel time! Which is a HUGE factor. Say there is a very advanced civilization a 1000 light years away & they have the ability to detect our strongest radar. So, a 1000 years from now, when those radar signals reach them, they'll know we're here! They immediately send a petawatt laser into space & start talking to us. A 1000 years later, 2000 from now, those laser signals reach us. If we are still looking, the SETI mission will have been accomplished!

    But will we have the patience to look for 2000 years, or more problematically, will we be able to look? Maybe earth will be in another ice age, or have been hit by an asteroid, or have experienced a nuclear holocaust that leaves a greatly diminished population without the resources to be doing SETI. 2000 years is a long time.

    Even if one assumes that very advanced civilizations have lifetimes on the order of intra galactic light travel times, it becomes very difficult to get situations where those civilizations' lifetimes overlap enough to communicate.

  3. This Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is a Total Waste of Tax Payers Money, All Guys Talking about Alien Life are just doing it for the sake of their Jobs so that they can keep earning those Five Figure Salaries. This is Mere Speculation Only…Waste of Time, Money and Resources… Wonder how much Money Mr Paul Horowitz is Earning…any guesses

  4. 73? You're fucking beaming with life and your skin is very youthful. I'm impressed… Perhaps you're on some form or life extension. You have a very youthful personality too, you're clearly staying mentally healthy. Seriously, most youthful 73 year old I've ever seen.

  5. can't wait till we find life.microbial life first is most likely but hopefully intelligent life before I die.universe is too vast and plentiful to be a one time thing.

  6. SETI will fail to catch alien signal. Alien will not use traditional electrical radio communication. They will use quantum communication technology at least. Obviously quantum signal cannot be catched by us.

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